SPULPTING MARCUS GARVEY by FOWOKAN

 

 

 

I decided to do a bust of Garvey to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of his first visit to England back in 1912.  Garvey spent two years in London during which time he attended Birkbeck College, which is now one of the colleges of the University of London.  While in London he met and collaborated with Duse Mohamed Ali on Ali’s publication The African Times and Oriental Review.

I felt I had to do this bust of Garvey as a way of putting to rest many memories that have stayed with me since my early childhood days in Jamaica.  My father was a very staunch supporter of Marcus Garvey and his political principles and many hours were spent listening to him talking about Garvey.

My father would talk about attending many of Garvey’s meetings and soirées in 1920s and 30s Kingston.  As youngsters we used to tease an old tramp who had heavily matted hair with coils of copper wire protruding from it, this man could be seen wandering about the streets of Kingston collecting cigarette ends, scraps of food and copper wire from garbage bins. We young boys would taunt him with the chant “Bag-a-wire catch a-fire wid him batty full-a tyre”.  Once my father caught me teasing the old tramp and after admonishing us proceeded to tell us the story of Bag-o-wire.  Bag-o wire was once Garvey’s chauffeur who the people believed had betrayed Garvey and so was cursed to roam the streets of Kingston, rummaging through garbage bins for the rest of his life.  My father also explained the phrase "They sold Marcus for rice and peas" This came from a local election in Kingston, where it is said Garvey's rivals "bought" the people's votes by offering them one big meal.  Marcus Garvey returned to London in 1935, after he became disillusioned with the parochial nature of politics in Jamaica.  He spent the remainder of his life here where he died in relative obscurity in 1940.

This piece is a visual journey through the progress and processes of the evolution from the first lump of clay to the finished object, of my version of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, with text and quotes from various sources.

 

                      

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (17th August 1887 - 10th June 1940) Between 1906 to 1940, Marcus Garvey made what was certainly the greatest individual leadership contribution at the ideological and organizational levels to the process of African anti-colonial and anti-racist liberation. Garvey preached African self-organization, race pride, independent and cooperative business enterprise, and the freedom and unification of continental Africa with the voluntary repatriation to the ancestral continental homeland of all willing and able Diasporan Africans. His Black Star Line Steamship Company was the enterprise designed to contribute toward the latter end. Garvey's work was carried through the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (the UNIA-ALC, established in 1914), communicating mainly through mass gatherings and popular newspapers, especially the Negro World. The UNIA had a membership of millions with branches throughout the Americas as well as in parts of Africa and Europe. Garvey's message and methods inspired the anti-colonial movement not only in Africa but in Asia, especially India and Vietnam. 

 

 

 MARCUS MOSIAH GARVEY & THE UNIVERSAL NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION

 

1887    Marcus M. Garvey Jr. was born in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica to Marcus and Sarah .

1906    Furthered his trade as a printer in Kingston. By the age of 18 he became a foreman and assistant secretary to the Jamaican political organization 'The Club'.

1910    Need for knowledge took Garvey to Costa Rica, where his maternal uncle got him a job on a banana plantation. He was to observe the conditions of those working and living there. He published a newspaper 'La Nacion' (The Nation) as a means of reaching the people. He became popular and thus the British Authorities was alerted to his presence and labeled him a 'trouble-maker'.

He travelled widely in Central and South America, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Chile and Peru. In Panama he published a small newspaper 'La Prensa' (The Press). Everywhere he found the same story of exploitation and oppression.

1912   He travelled to London where he met Duse Mohamed Ali.

 1914  He founded the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities Imperial League, soon to be shortened to the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A.). Among the early members of the U.N.I.A. were his sister Indiana and her husband, and Amy Ashwood, who was to become his first wife.

1916    Marcus left for the United States to raise funds for U.N.I.A.’s Industrial Farm and Institute.

1918     The New York branch of U.N.I.A. was legally incorporated. He did not hold office due to his intention of returning to Jamaica, but demands gave way to his staying in New York. The headquarters of U.N.I.A. was thus changed from Kingston to Harlem.

 1918     Marcus' most successful newspaper 'The Negro World' was published and widely circulated. It was the most widely circulated Black newspaper in the world (over 40 countries).

 1919    The Black Star Line Steamship Corporation launched its first ship, 'The Yarmouth' (later re-named 'Frederick Douglass'. White newspapers splashed the news in disbelief all over the world. A brainchild of U.N.I.A., it was designed to show what self reliance could do.

