Sat | Aug 18, 2018


Published:Thursday | April 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM
A lively discussion in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, among from left: Dr Julius Garvey, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange and dub poet and radio host Mutabaruka.

More than 90 years ago, when Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association Black Starliner movement was at fever pitch and had already attracted more than 10 million supporters across the globe, Garvey was suddenly faced with a crippling hurdle for his dream of African unification.

In 1923, Jamaica's first national hero was convicted of mail fraud conspiracy and sentenced to five years imprisonment by United States federal authorities. There appeared to be little to no

evidence to support the charge, an appeal was denied, and Garvey experts say it was obvious at the time that the charge was orchestrated to neutralise the growing intensity of Garvey's UNIA.

Dr Julius Garvey, the son of Marcus Garvey, is 5,000 miles away from Kingston today. He's in Abidjan, CÙte d'Ivoire, in West Africa, attending the Abi-Reggae Concert and Music Conference. He is aware of President Barack Obama's visit to Jamaica. He feels that the otherwise impeccable reputation of his father has been tarnished by the conspiracy conviction and that this presidential visit is providing a golden opportunity to right the wrong that was done against Marcus Garvey.

restore dignity

"I have no hopes and no expectations at this point, but Obama's visit to Jamaica today holds the possibility to restore dignity to my father's legacy that was never tarnished," Dr Garvey told The Gleaner, with Jamaica's former culture minister, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, and Jamaican dub poet and radio host Mutabaruka at his side. "President Obama should do the right thing and offer a presidential pardon to correct an injustice that was done," Garvey continued.

He also pointed out that former US President Coolidge had commuted Garvey's sentence so that his dad served less time. But that was no consolation, especially since his dad was immediately deported to Jamaica after his early release.

The dazzling work and the global contribution of the national hero will be one of the topics up for discussion and analysis here at the first annual Abi-Reggae Music Festival and Conference in the CÙte d'Ivoire set for this weekend.

Already, scores of cultural activists and music lovers from as far away as Ethiopia are arriving daily here, ahead of the conference. Jamaica has a contingent of nearly 70 music and cultural exponents, led by Grange, who will all participate in the first-time event that is the brainchild of the Honourable Moussa Dosso, a senior minister in the government of the Cote d'Ivoire.