THE EDITOR, Sir:
IN DECRYING the delay in the teaching of so-called Garveyism in schools, Michael Burke makes the totally ridiculous assertion that the teacher reading the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey a chapter ahead of the students is enough to start the programme off. Such incredibly facile thinking is the greatest hindrance to the very project he is calling for and unfortunately is the norm in Jamaica among those who support this call.
Burke bemoans the absence of "educated Rastafarians" coming forward on this issue in this time. But he should well know by now that the designations educated and Rastafarian are serious infirmities especially when it comes to systematic proactive work and the subject is race consciousness or Marcus Garvey. Certainly Marcus Garvey would not approve of Burke's sneaking adulation of Norman Manley for the very same reasons he offers, because the UWI (like the education system in general) was established for no other reason than the intellectual colonisation of Blacks. Out of this sprung the myth of creolecentrism, used to defeat Black nationalism and mask the continued domination of whites. Here he should heed his own advice given to the students on the bus and at the very least, be indifferent.
He is clearly correct concerning the cultural dissolution and psycho-social retardation of the populace in the "turn them back" polices of the 1980s. There are very important and contentious questions to be asked and answered before a Garvey syllabus and curriculum can be created.
In whose interest will Garvey be interpreted? Will race be emphasised as it should or will the government allow the further co-option of Garvey under the guise of racial and social integration by those serving minority interests? Garvey himself said. "Education is a medium by which a people are prepared for their own particular civilisation and the advancement and glory of their own race." Are we going to have a syllabus that is a sterile chronological record of Garvey's life, speeches and ideas?
Resocialisation will not be achieved by merely quoting Garvey. This can only be achieved if we study him ideologically, i.e. To treat him (especially at the tertiary level) as seriously as the white thinkers like Hegel, Marx, Sartre etc.. This is not being done at the UWI where after all this time the study of Garvey is still primarily a matter of dates and events.
Not even the great Garveyite scholar and African nationalist, Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannon, a world-renowned revisionist historian and anthropologist, who almost single-handedly rewrote the history of Egypt and Nubia, is seriously studied at the university. His books have never made the required reading list. Yet Black Athena, the one book by the white scholar (a non-specialist in this field) Martin Bernal, who used much of the information published by ben-Jochannon and other Black Egyptologists, was swiftly added to the list. Talk about inferiority complex.
The Story of the Jamaican People by Sir Phillip Sherlock and Dr. Hazel Bennett is also on the list of books that are required reading. Yet this is a book in which the authors have chosen, in effect, to lie about the true character of Thomas Thistlewood, a plantation owner (slavemaster), who documented very well his own cruelty and brutality but whom the authors depict as "benevolent" ("Another side of the story" by Verene Shepherd, Observer 1, 16, 1999.)
A Garvey syllabus will be a complete waste of time if the situation at the university is not addressed first and agitation on the issue should be routed primarily in this direction.
I am etc.,