1920     The Black Star Line Steamship Corporation acquired another vessel "Shadyside" and the "Kenawha" (re-named "Antonio Maceo" after the Black Cuban General). A fourth ship was negotiated for with a deposit of $20,000.00 but Black Star Line Steamship Co. never obtained it.

 1920     The first of UN.I.A.'s International Conventions of the Negro took place in 1921, others followed in 22, 24 and 26. The parades were often as long as ten miles with people marching ten abreast.

1923     Garvey planned to make an African Tour. The British Government heard of his intentions and became alarmed to the point of instructing the Governors of their African colonies not to let him land. U.N.I.A. branches were numerous, and had branches in more than 40 countries worldwide.

1923    'The Negro World' was banned throughout the four territories of British West Africa. Many Africans read 'The Negro World' with great thirst Kwame Nkrumah was one such African.

The New York British Consul General got together with some anti-Garvey West Indians to publish the 'British West Indian Review' in order to counteract Garvey's message, from 1919 US officials were looking for a way to deport him. The N.A.A.C.P. also waged a relentless campaign against U.N.I.A.

1922   Prince Regent Haile Selassie sent a message to the U.N.I.A.'s headquarters in New York, inviting Africans from the West to come and help build Ethiopia.

1922   Marcus married Amy Jacques.

1923   Marcus was tried and convicted on a trumped-up charge of misleading shareholders of the Black Star Line, fraud and deliberate bankruptcy. The other three members who were also tried were acquitted.

Whilst in jail, he wrote two books of poetry - "The Tragedy of White Injustice" and "Selections from the Poetic Meditations of Marcus Garvey".

1927   An African was given Life Imprisonment in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) for importing copies of 'The Negro World'.

1927   The campaign for Garvey's release culminated in the relinquishing of his sentence by President C. Coulidge. He was immediately deported back to Jamaica where he was met by jubilant crowds.

1929   Garvey published "The Black Man", a newspaper in Jamaica.

1929   'The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League of the World' was formed under Garvey in Jamaica. It was due to some US. Garveyites who had formed a rival U.N.I.A. faction in 1926 whilst Garvey was in prison. Their faction was known as 'U.N.I.A. Incorporated'. The two groups did not come together until the 1970's.

1929   Garvey formed the Peoples Political Party (P.P.P.). It was the first modern political party in the British West Indies.

1930    Garvey organized a 'Labourers Association', whose purpose was to encourage workers to form unions. 

1930     Garvey's first son, Marcus, was born.

1931     'The Black Man' newspaper ceased publication.

1932 An evening newspaper 'The New Jamaican' began publication. 1933 'The Negro World' ceased publication.

1933     Garvey's second son, Julius, was born.

1935     He left Jamaica for the last time for London.

 'The Black Man' magazine resumed publication in London.

1935     Garvey established The School of African Philosophy, which ran correspondence courses.

1935   U.N.I.A. initiated a world-wide mobilization of African peoples for the defense of Ethiopia against the Italian invasion.

1940    Marcus suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on the right side and unable to speak. On recovering his speech he travelled frequently to Speakers Corner at Hyde Park where he continued to make speeches. He died on the 10th June 1940 at the age of 52.

In 1987, I was commissioned by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, London, to produce the above plaque to commemorate the 100th, anniversary of Garvey's birth.  It was to be placed in a Park in North End Rd, W14, which was named after him. Garvey had spent the last few years of his life living nearby in Talgarth Road.  The other two images are digital creations.

 

"Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people.  Action, self reliance, the vision of self and the future, have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realized the light of their own freedom." 

Marcus Garvey.

A view of Garvey and his followers by the visionary artist OSSIE MURRAY.

 

A view of Garvey and his followers by visionary artist

OSSIE MURRAY

 

 

First Message to the Negroes of the World from Atlanta Prison
Marcus Garvey
February 10, 1925

...All I have I have given to you. I have sacrificed my home and my loving
wife for you. I entrust her to your charge, to protect and defend her in my
absence. She is the bravest little woman I know. She has suffered and
scarified with me for you; therefore, please do not desert her at this
dismal hour, when she stands alone. I have left her penniless and helpless
to face the world, because I gave you all, but her courage is great, and I
know she will hold up for you and me.

