“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!”

My Response to Retired officer Chris Amos’ Open Letter to Colin Kaepernick

(Click here if you have not yet read Officer Chris Amos’s open letter to Colin Kaepernick.)

Officer Amos, your service is truly appreciated.  From what I gathered in your letter, you were involved in a police-action shooting.  You were shot and wounded, and you responded by returning fire.  Unfortunately, a man died.  You were put on paid administrative leave and rehab, and returned to duty.  I’m glad you pulled through.  For that, I am thankful.

Now, let’s get down to business.  Your open letter to Colin Kaepernick DISGUSTS me.

Kaepernick’s protest specifically calls out police brutality.  His protest brings attention to officers who shoot and kill people UNJUSTLY and get away with it.  If you believe your actions were justified, why would you believe that he’s protesting you?  I’ll tell you why.  It’s because he IS protesting you.  Your open letter, no matter how well-intentioned, is merely a written version of the response given for as long as America has existed: a response of deflection.

His protest, along with many patriotic Americans, doesn’t just call out the obviously corrupt officers.  He also points the finger at you and your fellow officers who say and do little to root them out.  You speak about all the good that the overwhelming majority of 800,000 officers do for us as though it should be enough to shut us up about the few that do bad.  You deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

What also disgusts me is how you “dig up” your friends who either died or commited suicide in the line of duty, in an attempt to shame him, and by extension all protesters, for showing and voicing their discontent.  Allow your fellow officers to rest in peace!  They died upholding the same laws of this country that you upheld.  Those laws, among other things, grant the right to protest.  You don’t get to pick and choose which rights you care to enforce.  Your personal feelings DO NOT MATTER.  Kaepernick could hate your guts, but if he’s within his rights to do so, you have no choice but to protect him.  Here also, you deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

To protest, by definition, is to express objection to someone or something.  There’s no acceptable or inoffensive way to engage in it.  Dismissing the REASON for a protest because you don’t like the METHOD is unacceptable.  Dismissing his protest because he’s rich and famous is unacceptable.  You don’t respond by relabeling the protest a larger problem than the one it seeks to address.  But you did just that, and in doing so, you again deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.

You made it a clear point in your letter to let us know that an elderly black man assisted you in locating the criminals you were chasing.  His helping you and your partner DOES NOT JUSTIFY YOUR BELIEFS IN ANY WAY.  He was simply doing what all citizens of America are asked to do when crime happens: speak up.  If anything, he and Colin Kaepernick have more in common than you will ever have with either one of them.  Speaking up in a community where decades of mistrust demands that you don’t talk to police is a tough thing to do.  And apparently, so is speaking up about law enforcement not serving and protecting everyone equally.  In this regard, once again, you deflect attention away from the real issue: POLICE BRUTALITY.  (I’ll spare you, in the interest of time, my opinion of the history of America trotting out individual black people that, knowingly or unknowingly, cosign its agenda of racially-motivated politics, economics, and education.)

At some point we, as a nation, have to stop deflecting.  In the same way we call on other nations to own up to their mistakes, we must also own up to our own.  There’s no shame in that.  The shame comes when we deflect attention away from issues we need to address.  It’s paramount to defending bad behavior.

Sincerely,

Devin Wilson