Trump, Confederates, Racists -- and the Timeless Wisdom of Marcus Garvey

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Marcus Garvey's birthday falls on the 17th but each year the entire month of August should be devoted to revisiting and applying his empowering lessons.

The last time I commented on Garvey’s birthday, the national dialogue was centered around the fallout of flying the Confederate Flag on public buildings. I was then making the case for flying our flag—the Red, Black and Green—the one Garvey gave us through The Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA & ACL) in 1914.

Since that commentary, the pages on the calendar have turned—but the days and dates seemed to have been the only things that have changed. Then the discussion was over a Confederate flag, and now it is over knocking down statues of a Confederate heroes.

No matter the remnant symbols of the past, the system of Racism White Supremacy is unchanged. America stands fundamentally unresolved on race and the genocidal time clock for us as a people is ticking away. We can ill afford to spend any more precious time on this merry-go-round ride of madness.

Regurgitating the matter of President Trump’s responsiveness or lack of responsiveness regarding the Charlottesville tragedy is unfruitful for us and is probably best left to the pundits on both the Alt. Left and Alt. Right.

Instead, on this month --and every month-- let us turn to the spirit and words of Garvey, which bring clarity to our unique plight and also call us to meaningful activity and productivity.
It is noted that during his travels to Europe and the Americas, he observed that Black people were oppressed on the basis of race. Garvey said, “No man can convince me contrary to my belief because my belief is founded open on a hard and horrible experience, not a personal experience. The world has made being Black a crime, and I have felt it in common with men who suffer like me, and instead of making it a crime, I hope to make it a virtue.”

Obtaining clarity is crucial at this time. Racial superiority has not been established on hateful rhetoric alone. Economic and military might have a great deal to do with enforcing supremacy and its Darwinian “survival of the fittest” type philosophies. The fear of losing this dominance, even if only symbolically, is very real for some people.

Economic and military dominance makes supremacy possible. Wars are fought to establish and maintain this dominance. This is the basis for white supremacy racism today or any other supremacy that is global with a far reaching impact.

We understand that Africa is the richest continent on the planet, but yet its economic resources are not controlled by its indigenous people, but instead by Western foreign powers. And now China, because of its economic power and status in the world, is making inroads into the continent as well as in the Caribbean islands.

While presidents on the continent have political power, economic power resides largely in the hands of foreign corporate entities from Western countries. For the most part, Black-led countries on the continent and in the Caribbean Islands are largely independent in name only.

CARICOM nations, supported by the intellectual brilliance of Sir Hilary Beckles, are calling for reparations from the European nations that once colonized them. After a few centuries of enslavement, they understand now that they have been setback as a people and are struggling with development in their quest to become "first world" nations. Tourism alone is not enough to secure their economic survival.

Economic empowerment makes for true liberation for a people. Marcus Garvey understood that economic independence was key. He stated, “After a people have established successfully a firm industrial foundation, they naturally turn to politics and society, but not first to society and politics, because the two latter cannot exist without the former.” Establishing economic independence and self-reliance is tantamount to group preservation and survival. Garvey understood this when he commented that “Let Edison turn off his electric light and we are in the darkness in Liberty Hall in two minutes. The Negro is living on borrowed goods.”

Our current trillion dollar consumption or purchasing power here in the United States alone, without any independent means of production and distribution, would probably have Garvey gasping for breath if he were alive today. But then again, he too understood the influence of the Black mis-leadership class on the masses.

Garvey said, “Every student of Political Science, every student of Economics knows that the race can only be saved through a solid industrial foundation. That the race can only be saved through political independence. Take away industry from a race, take away political freedom from a race and you have a group of slaves.”

Some of us are distracted by “fake news,” the vestiges of Confederate pride, and reality TV. But for the rest of us who have escaped “the sunken place” and have regained African consciousness—thank you, Dr. Amos Wilson—our focus should be about resurrecting the words of Garvey into our minds and actions.

While our situation is dire, no people can move forward without hope and there again Garvey provides inspiration with, “I trust that you will live today as to realize that you are masters of your own destiny, masters of your fate; if there is anything you want in this world it is for you to strike out with confidence and faith in self and reach for it, because God has created it for your happiness wheresoever you may find it in nature.”

Let’s remember to work to educate our youth about Garveyism and what it can be in the 21st century. It is our responsibility. Garvey said, “The Negro, surrounded as he is, has no other alternative than going forward in the atmosphere of racial self-interest, working for the generation of the present and providing for those of our posterity.”

Lastly, we cannot abandon hope because “No one knows when the hour of Africa’s Redemption cometh. It is in the wind. It is coming. One day, like a storm, it will be here. When that day comes all Africa will stand together.”

Note: Quotes are taken from the book “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey,” Comp. by Amy Jaques Garvey

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