After my enemies are satisfied, in life or death I shall come back to you to serve even as I have served before. In life I shall be the same; in death I shall be a terror to the foes of Negro liberty. If death has power, then count on me in death to be the real Marcus Garvey I would like to be. If I may come in an earthquake, or a cyclone, or plague, or pestilence, or as God would have me, then be assured that I shall never desert you and make your enemies triumph over you. Would I not go to hell a million times for you? Would I not like Macbeth's ghost, walk the earth forever for you? Would I not lose the whole world and eternity for you? Would I not cry forever before the footstool of the Lord Omnipotent for you? Would I not die a million deaths for you? Then, why be sad? Cheer up, and be assured that if it takes a million years the sins of our enemies shall visit the millionth generation of these that hinder and oppress us.

Remember that I have sworn by you and my God to serve to the end of all
time, the wreck of matter and the crash of worlds. The enemies think that I
am defeated. Did the Germans defeat the French in 1870? Did Napoleon really
conquer Europe? If so, then I am defeated, but I tell you the world shall
hear from my principles even two thousand years hence. I am willing to wait
on time for my satisfaction and the retribution of my enemies. Observe my
enemies and their children and posterity, and one day you shall see retribution settling around them.

If I die in Atlanta my work shall then only begin, but I shall live, in the
physical or spiritual to see the day of Africa's glory. When I am dead wrap
the mantle of the Red, Black and Green around me, for in the new life I
shall rise with God's grace and blessing to lead the millions up the heights of triumph with the colors that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, for, with God's grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for Liberty, Freedom and Life.

The civilization of today is gone drunk and crazy with its power and by such it seeks through injustice, fraud and lies to crush the unfortunate. But if I am apparently crushed by the system of influence and misdirected power, my cause shall rise again to plague the conscience of the corrupt. For this I am satisfied, and for you, I repeat, I am glad to suffer and even die. Again, I say, cheer up, for better days are ahead. I shall write the history that will inspire the millions that are coming and leave the posterity of our enemies to reckon with the hosts for the deeds of their
fathers.

With God's dearest blessings, I leave you for awhile.

Excerpt from Amy Jacques-Garvey. *Philosophy & Opinions of Marcus Garvey*.


 

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TRANSCRIPT OF A SPEECH MADE IN HARLEM, NEW YORK, 1924.

 

There is no future for a people who deny their past. My Fore parents, My Grandparents, My Mother, My Father did not suffer and die to give me an education to slight, oppress or discourage my people. Whatsoever education I acquired out of their sacrifice of over 300 years, I shall use for the salvation of the 400 million Black people of the world. And the DAY when I forsake my people; may GOD Almighty say, “there shall be no more life for you”.

I unequivocally rejected the racist assumption of much white American Christianity. Namely that God had created the black man inferior. And that he intended Negroes to be a Servant class, heavers of wood and drawers of water. Well I predicated my view of man on the doctrine of E Margo de E "all men regardless of colour are created in the image of GOD". From this premise come the equality of all men and brotherhood of all men. The Biblical injunction of Acts 17:26 reminds us that He created of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth and is most interested in brotherhood than with ones own race. Because if Negroes are created in God's image, and Negroes are Black then God must IN SOME SENSE be Black.

If the White man has the Idea of a white God let him worship his God as he desires. We have found a new ideal. Because God has No colour, and yet it is HUMAN to see everything through ones own spectacles, and since the white people have seen their god thru their white spectacles, we have only now started to see our God thru our own Spectacles.

But we believe in the God of Ethiopia, the everlasting God; God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy One, the one God of all the Ages; that is the God of whom we believe but we shall worship HIM thru the spectacles of Ethiopia.
For two hundred and fifty years we have struggled under the burden and rigors of slavery. We were maimed, we were brutalized, we were ravaged in every way. We are men, we have hopes, we have passions, we have feelings, we have desires just like any other race. The cry of race all over the world, of Canada for the Canadians, of America for the Americans, Of England for the English, of France for the French or Germany for the Germans; do they think it unreasonable that we the Blacks of the world should raise our cry Africa for the Africans?

The Negro is a MAN; we represent the New Negro. His back is not yet against the wall, we do not want his back against the wall because that would be a peculiar and desperate position. We do not want him there. It is because of this we are asking for a fair compromise. Well the Belgians have control over the Belgian Congo, which they cannot use. They have not the resources to develop, nor the intelligence. The French have more territory than they can develop, there's certain parts of Africa in which they cannot live at all. So it is for YOU to come together and give us a United States of Africa. We are not going to be a race without a country. God never intended it and we are not going to disappoint God's confidence in us as Men. We are Men, human beings, capable of the same acts as any other race. Possessing under fair circumstances the same INTELLIGENCE as any other race. Now Africa's been sleeping. Not dead, only sleeping. Today Africa is walking around not only on our feet but on our brains. You can enslave us for some 300 years, the bodies of men, you can shackle the hands of men, you can shackle the feet of men, you can imprison the bodies of men, BUT YOU CANNOT SHACKLE OR IMPRISON THE MINDS OF MEN.

