Archive for August, 2013

marcusgarvey

In light of recent events and of course the birthday of one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth, I have been inspired to reflect on Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

Jamaica’s first National Hero, was born in St. Ann’s Bay on August 17, 1887. In his youth Garvey migrated to Kingston where he worked as a printer and later published a small paper “The Watchman”.

During his career Garvey travelled extensively throughout many countries, observing the poor working and living conditions of black people.

In 1914 he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica. The UNIA, which grew into an international organisation, encouraged self-government for black people worldwide; self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination.

In 1916, Garvey went to the USA where he preached his doctrine of freedom to the oppressed blacks throughout the country.

However, USA officials disapproved of his activities and he was imprisoned, then deported.

Back in Jamaica in 1927, he continued his political activity, forming the People’s Political Party in 1929, He was unsuccessful in national elections but won a seat on the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC).

But the world of the 1930s was not ready for Garvey’s progressive ideas. He left Jamaica again, this time for England where he died in 1940. His body was brought back to Jamaica in 1964 and buried in the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

Garvey’s legacy can be summed up in the philosophy he taught – race pride, the need for African unity; self-reliance; the need for black people to be organised and for rulers to govern on behalf of the working classes.

Mention the name Marcus Mosiah Garvey to any Jamaican, black person or world citizen for that matter and the responses most likely to be heard are visionary, Jamaica’s first National Hero, ahead of his time, self belief, positive self esteem and self-image, liberation, racial equality and the development of Africa.

The recipient of numerous honours and memorials, which highlight the importance of his contribution and legacy, Marcus Garvey devoted his life to the liberation and holistic development of black peoples across the world and the advancement of Africa.

In spite of the fact that honours and tributes are the accoutrements of a prominent historical figure/achiever, a list of achievements and commendations cannot do justice to Marcus Garvey as a person; it serves only to highlight his value to world history, but neglects to sum up the essence of a man, whose teachings and philosophy have transcended time and space and is as relevant today, as a century ago.

 

Courtesy of JIS

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AUGUST 1 IS EMANCIPATION DAY FOR ALL PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT

Emancipation Park statues representing Africans looking to the sky after Emancipation declared

Emancipation Park statues representing Africans looking to the sky after Emancipation declared throughout the British Empire in 1834

By Jason Walker

Emancipation day is an important day for the descendants of Africa, especially those whose ancestors were impacted by the Slave trade. In the 1800’s the holocaust of slavery was hit with a crippling blow around the world. The Emancipation Act was passed on July 31, 1834 throughout the British Empire and effectively ended the Slave Trade. Full freedom from slavery did not come until four years later on August 1, 1838.  The 4 year period was instituted as a transition period as this monumental change would irrevocably change societies worldwide. The abolition of Slavery in the British Empire would affect slavery everywhere mainly because Britain’s navy owned the seas and without the cooperation of the British Navy, it made slavery both difficult and expensive. And as destructive, dehumanizing and inhumane the European version of the system of slavery was; it was for all intents and purposes an economic manifestation.

Slavery was a system used to have Africans as free labourers in labour intensive industries such as Cotton, Sugar and Tobacco. Throughout the 1400’s through to the middle of the 1700’s products such as these fetched a very attractive price, along with the free labour, a tidy profit could be made. Although labour was free, the cost to keep Africans enslaved was high. Especially in areas where there were slaves freeing themselves and staging revolts. The most successful of these of course included the Maroons in Jamaica from the 1500’s through to the 1700’s and even more so the Africans (including Maroons) in Haiti who would successfully wage a revolution against French armies, supported by Spain and England.

Do not think though that the Emancipation act came about from any altruistic gestures by the British Monarchy. Due to the work of many abolitionists in Britain; the sentiment against Slavery had grown tremendously among the English population. Also the prices of the aforementioned products began to drop on the world markets as new products that did not need this labour intensive situation were now rising to prominence. Along with that came the advent of the industrial age which was ushering a new era where such labour numbers were not the order of the day. All the aforementioned along with the cost of keeping control and responding to revolts made these endeavours non-attractive. Continuing Slavery no longer made economic sense.

As we come to the present, we find that it is only in the past two decades that countries have decided to mark this date as a holiday, and of the countries that were affected by this act (Countries in Africa, The Caribbean, Central America, South America, & North America) a small percentage actually commemorate this day*. Maybe that is appropriate; I say this because although things are different from the era of slavery, people of African descent in the aforementioned geographical areas are not in a position of true emancipation.

The definition of Emancipation from the British Oxford Dictionary states that it is “the fact or process of being set free from legal, social, or political restrictions; liberation:” With the majority of African persons in these areas lacking resources, political clout, and in some cases freedom, can we really call ourselves emancipated? It was probably this same observation that led former Prime Minister of Jamaica and former leader of the Non-Aligned Movement (a coalition of countries that were not listed as industrial nations) Michael Manley to say; “The enslavement of the body which endured till 1838 was nothing compared to the enslavement of the mind which persisted since”. The affects of slavery and the propaganda to support slavery has endured and left a lasting mark and has conspired to keep those of African descent in such a position.

Yet by our accomplishments singularly and in some rare cases collectively we see we are a very powerful people. So it is possible to change the current existence. However we will probably have to do what Reggae Superstar Bob Marley said in his song Redemption Song: “Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery” before we can truly be at a stage of Emancipation. So although we celebrate the Act that saw fruition on August 1 1838 annually, we should probably use these days to see where we are on the road of getting to the next stage of Emancipation and be creative in getting to that new stage.

*Countries that Celebrate Emancipation Day include: Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda, Bahamas, St. Lucia, Canada, Guyana, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis