In a world of wolves one should go armed, and one of the most powerful defensive weapons within the reach of Negroes is the practice of race first in all parts of the world. Controversial to the white man, this statement made by Marcus Mosiah Garvey, truly embodied his doctrine on race first. This he preached all over the world through written or spoken word to the black masses much, at times to the chagrin of other black leaders and whites.
But what was so wrong with Garvey's assertion of black unity, what was the context of his message that so set him at odds with even his black counterparts? This essay will seek to address these questions, by looking briefly at his past and the shaping of his ideology and examining in greater detail his doctrine of race first and a the different arms resulting from thus.
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Marcus Garvey, a black man, was born in Jamaica on August 17, 1887. It is noted that his mother sought to give him the name Moses, as she wanted him to be a leader for his people, but not being very religious his father chose Mosiah. Garvey's father was purported to be a full blooded black man and thus enabling Garvey to boast of his true black heritage. He grew up with a strict disciplinarian father who instilled in him from very early, a sense of self reliance, which can be said to be to his detriment. In his younger days Garvey played freely with neighbouring children despite their colour, one noted childhood friend, a white girl, was sent to England on reaching the age of 14, this was to prevent her from mixing with a 'nigger'! It was then that he noted there was a difference in humanity, that there was a difference in races, each having its own separate and distinct social life. Also at 14, Garvey left school and begun work as an apprentice as a printer, where he learned the power of the printed word. He travelled from Jamaica to Central America in 1910, and he noted that black people were the back bone or power behind the economy, but due to their isolation from each other, they were powerless. One could say this realization propelled Garvey onto the path of unifying blacks globally.
His goal not only to bring unity, but to be their leader! Edmund Cronon wrote in his book Black Moses, that Marcus Garvey dreamt of being the first gentleman of the world, that after reading a book by Booker T. Washington, "Up from Slavery", Garvey notes that to his doom, if he could call it so, being a race leader dawned on him, he further went on to ask "Where is the black man's Government? Where is his King and his Kingdom? Where is his President, his country, and his ambassador, his army, his navy, his big men of affairs?" He notes that he could not find them and he declared, I will help to make them". Garvey wanted to gather up an embattled people, reverse their downward slide and point them on the way forward to freedom, justice, equality and power.
He determined that the black man would no longer be kicked around by the other races and nations of the world but that, he would be the genesis of a new black man...a nation of sturdy men, making their impress upon civilization and causing a new light to dawn upon the human race; hence the birth of the Universal Negro Improvement Association on August 1, 1914. Their motto was "One God, One Arm, One Destiny" the general objectives of the association were to promote the spirit of race, pride and love; to administer to and assist the needy; to reclaim the fallen of the race; to assist backward tribes of Africa to strengthen the imperialism of independent African States; to establish universities, colleges and secondary schools for the further education and culture of the boys and girls of the race; to conduct a worldwide commercial and industrial intercourse. All theses aims point to the setting a part of the black race. Marcus Garvey would be described by some of his critics and followers as boastful, arrogant, but intelligent and very charismatic.
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This charismatic black man sought to uplift the black race through racial pride, economic self-sufficiency and cultural assertion. This would, he hoped, empower the black man to act in his own best interest, and also in the interest of other blacks.
His slogan "Race First" suggested that Black people must see beauty in themselves. They must also reclaim the right to interpret their own reality and control their own destiny. Black people, he taught, must write their own history, criticize their own literature, build and lead their own organizations and worship a God that looked like them. Accompanying this idea of 'Race First' was an all-encompassing idea of black self-love and black self-consciousness. By the time the UNIA had become a formidable political and social presence in Harlem, its main media arm, the revolutionary newspaper, 'The Negro World', had already begun to invest in the hearts of African people the philosophy that the African race was mighty and proud and the rightful heirs of the African continent. The UNIA advocated the unity of all African people and was against miscegenation as the dilution of the strong black race. It promoted the beauty of blackness and extolled the glory of the history of ancient Africa. It was Garveyism that was to popularise the messages of Negritude and the black aestheticism of the Harlem Renaissance, give it concrete value and bring it to the wider population.
Garvey stressed, secondly, the goal of self reliance, especially in the area of economic activity. His Black Star Line, Negro Factories Corporation and other ventures were efforts in that direction. Garvey stressed, thirdly, nationhood or political self-determination. He saw a strong Africa as crucial in this regard, since its ancestral significance and economic resources made it a potential anchor for Pan-African struggle.
Approximately twelve hundred branches of the UNIA in over forty countries speak for itself.