Rise up Black Men, and take your stand. Reach up black men and women and pull all nature’s knowledge to you. Turn ye around and make a conquest of everything North and South, East and West. And then we you have wrought well, you will have merited God's blessing, you will become God's chosen people and naturally you'll become leaders of the world. And as you bow down to the white man today, so will others bow down to you and call you a race of masters because of the intelligence of your mind and your achievements. No race has the last word on culture and civilization. They do not know what we're capable of; they do not know what we're thinking. They're thinking in terms of dreadnaughts, battleships, airplanes and submarines. You know what we're thinking about? That is our own private business.

So give us credit for being able to use our minds. And once people are in concept of themselves; determined to use their minds you do not know to what extent they can go. Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.

Let up the white race, not for social fellowship but for the common good of God and tell him he should live. What satisfaction can anyone get in being happy and see his brother wallowing in filth, death and disease? How can you be happy living in luxury and your brother is living in disease? Then when you try to help the one out of the disease, there are talks of a disloyalty.
Black men of Carthage, Black men of Ethiopia, of Timbuktu to Alexandria gave the likes of civilization to this world. Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God and princes shall come out of Egypt. Those classes, nations, races have been quite quiet for over four centuries. Who have merely bore the view in self humiliation, whose forbearance can only be compared to the prophet Job as likewise lifted his bowed head and raised it up at God's cries, and cried out “I am a man and demand a man's chance and a man's treatment in this world.”

As I shall teach the black man, I shall teach the black man to see beauty in his own kind and stop bleaching his skin and otherwise looking like what he's not. Back in the days of slavery, Race mixture, Race miscegenation all occurred BECAUSE THE AFRICAN WOMAN HAD NO PROTECTION FROM THE SLAVEMASTER. Therefore there is no need today for black people themselves to freely continue a PRACTICE that SMACKS so much of slavery.

Our leaders say the race problem will be solved thru higher education. Thru better education, black and white will come together, that day will never happen until Africa is redeemed. Cause if those who like W.E.B Dubois believe that the race problem will be solved in America thru higher education, they will work between now and eternity and never see the problem solved.
God made man lord of his creation; gave him possession and ownership of the world. And you have been so darned lazy that you've allowed the other brother to run away with the whole world. Now he's bluffing you and telling you that the world belongs to him and that you have no part in it. I don't have to apologize to anybody for being Black, because God Almighty knew exactly what he was doing when he made me Black. If black people knew their glorious past then they would be MORE inclined to respect themselves. Yes, you've heard of Johnny walker red, and black, well he had his adversities but he's still going strong.

Well I intend with your help and God's grace to continue, cause my work has only just begun. Future generations shall have in their hands the guide by which they shall know the sins of the 20th century. I know, and I know you to believe in time, but we shall wait patiently for 200 years if need be, to face our enemies for our prosperity. When mine enemies are satisfied, in life I shall come back or in death even to serve you as I served before. In life I shall be the same, in death I SHALL BE A TERROR to foes of African liberty.
If death hath power then conquer me to be the real Marcus Garvey I would like to be. If I may come in an earthquake, or a plague, or a pestilence, or if God would have me, then be assured that I shall never desert you and make your enemies triumph over you. Will I not go to hell a million times for you? If I die, my work will only just then begin. For I shall live in a physical or spiritual to see the day of Africa’s Glory.

When I am dead, wrap the mantle of the Red, the Black and the Green around me for in a New Life I shall RISE UP with God's grace and blessings to lead the millions to the heights of triumph, that you well know. Look for me in the whirlwind or a storm, look for me all around you, for with God's grace I shall come back with countless millions of Black men and women who have died in America, those who have died in the West Indies and those who have died in Africa to aid You in fight for liberty, freedom and life.

Any leadership that teaches you to depend upon another race is a leadership that will enslave you. Any leadership that teaches you to depend upon another race is a leadership that will enslave you! They gave leadership to our Fore parents and that leadership made them slaves. But we have decided to find a leadership of our own, to make ourselves free men. Our great scholars have advanced thru the colleges, and universities have thrown away the blacken record. Babylon did it. Assyria did it. France under Napoleon did it. Germany under Prince Jon Bismarck did it. England did it. America under George Washington did it.

