By James Clingman
Happy Birthday, Marcus Garvey!
This is not a history lesson; it is simply about homage, recognition, and appreciation of a Black man who loved his people so much that he sacrificed beyond what most of us would say is reasonable.
Marcus Garvey cared so much about his people that he kept coming back, even after being stymied and stigmatized by the White establishment as well as by some of his own people. After all of the negative experiences he suffered at the hands of his enemies, he kept coming back to fulfill his mission of raising the consciousness of Black people, organizing Black people, and leading Black people to economic prosperity. He even promised to come back in death as a whirlwind or a storm, bringing with him millions of Black slaves who would aid us in our fight for freedom and keep the pressure up until we have succeeded.
When you think about how hurricanes that hit the United States originate near the African coast, it makes you wonder if Brother Marcus is not fulfilling some of his prophecy. In addition, considering the debacle that Firestone tires suffered with all of the lawsuits against it a few years ago, I wondered then if Marcus was taking his retribution for that company’s role in thwarting his work to connect Blacks in the U.S. with our brothers and sisters in Liberia and West Africa via the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). What goes around comes around. Right?
Marcus Garvey was principled, he had backbone, and he was fearless – all because he loved his people dearly. Love is the most powerful weapon we have. If Black folks had “Marcus Garvey love” for one another, imagine where we would be as a people.
Brother Garvey’s life should be celebrated just as other icons of the Black experience are commemorated. How can we continue to leave him out? After all, Garvey did what many of those we honor each year only talked about – he demonstrated the viability of economic control of our resources. Garvey showed our people how to pool our dollars and how to do for ourselves. He carried us to new heights, collectively, by utilizing our own resources to build the UNIA and numerous Black-owned businesses.
Ironically, it was Brother Garvey’s dedication to true nationalism that led to his demise by those for whom he so valiantly and relentlessly fought. Unfortunately some Blacks were jealous and envious of Marcus’ ability to rally the people, to get Black people to raise huge sums of money, to march and demonstrate in overwhelming numbers, to turnout the vote in unprecedented fashion, and to deny the takeover of the UNIA by “outsiders.” Black “leaders” of his time even came up with a “Marcus must go” campaign. Can you imagine that? I certainly can – been there, done that. Anytime a strong Black man or Black woman stands up for our people, it is inevitable that another Black person will lead the charge against them.
Too often we forget, if we ever knew, the importance of our brothers and sisters who stood tall on our behalf. Marcus Garvey, born August 17, 1887, is certainly deserving of our recognition and our honor. His words, “All I have I have given you,” are exemplary of this man’s love for us. We should be proud of his accomplishments, and it would be wonderful if we would emulate his spirit, his love, and his tenacity as we make our way to economic freedom.
I will close with a portion of Marcus Garvey’s letter from the Atlanta prison to which he was sent as a result of trumped-up charges and a “kangaroo court. He was later deported.
“I have sacrificed my home and my loving wife for you. I entrust her to your charge… I have left her penniless and helpless to face the world, because I gave all, but her courage is great, and I know she will hold up for you and me… After my enemies are satisfied, in life or death I shall come back to you to serve even as I have served before. In life I shall be the same; in death I shall be a terror to the foes of Negro liberty. If death has power, then count on me in death to be the real Marcus Garvey I would like to be.”
The appropriate way to honor Garvey is by practicing what he did. Honor him by following his example for self-empowerment. Happy Birthday, Marcus Mosiah Garvey!
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com. He is the author of Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, which is available through his website; professionalpublishinghouse.com and Amazon Kindle eBooks.