“We are men; we have souls, we have passions, we have feelings, we have hopes, we have desires, like any other race in the world. The cry is raised all over the world today of Canada for the Canadians, of America for the Americans, of England for the English, of France for the French, of Germany for the Germans– do you think it is unreasonable that we, the Blacks of the world, should raise the cry of Africa for the Africans?” -Marcus Mosiah Garvey
All across Black America, the beautiful colors that represent our undeniable struggle, illustrious black skin, and inalienable God-given freedom and majestic Motherland soar high on a flag in the front yards of proud men and women. Some wear a lapel pin on their suit jacket to show their distinguished pride. Others hang the honorable colors (red, black, and green) on the walls of their personal space to remind them of these great treasures.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, born on Aug. 17, 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, introduced the colors to the world of African people in 1920. As one of the most effective Black Nationalist leaders of all time, Garvey initiated a movement that has changed the tides of Black pride forever.
The establishment of the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 garnered the support of millions of Africans worldwide. Its founding purpose was to empower African people all over the world through industrialization, economic development, education, humanitarian efforts, and other progressive programs. Through his publication, “Negro’s World,” Garvey promoted his back to Africa message.
Without the technological advances of today and resources currently available, Garvey was able to internationally unite Africans through his organization.
“Marcus Garvey is the greatest Black international organizer and philosopher the world has ever known,” said Mwariama D. Kamau, international organizer for the UNIA-ACL (African Communities League). “He was a businessman, an industrialist, and so many other terms you can use to quantify someone of that caliber, but none of them will be sufficient to explicate his tremendous value to uplift the standard of the African family across the globe.”
The leader also formed the Black Star Line Steamship Company to transport Black people to Africa. He sold stock to any Black person who expressed the desire to return to the Motherland.
The Yarmouth was the name of his first ship, which took its first voyage across the Atlantic in November 1919. Black Star Line eventually purchased three more ships, but struggled to keep the trips going.
In an effort to destroy Garvey’s empire, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI arrested him for mail fraud, denied him return to the United States, and nearly ended his Back to Africa campaign in the states. Garvey was deported back to Jamaica in 1927.
This lion of a man left an example to be followed by the children of Africa. Even after his death on June 10, 1940, his timeless words and philosophies ring in the hearts and minds of many of Black revolutionaries today.
Many people attribute the Black Panther movement, the establishment of the Nation of Islam, and the modern Black pride movement to Garvey.
“The modern cultural nationalism today, what people call Afro-centricity, actually has its ideological roots in Garveyism,” Kamau explained. “He is the one who told us to look to Africa for the crowning of our king, and look back to (our) origins as the source of our pride and dignity.”
He added that the red, black, and green flag alone is a testament to his enduring legacy.
In these times, Garveyism is practiced across the nation through improvement programs and projects developed by the UNIA-ACL, and other revolutionary groups. While Garvey’s philosophies and opinions have been a largely explored topic in the academic arena, putting his words into practice is the challenge Kamau poses to Black Americans and Africans worldwide. He said Garvey’s wisdom and ideas were so profound and powerful that we need to use them today and stick to the united voice Garvey created in the 1920s.
“Garvey once said, that we need to unite, organize or perish … He was sometimes referred to as the apostle of new thought, a new way of thinking … Africa for Africans was a call for us to reclaim what was ours. It was a call to our racial destiny, a call to see ourselves as one united family with one destiny.”
As we remember a great leader who accomplished so much in so little time, let’s not forget to stick with his vision for Black independence and continue to strive toward that goal.