Africa with 400 million Black People can do it. If you cannot do it, if you are not prepared to do it then you will DIE. You race of cowards, you race of imbeciles, you race of good for-nothings, if you cannot do what other men have done, what other nations have done, what other races have done, THEN YOU HAD BETTER DIE.

Can we do it? We can do it? We shall do it. We've prayed to God for vision and for leadership and he has given us a Universal vision. A vision that will not limit our possibilities to America, a vision that will not limit our possibilities to the West Indies but a vision that says that there must be a free and redeemed Africa.

Christ the crucified, Christ the despised, we appeal to you to help, for leadership. When you endeavoured to carry your burden up the heights of Calvary, when white men spurned you, when white men scorned you, when white men spat upon you, when white men pierced your side and blood and water gushed forth, it was BLACK MAN in the name of Simon the Syrian who took your cross and bore it up the heights of Calvary. Now we are bearing our cross and the burden has been so heavy. Oh yes, the Cause is Grand, the Cause is Glory, surely we shall not turn back. Oh, Sail on! Sail on! Sail on! Oh Mighty Shepherd says Sail on! Sail on, until the Flag of the Red, the Black and the Green is perched upon the hilltops of Africa.

Because the time has come for the Black man to forget his hero worship of other races, and to create and emulate Heroes of his own. We must canonize our own Saints, create our own Martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honour black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history. Sojourner Truth is worthy of the place of Sainthood alongside Joan of Arc; Crispus Attucks and George William Gordon are entitled to the Halo of martyrdom with no less glory than that of the Martyrs of any other race. Toussaint L'Ouverture's brilliancy as a soldier or a statesman outshine that of any other people: hence, He is entitled to the Highest place as a hero among men.

Africa has created millions, countless millions of black men and women in war and in peace, whose lustre and bravery outshine that of any other people. Then why not see good and perfection in ourselves? We must inspire a literature and promulgate a doctrine of our own without any apologies to the powers that be. That right is ours and God's. Let sentiments and cross opinions go to the winds. We are entitled to our own opinion and are not obligated to or bound by the opinions of others.

If others laugh at you, return the laughter to them; if they mimic you, return the compliment with equal force. They have no more right to dishonour, discredit you in Manhood than you have in dealing with them. Honour them when they honour you; disrespect and disregard them when they vilely treat you. Their arrogance is but skin deep, an assumption that has no foundation in morals or in law.

They have sprung from the same family tree of obscurity as we have. Their history is as rude in its primitiveness as ours; their ancestors were running wild and living in trees of branches like monkeys as ours; they made human sacrifices, ate the flesh of their own dead and wild meat from beasts for centuries even as they have accused us of doing; their cannibalism is more prolonged than ours. When we were embracing the banks of the Nile, they were still drinking blood out of the skulls of their conquered dead. After our civilization had reached the noonday of progress they were still living in holes with bats, rats and other insects and animals. After we had already unfathomed the mystery of the stars and reduced the heavenly constellations to minute and regular calculus they were still backwoodsmen, living in ignorance and in blatant darkness.

The world is indebted to us for the benefits of civilization. They stole our arts and sciences from Africa. Then why should we be ashamed of ourselves? Their modern improvements are but duplicates of a grander civilization that we reflected thousands of years ago, without the advantage of what is buried and still hidden, to be reflected and resurrected by our generation and our posterity. Why should we be discouraged if somebody laughs at us today? Who is to tell what tomorrow will bring forth? Did they not laugh at Christ, Moses, Muhammad? Was there not a Carthage, Greece and Rome? So we see and have changes every day. So pray, work, be steadfast and be not dismayed.

As the Jew is held together by his religion, the white racist by the assumption and the unwritten law of superiority, the Mongolian by the precious tie of blood, likewise the Black Man must unite in one grand racial hierarchy. Our union must know no clime, no nationality. But let us all hold together in every country and every clime, making a Racial Empire upon which "the sun shall never set."

Let no voice but your own speak to you from the depths. Let no influence but your own rouse you in time of peace and time of war. Hear all, but attend only to that which concerns you. Your allegiance shall be to your God, your race, your country. Remember that the Jew in his political and economic urges is always first a Jew; the white man is first a white man under ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. So you can do no less, BE BLACK; BUY BLACK; THINK BLACK AND ALL ELSE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.

