Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940), devoted his life to the cause of correcting the injustices against blacks in the world.
Garvey, in 1914, founded and became the charismatic leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.). Its purpose was to improve the conditions of black people everywhere. He was convinced that success demanded the building of a strong economic base so that blacks will be self-sufficient. This led to the establishment of various business ventures, including the Black Star Line, The Negro Factories Corporation and The Negro World. These efforts at economic independence were variously successful. However, through the U.N.I.A., Garvey was extremely successful in educating blacks about their history and of their inherent strengths. In fact, he was masterful in his ability to mobilize millions of supporters to the black issues of the day. Truly, for many blacks, Garvey provided a vision of the endless possibilities, once they systematically eroded the barriers to their success. Many felt a renewed sense of dignity and of destiny, through Garvey’s unceasing advocacy.
In 1922, the promise that Garvey represented was shattered by the charges brought against him by the United States: mail fraud. They tried, convicted and sentenced him to five years in prison. He served two years and nine months, was released and deported to his homeland, Jamaica. Discredited, he sought to revive the U.N.I.A. and so he left Jamaica for England, where he died in 1940. With his death, the monumental impact of his life and work became more broadly recognized and acknowledged. He was inducted as Jamaica’s first national hero and leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., cite him as the inspiration for their work. Today, Marcus Garvey is revered as a hallmark of black leadership and one of the great visionaries of this century.
Why? The campaign is a project undertaken by The Institute of Caribbean Studies (I.C.S.),http://www.icsdc.org/, for three reasons.
1. It is consistent with I.C.S.’s focus on issues that affect the Caribbean region and Caribbean peoples in the diaspora. Garvey is one of the most celebrated sons of the Caribbean.
2 . A second reason is to achieve for Garvey what he wanted: JUSTICE. During the tedium associated with the preparation for his trial he stated that: “I have asked for no mercy; I still ask for justice, accepting all the formalities to which one so situated is entitled.” Through a successful campaign, I.C.S. can correct the injustice of Garvey’s conviction and incarceration. A critical, but objective review of the circumstances surrounding the investigation of Garvey and the U.N.I.A. points to an obsession by the U.S. to destroy them, seemingly, at all cost! Infiltration of the movement was one means to that end. According to Garvey, he was “Maliciously and wickedly maligned . . . plotted against, framed up, indicte, and convicted.”
3. I.C.S. recognizes that exoneration of Garvey will give the U.S. the opportunity to extend a gesture of goodwill to Jamaica and the entire black community.
How? We will file a petition with both the President of the United States and the U.S. Congress. Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) has placed bill (H. Res. 216) in Congress. We need at least one hundred thousand (100,000) signatures to support this campaign. Individuals who want the charges against Garvey and his subsequent conviction and deportation declared wrongful and unjust, should sign the petition.
I.C.S. has launched an international letter writing campaign to organizations and individuals to assist us in what we anticipate to be an involved process. It will demand a great deal of resources, both financial and human.
EFFORTS are now under way to restore the Kingston headquarters of Marcus Garvey’s original Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
A successful fundraiser was staged recently, garnering 2.7 million Jamaican dollars, by the Washington Friends of Liberty Hall in Washington, DC. The funds were raised for the refurbishing and restoration of the 76 King Street building.
The event brought together several members of the Washington establishment, including members of the diplomatic corps, US Congressional officials, local business and opinion leaders, as well as several academics who have been widely published on the issue of Marcus Garvey’s philosophy and political activities.
The forum also featured printed materials about Garvey’s work and legacy and there was a special feature, which depicted a recently-produced documentary of his life.