Mon | May 21, 2018

Garveyism more relevant today

Published:Sunday | August 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Marcus Garvey, founder of the UNIA.
Valerie Dixon


The black race needs Garveyism now more than ever before. We have failed the younger generations in this regard, in that we have not imbued them with any sense of pride about what it means to be a member of our noble black race.

Marcus Garvey said: "Men and women who want to be of use to themselves and humanity must have good character. The greatest prop to character is 'honesty'. Honesty is the best policy. Let no one believe that you are dishonest. If they believe you are dishonest, you are doomed. You will never be able to rise to a position of respect and trust - except by some mere accident."

How many of our black leaders in Africa and the diaspora can honestly say that they are highly respected by those they lead?

It is my belief that one of the best and worst things that has ever happened to the black race in the diaspora was the granting of affirmative action, a policy born out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was the best policy to attempt to eradicate discrimination, particularly against members of the black race, and women in general. However, on the negative side, it lulled black people into a drunken, drugged-out delirium that caused many to think that they were "free at last, free at last". To my mind, it removed Garveyism from the forefront of black people's minds, and it was the gains that black people had made at the height of the Garvey movement that were eradicated instead, especially in the United States and the West Indies.

For the young people who may not know, millions joined Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League. At the height of Garvey's movement in the US, the West Indies and elsewhere, black businesses thrived, and Harlem in New York was the home and Mecca for the fine arts and black culture.

One can only imagine what the value of those black businesses' shares would be worth today. The leading business shares quoted on the New York Stock Exchange could have been those of some black-owned businesses. Alas, it was not to be, mainly due to infighting and schisms that took place within the UNIA-ACL and other black organisations. It is hoped that calm and peace can prevail once more, as the black race has so much catching up to do.

Many young people today are so devoid of pride and dignity that they are probably busy doing things that will cause them to be incarcerated. For this, we need Garveyism more than ever. This is what he said on the topic of intelligence, education, universal knowledge and how to get it. "You must never stop learning. The world's greatest men and women were people who educated themselves outside of the university with all the knowledge that the university gives. You have the opportunity of doing the same thing the university student does - read and study. One must never stop reading. Read everything you can read that is of standard knowledge."

I also believe that affirmative action returned us to the time of slavery, when the slaves were divided into a class struggle. Those enslaved Africans who toiled as servants in the white masters' households were indoctrinated into thinking that they were 'better than' their brothers and sisters who toiled in the fields. Marcus Garvey's teachings had put a pause to that way of thinking.

Unfortunately, the Willie Lynch syndrome reared its ugly head once more, as so-called middle-class black people formed themselves into an opposition movement to Garvey's movement and dubbed it the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Christopher Reed reminds us that Robert S. Abbot, owner of the Chicago Defender, was the leader of the Chicago branch of the NAACP. Today, Chicago probably has the highest crime rate in the US. These so-called middle-class men and women were committed fully to aspire to enjoying the promise of the white American dream lifestyle.


This lifestyle is a delicate and sensitive matter, but it needs to be tackled. Some of our black leaders were given scholarships, to assist their upward mobility, by persons who were protagonists of the apartheid system in South Africa, such as Cecil Rhodes, for whom, the Rhodes Scholarship is named. Then there is J. William Fulbright from Arkansas in America, for whom the Fulbright Scholarship is named. The black winners of these scholarships excelled in politics, government, business and industry, fine arts, natural and physical sciences, mathematics, social sciences and the humanities, etc.

Marcus Garvey was a firm believer that every race should look after its own. This begs the question: "If the countries of Great Britain and the United States and others were to tell these scholarship winners, who can be found as leaders in Africa and the diaspora, that they are to turn over all the natural resources, including land, minerals and oil to them, can these leaders tell their benefactors 'no'?" Likewise, if these leaders are told to turn their soldiers on their own people who oppose the selling out of Africa and the diaspora's lands and resources, can they say 'no' to their benefactors?"


To show the relevance of Garveyism, this is what the prophet said in 1923: "Every day we are discovering new evidence to bear out and support the stand taken by me - that it is only a question of time when the entire white race will be inflamed against the black race and all weaker peoples not sufficiently strong and organised to hold their own in the competition of life."

The next quotation I direct to many of our so-called leaders: "I have also held, and still believe, that it is only a question of time when the black man, economically dependent as he is on the white man, would be forced to the wall and that the solution of the problem in the future would not be so much by wholesale killing, or wiping out of the black populations by fire or force of arms, but by the well-organised plan of economic starvation."

Every black person, young and old, needs to realise that Garveyism, the body of thought and organisational activities associated with Marcus Mosiah Garvey of Jamaica, is still very relevant today. I sense that there is some resentment by some Africans on the continent towards their African brothers and sisters who were forced to live in the diaspora, mainly as a result of chattel slavery. This is how Garvey addressed this concern: "Fighting for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine does not make the American Jew disloyal; fighting for the independence of Ireland does not make the Irish-American a bad citizen. Why should fighting for the freedom of Africa make the black person outside of Africa disloyal or a bad citizen?"

Garvey said we should love all of mankind, but we should love ourselves first. We need to find the will to uplift and improve ourselves and shake off the shackles of mental slavery.

Valerie Dixon is an educator and the lady president of the UNIA-ACL, Jamaica. Email feedback to and