Let NO ONE inoculate you with evil doctrines to suit his own conveniences. "Charity begins at home." So first to thyself be true and "thou canst not then be false to no man."

God and Nature first made us first what we are, and out of our own creative Genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let God and the sky be our limit, and eternity our measurement.
There is no height to which you cannot climb without the active intelligence of your own mind. Mind creates, and as much as we desire in nature we can have through the creation of our own minds. And today being scientifically the weaker race, you shall treat others only as they treat you; but in your homes and everywhere possible, you must teach the higher development of science to your children; and make sure; and make sure that we have a race of scientists par excellence. For in religion and science lies our only hope to withstand the evil designs of modern materialism.

Never forget your God. Remember, that we live, work, and pray for a binding racial hierarchy, whose only natural, spiritual and political limits shall be God and "Africa, at home and abroad." With God's dearest blessings, I leave you for a while… ONE LOVE.

 

 

Marcus Garvey on Mental Slavery

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because while others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.  Mind is your only ruler, sovereign.  The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind… When God Almighty made man in His own image and likeness, it wasn’t the physical, it was the mind that was like God.  Every man represents God in his unitary intelligence.  When man abuses that intelligence he lowers himself.  When God made you He made you masters of the world, not serfs and slaves, but your mind must be developed intelligently.  It is you mind that rules the body, you cannot go further than that mind to seek truth and to re-act to truth.

October, 1937.

Desilu Banton says:

"A printed copy of this statement along with a picture of the Right Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, my mother, my father and various symbols are a part of my personal shrine.  Myself along with the rest of the family pay homage to our ancestors in front of the shrine each day.  That’s how important Garvey and his philosophy is to me".

Desilu Banton.

Oct 2012

See Desilu Banton’s work under www.fowokan.com/artists/desilu-banton/

 

 

 

 

Early surpporters of Garvey

My father arrived in Kingston as a young man in the early 1920s from Tickets, a small village in the mountains of St Anne. He soon became involved in the politics that was gripping Kingston at the time, the Marcus Garvey ‘Back to Africa movement’ in the US, the UNIA and the Black Star Liner. After working at various jobs including a short spell as a professional boxer my father settled as a baker which he did for the rest of his life, he married my mother during this period. Garvey arrived back in Jamaica in 1935 and began his activities in Kingston. My father and mother became staunch followers, attending mass meetings at Townmoor, which is now known as Heroes Park and soirees at Edelweiss Park, lower St. Andrews. This was about the time Garvey began the Edelweiss Park Amusement Company and became involved in the promotion of concerts and vaudeville shows that featured local artists like Bim and Bam. Both my parents told stories of the many shows they attended at the Ward Theatre.  I grew up in the 1940s and 50s listening to stories of Marcus Garvey and his exploits.  That was when I heard about Bag-o-wire, and the curse that was placed on him by the people because of his betrayal of Garvey. I heard of his prophesies like “Swallowfield ago be de battlefield” and "Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black King; He shall be the Redeemer." My Father knew many of the early Rastafarians who were forced to leave their commune in Pinnacle, in St. Catherine. They later settled “pon de dungle”, the municipal garbage dump in West Kingston. He spoke of men like Joseph Hibberts, Archibald Dunkley, Leonard Howells and Mortimer Planno, men who were central to the early development of the Rastafarian movement. My earliest memories were of life in Rock Fort, eastern Kingston at the foot of Warika Hill, on Oliver and D’Aguilar Road. This was where Count Ossie’s Mystic Drums of Rastfari originated. There was a camp in a ‘grass yard’ where many of the early Jamaican horn players came to hone their skills alongside the Rastas with their Nyabinghi ritual drumming. My father also told stories of some of those sessions he witnessed. He died in London in the early 1960s, still talking about Kingston in the days of his youth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingston in the 1930s.

A view of Jubilee Market.

  

Garvey, the Great Inspirer by Devon C. Thomas, The Griot

 

Marcus Garvey has been an inspiration to me throughout my life. He was introduced to me by my parents, Gladys Maud, the mother who ‘grew me’, Hilma Panton, Miss P, my birth mother and Joshua De Souza Thomas, Maas Joslin, my father.

Even my character seems to have been formed through his influence, as I was born during the time of ‘Hurricane Charlie’ in the early 1950s in Jamaica and one of Garvey’s famous phrases when the pressure was greatest against him, was ‘look for me in the whirlwind’!