The Black Arts Movement was a counterpart of Garvey's literary and cultural program which spearheaded the Harlem Renaissance. In the Caribbean practically the entire group of labor/political leaders who emerged circa the 1930's were influenced in one way or another by Garveyism. They included Clement Payne of Barbados and Trinidad, St. William Grant of Jamaica, D. Hamilton Jackson of St. Croix and others.
1) race first 2) self-reliance and 3) nationhood. The ultimate goal of Garveyism is a United States of Africa which will protect the interests of Black people worldwide.
I regard the Klan, the Anglo-Saxon clubs and White American societies, as far as the Negro is concerned, as better friends of the race than all other groups of hypocritical whites put together.
The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.
There shall be no solution to this race problem until you, yourselves, strike the blow for liberty.
Garvey also lured followers with practical plans, especially his programs to promote African-American businesses.
Further, Garvey encouraged his followers to return to Africa, help native people throw off white colonial oppressors, and build a mighty nation. His idea struck a chord in many Africa Americans, as well as in blacks in the Caribbean and Africa.
Despite the appeal of Garvey's movement, support for it declined in the mid-1920s, when he was convicted of mail fraud and jailed.
Although the movement dwindled, Garvey left behind a powerful legacy of newly awakened black pride, economic independence, and reverence for Africa.
Garveyism's cultural principles. Garvey used the UNIA newspaper "The Negro World" to combat the negative propaganda of white supremacist groups who held that the Black man was biologically inferior and therefore should be happy to remain enslaved. He waged a constant campaign against all forms of racism from whatever quarter they came - white or Black.
Garveyism's economic program. Garveyism places economic emphasis on the development of Black-owned businesses. That is because although Garvey believed that the racial consciousness of Black people was of paramount importance, he also understood that without economic power Blacks would still be the targets of exploitation, oppression and discrimination. Garveyism has left a practical approach to the issue of Black economics which is more than applicable in today's troubled times of economic scarcity and uncertainty.
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Marcus Garvey was not just an excellent orator. He was a Pan-Africanist revolutionary who believed in positive action. The Black Star lines (an international commercial and passenger steamship line), the African Commercial league and African Factories Corporation (formed in 1922) were economic organizations developed by Garvey aimed at the economic liberation of the Black race.
And although many reactionary scholars pushing a Eurocentric line have tried to ridicule the idea of the Black Star Line, the powerful example of a great visionary can never be smeared. Garvey understood the importance of international trade and Black self-reliance. It was this self-reliance which led him and his followers to form Black-owned laundries, Black-owned restaurants, and Black-owned grocery stores. Garvey encouraged Blacks to buy from Black businesses and even went so far as to have Black-factories manufacture Black dolls for Black children.
Undoubtedly these principles of Garveyism should be dusted off by the leaders of Black America and the Caribbean today and used as a guide to positive action in these days when the Black Diaspora is coming under attack and the gains of past years are being threatened with erosion.
(3) Garyevism's education program. Garvey stressed the importance of education beginning from the position that white educational values had completely contaminated the Black mind. In this Garvey was right. For one of the first and most lasting forms of slavery, is infact "mental slavery." Garvey saw that it was fundamentally important to re-educate the Black race using Black history and African heritage as the building blocks. To this end Garvey formed the Liberty University, a vocational training school in Virginia which was modeled after Washington's Tuskegee Institute. This school was part of a wider program of ongoing education which the UNIA launched to combat the years of white conditioning of Black minds.
To the critics who assailed Garvey over the fact that he was placing too much emphasis on the issue of Blackness and race, saying that his focus should have been on the broader problem of humanity, Garvey, in his typical blunt fashion, argued that it was not humanity which was being "lynched, burned, Jim Crowed and segregated" but Black people.
Another Caribbean philosophy that Belle analyses is Garveyism. Garveyism is the termed coined to define the Pan-African teachings of Marcus Garvey. Garvey was concerned with the creation of a black separatist nation in Africa. He was one of the first to present the notion that; because the blacks were physically different to the whites that black intellectual thought should be different to white intellectual thought. Garvey's work is based heavily in knowledge of Africa's development prior to European intervention. He is aware of the accomplishments of Africa. However his work is heavily focused on the issue of race and offers more of a cultural response to European racism. Belle criticises Garveyism along the same lines he does Rastafarianism. In both he points out that though they offer cultural alternatives to the European imposes systems of colonialism because they are based heavily upon an emotional attachment of the believer of the philosophy and both philosophies offers limited empirical verification as support. In essence Garveyism and Rastafari are epistemologically too limited to destroy European psychic superiority (Belle, 1996) . By this Belle is pointing out the fact that as long as there is not enough evidentiary support to raise the level of the philosophy past that of an emotional response to the colonised oppression of the black then the philosophy does not offer a way to overcome the intellectual prison that European control places the Caribbean psyche.