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HONOURABLE HOMES - 32 Marcus Garvey Way an unfit hero's home

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer



The childhood home of National Hero Marcus Garvey. - photos by Ian Allen/Photographer

Marcus Garvey Way, St Ann's Bay, is a long sloping and, at points, winding road. From the busy main street cutting through the St Ann capital it is a gradual, straightforward climb away from the commercial hubbub, through a mixed commercial and residential area until a left curve.

About there, the area changes perceptibly to a much more rustic atmosphere, a large tree doing much to establish the emergence of more greenery. Marcus Garvey Way bends again, this time the other way, and on the right is Number 32, the childhood home of Marcus Garvey.

And the words of another man from St Ann, released on album in 1975, reverberate inexorably. For, as Burning Spear sang, it would appear that "no one remember, ol' Marcus Garvey".

Not that there are no words about Garvey at his former home. There are many, plus a bust. But the property on a slope, though clean and an attempt made to arrange a micro-park, clearly, is at best, rugged. The house itself is, for the touch point of a national hero, a shambles, a shack, a shame.

Birthplace

A sign near the kerb announces 32 Marcus Garvey Way to be the "site of the birthplace of the Rt Hon Marcus Mosiah Garvey". On the concrete support of a small bust of Garvey is written: "His Excellency, The Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Born 17th August, 1887. Prophet, Philosopher, Intellectual, African Liberator, National Hero of Jamaica." It is also written that it was donated by the African People's Association, 32 Market Street, St Ann's Bay.

Crude steps carved out of the rock lead past the bust and to the house above and behind it. To the right of the bust (facing the house) and at street level there is a wall with Garvey's picture and some of his sayings, donated by Noel Biggs and Ras Noah. One says: "No one knows when the hour of Africa's redemption cometh, it is in the wind. It is coming. One day like a storm, it will be here. When that day comes, all Africa will stand together."

Glenworth Miller does not know when the hour of 32 Marcus Garvey Way's redemption and restoration cometh either. He tells The Sunday Gleaner that he has lived there since childhood and was "born in the same tradition".

"Nothing official as you see. If it was here you would see it. Is just a few good soldier come and donate these things," Miller says.

He says that people come to see the house where Marcus Garvey was born regularly, though "not every day". While The Sunday Gleaner was there, a packed tourist-trade Coaster bus passed by, coming down the hill which leads to Lime Hall and Nine Miles, Bob Marley's birthplace. The bus paused and persons took a look at Garvey's birthplace, but no one got out.

Miller says that for those who visit "we have some little things that we give out, them take it up, appreciate it".

He says that over the years, "here is in the same condition. Nothing not done. Some people come and take measurement and so on, but nothing come out of it. It is a shame, to know the man who get the highest honour in Jamaica, nothing done for him".

When The Sunday Gleaner asks if the owners and residents would be open to relocation, Miller says, "I don't believe in that. This is not capture land."

Renovation

Marcus Garvey activities at the house centre around his birthday, but Miller wants the site to stage official functions, which raises the urgent need to renovate rest rooms. He points to an outside facility, with zinc sides, and says, "This no proper. If visitor come we no have no facility for them."

"Is a shamble, is a shame."



Glenworth Miller has lived at the house at 32 Marcus Garvey Way since childhood.



Marcus Garvey Way leading to the national hero's childhood home.