The male side of my family are from Maroon stock from St Catherine, Juan De Bolas district, which is named after the first Maroon leader and my birth mother is from Maroon Town in Portland. Both have the characteristic short stocky build, very similar to Garvey’s, with the profile to match.

My Mum, Miss Gladys as she was universally known, was very different in looks but very similar in disposition. She was very light skinned or red as people called it back in those days, and came from Freetown, Manchester in the mountainous central area of Jamaica, just across the parish border with St Elizabeth, which has a reputation for spawning ‘red skin people’! 

They were all very active in the Garvey Movement in Jamaica during the 1930s after he’d purchased Edelweis Park in Kingston as his base of operations. My parents joined the exodus from country to town to seek their fortunes, my father serving an apprenticeship as a steam railway engineer with the Jamaica Railway Corporation. My birth mother Miss P was an entrepreneur and worked as a higgler or market trader, in Coronation Market in Kingston.

Miss Gladys acquired skills as a cook and worked in the kitchens of Jamaica’s premier hotel of the time, The Myrtle Bank and as a seamstress/dressmaker. She also built a reputation as a ‘bush doctor’, putting together traditional remedies for ailments and other things from natural ingredients in the environment.

They all met up at Edelweis Park, attracted by Garvey’s message and electric charisma. This venue was the social centre for conscious Jamaicans at that time, as it provided a place for social, cultural and political activities consonant with the aspirations of this new generation. Many of the founders of Jamaica’s cultural traditions participated in the orations, poetry presentations, dramatic productions, comedy and debates that took place there.

Miss Louise Bennett, Ranny Williams, Bim and Bam and many others took part in talent competitions and shows at this ubiquitous location, long time before they became prominent in the wider society.

Garvey was very active in party politics, establishing his party in Kingston in 1929, running for office and getting elected as a member of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, in spite of the tiny elite electorate, that was based on property ownership. He challenged the basic values of an elitist social order based on racial ideas, hostile to him and his people.

He was thrown in jail for daring to suggest that the judiciary was biased against the people and notwithstanding the obstacles and opposition that they experienced, he and his movement strove for freedom and new opportunities and to shape a new society.

My parents carried the values that they gleaned from this experience throughout their lives. They remained forever ‘organisation people’. When they came to England just after the Windrush, they were among those who were first to establish fraternal organisations for mutual support and to save to help establish an economic base, after Garvey’s example and teachings. They set up lodges, churches, social and political organisations to meet their needs, in the hostile climate in Britain in the 1950s and 60s.

Garvey’s tradition and example had already helped to set the path and template for the trade union movement and political parties that were set up in Jamaica in the 1930s and 40s and his spirit was evoked when the ‘Independence Movement’ gathered momentum after his death in London in 1940. Many of those involved in these activities had been Garveyites earlier in their lives and brought this commitment and consciousness to the new formations.

Much energy was put into trying to disparage and bury Garvey’s legacy after his death but this was ultimately unsuccessful but the form that his resurrection took, through the agency of the Rastafarian Movement was not necessarily with the approval of my parent’s generation! The new ‘Natty Dreads’ who proclaimed Garvey as a prophet, never gained my parents support, in fact my father had a dispute with his younger brother Nathanial, or Uncle Natty, who joined Leonard Howell’s settlement, ‘Pinnacle’ in the 1940s and to my knowledge, the brothers never spoke again during their lifetimes.

My father took the view that this expression of Garveyism was ‘Poppy Show’! He felt that Natty had become a ‘Ne’er do well’ and had let down our proud family traditions. There were echoes of how Garvey had fallen out with his siblings and father, after he left to found his movement! My father could never deal with locks and Uncle Natty cultivated very fine head of them. This was during the time when the scourge of Rasta was used to frighten the children, as it so fundamentally challenged the Eurocentric standards that were foisted on the population.

Notwithstanding all this ideological warfare back in the day, Garvey has become a National Hero and locks are de rigueur! His Philosophy and Opinions are being prepared to be taught, as part of the national school curriculum in Jamaica, 72 years after his death and 50 years after Political and Constitutional Independence but continuing economic subjugation.

My parents have now gone to be with the ancestors but Ms Panton is still with us. In spite of the legacy left to us by this generation and the pride engendered through Garvey’s influence in Jamaica and the wider Diaspora, people of African Heritage are bleaching their skin and straightening their hair more than ever and Garvey is revolving in his grave in Heroes Circle at ever increasing velocities.  When will we really study and understand his message? Only Jah he knows!

