Washington, DC (TDN)
On January 20, 2012, Dudley Thompson, OJ, QC of Jamaica passed away. He was he was the last surviving organizer of the 1945 Pan African Conference in Manchester,
England; and the last of the team of lawyers whose defense of Kenya’s independence leader Jomo Kenyatta saved him from the gallows for his role in the Mau
Mau uprising. Fittingly, Thompson had been made a Legend of Africa and hailed by the African Union as the “First Citizen” of the African continent.
However, none of those accolades would have meant as much to him – or grant beneficial meaning to Africa and the African Diaspora – where a legacy of
commitment to Garveyism is not afforded greater relevance today.
But we must first understand what is Garveyism? Garveyism is a philosophy of Pan African self reliance, unity and pride promoted by Marcus Mosiah Garvey
(17 August 1887 – 10 June 1940); founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
Born on the then British colony of Jamaica, Garvey was moved by the powerlessness of the blacks in the America’s and the occupation of Africa by European
powers. He sought to organize persons of African descent in the Diaspora into a powerful force for political and economic empowerment of Africans – at home
In seeking such redemption of a black race held in colonial bondage and racial oppression, he focused on building a strong organization, and the rapid
acquisition of the scientific and technological means with which to construct self-reliant communities.
The UNIA thereto adopted the educational principle of respect for African heritage; instilling self respect into a race which had been demeaned by years of
hate – and self hate; and the formation of banks and factories and a shipping line.
To connect Africans worldwide via trade the UNIA formed a shipping company: The Black Star Line.
One must consider that Garvey’s valiant efforts took place during the period after World War I and 1940. During that period the only black ruled countries
were Haiti, Liberia and Ethiopia.
Haiti and Liberia were, for all practical purposes, colonies of the United States and Ethiopia was under pressure from an expansionist Italy which was
still smarting from the defeat it had received at the hands of Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik at the Battle of Adowa in 1896.
With so little clout by Africa/Africans on the world stage, it is a wonder that the UNIA thrived as it did, as the major western powers sought to thwart
its rise at every turn. Simply put, anyone pursuing a course of African independence, and self reliance in that period, was deemed a subversive and out of
The UNIA started the Black Star Line to facilitate the transportation of goods and eventually African Americans throughout the African global
economy. However, without the competence of marine engineers, the boats sold to the UNIA were not seaworthy; The SS Yarmouth sailed for three
years, but had been overpriced and in poor condition.
The UNIA founded the hugely popular Negro World magazine, the
Universal Printing House
Negro Factories Corporation
. Though most worthy and visionary, these organizations did not have the requisite legal, accounting, and technical support – and indeed faced the
opposition of the political elites in which the African Diaspora lived.
While those businesses failed, they ultimately provided the template for the movements which spurred Africa’s independence movement after World War II. And
the Black Star on the Ghanaian flag is said to owe its place to the Garveyite ethic embraced by Ghana’s independence leader Kwame Nkrumah.
Today, where we are celebrating fifty years of African and Caribbean independence, we can no longer complain of having a foreign imposed political
directorate. African and Caribbean heads of state can convene, and confer, when and where they want without having to seek permission from Paris, London or
other foreign capitals.
The internet provides an easy tool with which to connect our far flung communities in Africa and the African Diaspora. Today we have more lawyers,
accountants, engineers and technocrats than we have ever had in recorded history.
What shall we do with this bounty of competence, where we link it meaningfully with the political freedom purchased by years of independence struggle? The
question arises: Is enough being done to promote Garvey’s principles of African unity, self reliance, pride, thrift and industry? Garvey’s vision of
industry was not unlike that of Booker T Washington.
His desire to spur industry and agriculture owed much to the influence of the legendary African American agriculture scientist Dr. George Washington
Carver. Today, we need to see a recommitment to the vision of these men.
We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent because African and Caribbean nations now have seats in the United Nations and can elect their own leaders.
Every African at home and abroad should educate themselves in the spirit of thrift, education and industry to move our communities forward.
There is too often a desire for the ostentatious, and too many of our young are idle, miss-educated or engaged in worthless pursuits which make a mockery
of self pride. Where a black boy or girl engages in the practice of skin bleaching, and is disconnected from any organization or industry focused on
building self reliant communities, we shall not overcome our oppressive past.
The 21st Century must see an even great dedication to the tenets of Garvey’s philosophy of redemption of a people laid low. That philosophy is
definitely not one which must wallow in racial prejudice; nor must it be backward looking.
Rather, we must be looking forward and appreciate that 60% of the arable land, and much of the potable water left on the planet is in Africa. Today,
communities run by African leadership can be found on the continent and in the Americas.
We have no excuse for the lamentable reality today where too many often misuse, or are inattentive, to our strategic position and opportunities on the
global stage. And that where we do not organize, discipline, and busy ourselves in the work of development taught us by Garvey, then we shall rue the day.
History is never kind to any people who forget their heroes, or those who abandon dedication to productivity. Marcus Mosiah Garvey was, and is, a hero of
our people for all time. He built much; he was productive in word and deed.
And we must hasten to realize his dream of Africans at home and abroad being organized, advanced, integrity driven, productive, united and proud. It is by
those virtues we shall command respect among the family of nations. Nothing less will suffice.