“Up, You Mighty Race!”: Happy Birthday, Marcus Garvey!

 

“Up, you mighty race. Accomplish what you will!” 
- Marcus Mosiah Garvey

 

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (8/17/1887 – 7/10/1940) was a man whose contribution to the empowerment and progression of the African Diaspora was expansive, but nevertheless misunderstood and misinformed. To many people, he’s just the black man with the funny hat in that old black and white photo we see from time to time. But what did he do for us?

He showed us what we could do for ourselves when we stick together.

Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association in 1914, with the aim of promoting “pan-Africanism,” bringing together the African Diaspora for the purpose of empowerment in all aspects of global society. He spoke on street corners in London, England, and to large masses in the United States. He founded Negro World, a newspaper that was distributed and read on four continents. He founded factories to participate in industries he believed were needed to sustain and perpetuate African self-sufficiency. His most famous endeavor was the Black Star Line, a shipping company, with the aim of controlling the transportation of African peoples and goods around the globe. He was the catalyst for many other endeavors in his lifetime. Decades after his death in 1940, Garvey’s ideology and work continued to inspire many groups of African peoples around the world to create organizations and movements that motivate and empower ourselves to achieve self-determination. I encourage you to research his life, his work, and his legacy. A mere blog post won’t even scratch the surface

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He was derided as nothing more than a separatist racist by whites and blacks alike for his message of economic rebellion and self-sufficiency. He also had enemies within the Black community, and they only grew when his “respect” for the Ku Klux Klan became known, as well as his meeting with then Klan leader Edward Young Clarke. I believe his admiration for the KKK was due to the fact that, during the height of Garvey’s work, the Klan answered to no one. They were active in all areas of government, garnered widespread support among White Americans, and created fear in anyone who opposed them, especially Black people. For better or for worse, they were respected, and I believe Garvey wanted that respect, and more, for Black Americans and all people of African descent.

Again, I encourage you to research his history. You will learn that his imprint is everywhere, from the Civil Rights movement, to the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, to the present day, and hopefully, beyond. He showed us, through both word and deed, what could and can still happen when Black people love, trust, and help one another. Our possibilities are endless. And it doesn’t take hatred on our part to make this happen. Support a black-owned business. Participate in the development of our Black youth. Promote positive cultural ideals among one another. Learn your history and ask questions. It is true for EVERY member of the African diaspora to understand that our history didn’t start with kidnapping and slavery.

“Up, you mighty race. Accomplish what you will!”

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