 

 

Marcus Garvey’s Legacy

 

Further to my previous observations on Marcus Garvey, I offer some images that will reinforce some of the ideas that I have, about the impact and legacy that he provided, as I have defined it through the activities of my own family.

If you examine the pictures of my mother, Ms Gladys and my father Maas Joslin, both as young people, in the wedding photo and in their middle age with me later in the frame, you can see people who have a very confident air, who have pride in themselves and who project an air of knowing themselves, where they are going and a consciousness of the ways of the world. These are the qualities that they had developed from contact with and experience in the Garvey Movement.

I mentioned in my previous piece, that my parent’s experience in the movement, led to them being forever, ‘Organisation people’!  After the decline of the Garvey Movement itself, the people that had been involved in it continued to organise themselves socially, culturally, spiritually and in all spheres of their lives.

My father for example, worked in helping to establish the Jamaica Railway Corporation Trade Union with well known activists of the time such as Ken Hill and Richard Hart. The union in turn helped to found the People’s National Party in 1938. It is now the current governing party of Jamaica, and it was heavily influenced by the way Garvey structured his attempts to establish a political party in the 1920s, and comprised many old Garveyites such as my parents. Before coming to the UK, my father remained active in his trade union and political party, acting as a body guard to Norman Washington Manley, founding president of the PNP, particularly during election campaigns and when pressing issues required the ‘Maximum Leader’ to be in exposed situations. He was also a member of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade, the Mizpah Benevolent Society and other civil society organisations.

My ‘step mother’ was similarly activist and a ‘Mizpah member’. These fraternal organisations proliferated in Jamaica after the decline of the Garvey Movement. They had a very similar style, establishing themselves around a

charter of aims and objectives. They fulfilled the role of providing a social and cultural focus for people’s collective activities. They also provided financial support, through collective contributions in time of sickness, ill health and death, providing benefits and organisational assistance in an underdeveloped society that had no welfare state. This ‘self help’, provided the framework that helped people to support each other during these very difficult times.

Norman Manley took inspiration from these models and established an NGO in Jamaica in the 1930s called, Jamaica Welfare. This initiative was funded by a levy on the number of bananas exported from Jamaica to the US and agreed voluntarily, with the owner of the United Fruit Company that Manley had represented as a lawyer. It established itself first in the rural parts of the island, assisting poor communities by founding credit unions, micro-credit schemes, vocational training programmes and enterprise development initiatives. It became the template later taken up by the UN in its development efforts in other parts of the developing world.

When my parents left Jamaica to came to the UK they brought these skills and commitments with them. Indeed here is a copy of my mother’s farewell message and charter, from the Mizpah Society (see insert below), which wished her on her way but entreated her to start good works when she landed in her new place!

This they duly did. My father helped to found the Mystic Star Lodge in London in the 1950s, which was soon having its annual banquets at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane by the middle 60s. My mother would have a new ball gown made and I would get a new suit to attend these very prestigious events each year.

These were the groups and the organising impetus that worked with people like Claudia Jones to found her newspaper, the West Indian Gazette that agitated against racism and established many community organisations throughout this period to defend the interests of the new immigrant community.

I also share this image of the membership of the United Amalgamated Fraternal Association, a group that Ms Gladys helped to found.  Based in South London from the 1960s, with branches all over the country, it exhibited all the characteristics of the Mizpah Society that had wished her farewell in 1956.

My parents remained ‘Organisation people until their deaths. Both were buried with their comrades around them with the rituals that they’d developed over the years, to take them to meet their ancestors. Garvey looked down with pride on his children, carrying on his traditions.

Can we continue these traditions in the 21st Century?

The Griot tries to carry on these traditions and nurture them in our young people.

Letter from Mizpah 1956

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THE MAKING OF "YOUNG GARVEY

The Above video shows the creation of the bust "The Young Marcus Garvey. The process began back in 2012 when I remembered that Garvey had visited London for the first time in 1912 and stayed for two years before returning to Jamaica. I felt I should create something to commemorate the one hundreth anniversary of that visit. Hoping that the project would be completed by 2014, however that was not to be. Due to many health issues it dragged on until 2015. I decided to video the whole process of the making of the bust and so I took my camera into my work space with me each time I worked on the piece; the result was many hours of archival footage of the process. The twelve minutes or so of this video tells the story.