“…Where is his (the black mans) men of big affairs? I will help to make them…” – Marcus Mosiah Garvey
There are parallels between the Rastafari principles and the efforts of Mr. Marcus Garvey to lift up and heal The Black Nation out of slavery into independence.
Marcus Garvey Taught the Black nation….
- Love of Self
- Self-Reliance (Independence)
- Self-Awareness as Africans
- Unity for the Black Community
- Jah is an African
Early Experience of Racism/Discrimination
At age 14 Mr. Garvey had his first glimpse of racial prejudice. A white playmate who lived next door informed him that she was leaving Jamaica to go to Scotland and that she would not keep in contact with him because he was a black boy.
Because of this experience Marcus Garvey made a promise to himself that he would prevent other black people from feeling that same shame and embarrassment.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was a powerful black revolutionary and race leader who influenced a great many people in his time and continues to do so through reggae music. Many of Marcus Garvey’s lessons and ideals have found a voice in the lyrics of conscious reggae musicians past and present. From internationally famous musicians such as Bob Marley and Burning Spear, to the music and words of The Rastafari Elders, reggae musicians have found inspiration in Marcus Garvey.
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Marcus Garvey Prophetic Message
Marcus Garvey, may be seen as the founder of the Rastafari Movement. He is Highly known and highly regarded for his prophetic words, “Look to Africa for the crowning of a Black king.” On November 2nd 1930, the prophecy was fulfilled when, Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned emperor of Ethiopia and took the name Haile Selassie. Whether singing directly about Marcus Mosiah Garvey, or about Rastafarianism, reggae musicians are helping to spread the teachings of this black prophet and revolutionary to millions of music listeners all over the world.
The Fight for Equality
Marcus Garvey was born in 1887 in the St. Ann’s Parish in Jamaica. He came from a large, poor family and due to lack of money, when he was fourteen Garvey left school and became a printer’s apprentice. By the age of eighteen he had become a master printer. Garvey had always been a quick learner and when he became the foreman of a printing company in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica,”he continued his education by reading extensively, taking advantage of the company library. However, Marcus Garvey’s political feelings soon got in the way when the workers went on strike in 1909. Though he held a managerial job, Garvey joined the workers and helped them gain better wages and conditions which resulted in the loss of his job. He was able to find work at a government printing office where he began his career as a journalist, starting a newspaper, Garvey’s Watchman, that failed after three issues. While in this position he also contributed to the beginning of a periodical for a political organization which achieved some success. Shortly after this Marcus began traveling in South and Central America. Attempting to use his skills as a printer and a journalist to educate people Garvey started newspapers in order to bring to light the prejudices and other adversities that many people of Color were facing at the time.
Self Appointed as a leader
Marcus Garvey sailed to England in 1912 and got a job through an acquaintance, Duse Mohammed Ali.Working for (Duse Mohammed) Ali’s publication African Times and Oriental Review exposed Garvey to the role of African business and the triumphs of Africa’s ancestral past. While Garvey was in England he started developing his skills as an orator by regularly speaking at London’s Hyde Park. He also read Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, of this he said I read of conditions in America, I read Up From Slavery, and then my doom, if I may so call it, of being a race leader dawned upon me. Garvey traveled back home to Jamaica in 1915.
On To America
Garvey had many questions going through his head during his trip back to Jamaica that he could not answer. Questions like Where is the black man’s government? Where is his king and kingdom? Where is his president, his country, and his ambassador, his army, his navy, his men of big affairs?’…’I will help make them.10 After arriving in Jamaica, he and some associates founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, UNIA, and adopted the motto”One God! One Aim! One Destiny! 11 Though he developed a small following in Jamaica, he was opposed by many blacks and whites. The whites viewed him as a threat to Pax Britannica and the blacks, especially those of the middle class, felt themselves beyond the class of a man like Garvey.”12 Garvey was disappointed in the reaction that the Jamaicans had towards the UNIA. In need of funds and support, Garvey wrote to Booker T. Washington who invited him to come to America. Although Garvey didn’t make it to America in time to meet Washington, who died shortly after writing him, he decided to leave for America where he thought blacks would be more eager to improve their status.
Upliftment of Negros Worldwide
Marcus Garvey arrived in New York City without any money or followers. This was a temporary condition though since, By the end of World War I in 1918, black migration, racial violence, and continuing segregation had provided a climate that vastly benefited the expansion of Garveyism. He had changed his views from reformist to revolutionary and found an audience among American blacks, many of whom had migrated from the South on the false assumption that the North had jobs, and that Northern whites treated blacks with greater respect than Southern whites.
Discontent grew as the migrants realized that, even in the North, Negroes were considered second-class citizens. Garvey began preaching to these people and anyone else that would listen, in the way that he learned from his days giving speeches at Hyde Park. He would speak on street corners in Harlem, and in a short time his popularity had grown to a point that supported his next step, forming another chapter of the UNIA in New York.
