Kanye West, an American rapper, is the recipient of the Marcus Garvey Award for Global Contributions to Humanity. It was presented at the 39th Annual Chicago Music Awards on February 28, 2021, an event that honors the best entertainers in Chicago under the tag “Bringing Nations Together Through Music and Culture.”
According to Steven Golding, the president of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which was founded by Garvey and is dedicated to racial pride and economic self-sufficiency, said that giving the award to West “doesn’t portray the pan-Africanist the Marcus Garvey was. The award is named for Jamaica’s first national hero and leader of the pan-Africanism movement, which attempted to unify people of African descent around the world.
West, 43, ran to become the President of the United States in November of 2020 on the Birthday Party ticket and is known for his provocative statements. In May 2018, he told an interviewer from TMZ that slavery was a choice. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned,” he said. Several months later, he said, “I don’t know if I properly apologized for how that slave comment made people feel, so I want to take this moment right now to say that I’m sorry for hurting, I’m sorry for the one-two effect of the MAGA hat into the slave comment.”
Ephraim Martin, the founder and chair of the Chicago Music Awards and the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA)., said he was “a bit taken aback” at the announcement of West as the Marcus Garvey Award for Global Contributions to Humanity recipient, but that there was nothing he could do about.
In 2020, West made a US$2 million donation to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. He also made donations to Black-owned businesses experiencing hard times in Chicago and other cities. West established an education program to fully cover the college tuition of George Floyd‘s daughter Gianna, and he made a donation to the We Women Empowered organization, which delivers three meals each day to senior citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also supported the Buju Banton Foundation with a donation of laptops and desktops to staff and residents of the Sunbeam Children’s Home and the Manchester Boys’ Home. West stated in a tweet in October 2020 that he was talking with the government of Haiti to create a “new city of the future,” an initiative that would bring jobs and help Haitian farmers and fishermen.
However, Golding noted that giving the award to Kanye West does not quite fit Garvey’s philosophy or curriculum. Golding said Garvey was a “man of principle and by invoking his name, you are invoking everything that he stood for.” While recognizing that Garveyites have no copyright to the Marcus Garvey name, and that many civic groups in the US and around the world, including UNIA, present Marcus Garvey Awards, he added that often “recipients are chosen for their celebrity status and the attention that they can bring to the event.”
Martin said the philanthropist and recording artist Willie Wilson, who has lived in Chicago for more than 50 years and is very active and known for donating money to those who cannot pay their bills was nominated in the same category as West, but that he had already received the award and “there were a few other persons from Chicagoland. I don’t know if Kanye would be my first choice,” he added.
Comments on Twitter tended to criticize giving the award to Kanye West, with users posting statements including:”Why?’ and “The man who believe slavery was a choice” and “The audacity! Of all the confused people in the world,they chose this man?” Other tweets stated, “Oh no what mockery is this in the name of Marcus Mosiah Garvey!” and “Kanye who said slavery was a choice??? A clear disrespect to everyone who died & those who suffered unspeakable racist acts.” and “Kanye who came to Jamaica & stirred controversy when he was about to launch an album? Is this a mockery of our beliefs” and “Marcus Garvey sent a message from the grave, he is not pleased. ”
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