Marcus Garvey was born the 17th of August 1887 in Saint Ann’s Bay, Jamaïca. The “Black Moses”, as the Rastafari movement call him, is one of the founders of the idea of Pan Africanism and the prime eulogist of Black Unity all around the World. He founded the Back to Africa movement to call the slave descendants to come back to the Motherland to chase off the colonial powers and develop the continent themselves.
So what can we learn from his deeds to grow as a person and a community?
Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica one year after the abolition of slavery, in a broken country and an oppressed land where the racial segregation was deeply rooted. Despite his entourage being illiterate and experiencing racism, he passionated himself for reading and trained his writing and oral skills to become a journalist and a political activist. Even if he was surrounded by a hostile environment, Marcus Garvey had the strength to educate himself to become a master orator and one of the most influent journalist and activist of the XXth century.
Marcus Garvey began to fight for his ideas when he was named to represent a union during a strike while he was working for a printer. After travelling for 4 years in South-America and Europe to witness for himself the life conditions of his black brothers and sisters, he created two newspapers to spread his ideas. After moving to Harlem, he funded the UNIA (United Negro Improvement Association) and became an important Black leader. He spent all his life campaigning for emancipation via repatriation to Africa, using his oral skills and all the information channels) possible (including his own papers) to make his ideas heard.
The Jamaican activist always knew that he needed economic power to make his projects possible. In addition to his two papers, Garvey founded several factories and the famous Black Star Line, a shipping company meant to help Afro-Americans relocate to Africa. To finance his company, Marcus Garvey travelled all over the United States to find black individuals ready to take a participation in his business. Even if he never reached his dream of connection to Africa, Marcus Garvey never stopped trying and was overall a successful black entrepreneur in a white dominated world.
But the real dream that drove Marcus Garvey was to achieve black unity all over the world, to create a black independent continent and a counter-power to the white domination. His paper Negro World was banned from almost all colonial nations because the authorities saw it a risk to educate the local populations and to push them toward revolution. He knew that black emancipation would only rise through united efforts and participation from every black individual who wants freedom and respect.
"If black people were aware of their glorious past, then they would be more inclined to respect themselves" - Marcus Garvey
So, in conclusion, what can we learn of the deeds of Marcus Garvey to grow as a person and, especially, as a community? First of all, knowledge is power and only through his willpower and determination Marcus Garvey acquired an education which gave him the weapons to have a real influence. Then, he teaches us that political activism is necessary and that we must thrive to make our voices heard, by creating our own media and information channels. We can also see that we need to be independent in our need of economic power, and that we must take steps to create our own black businesses to make our projects possible. Finally, the most important lesson of them all is that we need to be united as a community if we want the black people to rise where it deserves to be.
Whether you are more of a supporter of W.E.B Du Bois or Marcus Garvey, you can’t deny the tremendous influence the Jamaican had on the black cause in the XXth century and all of the valuable lessons we can learn from him as a people.