By 1918, Marcus Garvey had started his new chapter of The United Negro Improvement Association in New York. Its purpose, Garvey wrote, was ‘to work for the general uplift of the Negro peoples of the world. Garvey had found support for the UNIA, and it began to grow among the Black Americans, and developed hundreds of chapters around the world. Garvey used this opportunity to continue as a journalist, starting his first successful publication,”The Negro World”.”The Negro World”was printed in English, French and Spanish in order to be more accessible to readers around the world. According to some estimates, circulation reached 65,000 worldwide.”17 Every issue included Garvey’s front-page editorial, in which he was able to discuss topics relating to his goals.
Some of Marcus Garvey’s goals included:
First, he wanted
a worldwide confraternity of the Black Race;
second, he wished to see the development of Africa from a backward, colonial enclave to a self-supporting giant of which all Blacks could be proud;
third, he wanted to see Africa as a developed Negro nation, a force in world power, and a place to which all Blacks could return;
he envisioned a Black nation from which Black representatives were to be sent to all the principal countries and cities of the world; fifth, he wanted to see the development of Black educational institutions for the teaching of Black cultures; and last he wanted to work for the uplifting of the Black Race anywhere it was to be found.
Black Star Line &The Back to Africa Movement
Part of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and Garvey’s plan for the Black race was to develop an economic situation that would benefit Blacks. He developed several businesses that included the Negro Factories Corporation, a restaurant, a millinery, a publishing house, and a chain of cooperative grocery stores. But most importantly… the Black Star Shipping Line. The Black Star Shipping Line started as a shipping line, but Marcus had the ultimate goal of using the three ships that made up the fleet to implement his ‘Back to Africa’ movement. However, the Black Star Line did not last long. The ships were in ill repair and the company folded despite Garvey’s attempts to revive it.
The goal of the ‘Back to Africa’ movement was to bring Blacks home to Africa. In an editorial by Garvey, written while in prison for mail fraud, he says,”Remember, we live, work and pray for the establishing of a great and binding RACIAL HIERARCHY, the rounding of a RACIAL EMPIRE whose only natural, spiritual and political limits shall be God and ‘Africa for the Africans, at home and abroad.”
FBI Pursue Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association was beginning to experience opposition from the police and J. Edgar Hoover, Hoover later was to become head of the FBI and pursue a notorious career of harassing civil rights leaders. Using informants, and under the cover of the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act, Hoover and the government were able to observe Marcus Garvey and wait to catch Garvey breaking a law. The government was afraid of Garvey because, in their view, much of his work was an appeal to the racial instinct of the negroes, calculated to incite hatred of the white race by urging them to do like the Irish, the Jews, the East Indians and all other oppressed peoples who are getting together to demand from their oppressors liberty, justice, equality. Finding sufficient evidence to convict Garvey proved to be difficult for the State Department. Unable to charge him with anything greater, they were able to bring Garvey to trial for mail fraud in 1923. Garvey acted as his own defense, but was unable to defend against the charges of mail fraud and used the opportunity to create a forum for his racial beliefs. As a result he was sent to jail for six months until he was released on bail. A little over a year later Garvey was sent back to jail, despite an appeal to the supreme court. Following two years of incarceration, Marcus Garvey was released and exiled from the United States.
Back to Home to Jamaica
Marcus Garvey headed home to Jamaica in 1927 and entered local politics, forming the People’s Political Party, with minimal success. The UNIA in America had begun to decline since the loss of it’s leader and founder to Jamaica. Garvey’s return to the Jamaica UNIA headquarters caused widespread fragmentation, and desertion among branches in the United States. The UNIA convention in Kingston in 1929, though it was able to recapture some of the splendor and enthusiasm of its earlier Harlem era, the organization never again amassed a substantial membership. After a political defeat and financial problems in 1935, Marcus Mosiah Garvey moved to London where he took up permanent residence. During the next five years, which culminated in his death from a stroke in June of 1940, Garvey traveled often to Canada for conventions. It was there that he founded the School of African Philosophy.
No Pardon for the Prophet
Marcus Mosiah Garvey achieved a limited amount of success in his lifetime, but still became an internationally recognized race leader and continues to leave his mark on the minds and thinking of many people to this day. Through his publications, organizations and entrepreneurial ventures, he captured the imagination of Black America, and much of the world. Garvey’s true fame came after his death. In 1964, the Jamaican government proclaimed Garvey a national hero. Though he is much admired in Jamaica and abroad, when Rep. Charles B. Rangel, of Harlem, tried to get the United States government to admit that the mail fraud charges against Garvey were unjust, the resolution died without a vote. Reggae musicians have taken to singing about certain aspects of his teachings. They have expressed through song and words many of Garvey’s philosophies concerning education, Black pride and unity, the belief that Africa was once great and will be again, and the idea of treating others as they treat you.
The “Black Liberation Flag”
Red black and green, Became colors of the black race and black pride, also Known as “The Marcus Garvey Flag.”
Garvey Flag colors
Many Black Americans today have the Marcus Garvey Black Liberation flag hanging in a window n their homes. It represents freedom, self love, and America. Here is the color meanings, of this very important and beautiful flag
The Color Red signifies the Blood that must often be shed to gain freedom.
The Color Black signifies the Skin of color of the Black Nation.
The Color Green signifies theLush Trees and plants of Africa.
Blessed. Thank you for reading. If you want to read more about how Marcus Garvey Teachings ty into Rastafari Beliefs and Principles check out my book with the same title.