President Obama, the children are crying
"Never let the children cry, or you gotta tell Jah-Jah why"
"Trench Town Rock" by Bob Marley.
"Trench Town Rock" by Bob Marley.
Through no fault of their own, Black children have been in trouble for a long time. From the moment our children become aware of themselves, they are surrounded by negative self-images. No wonder some of them grow up to hate themselves. I've seen evidence of this self-hatred in my family, neighborhood, and in the elementary schools that I sometimes visit.
Now while stable families and meaningful work that paid a living wage could curb some of this self-hatred by providing the children with positive images of Black men and women who could support themselves economically, how our children think about themselves remains the primary challenge. In a culture that privileges white male patriarchy—everyone wants to be Don Draper—our children are hard pressed to find positive role models, and often act out their self-hatred on themselves and others. The gun violence that plagues our communities is just one of the symptoms.
Perhaps, the most striking example of this pathology of self-hatred was a study conducted by Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark. The Clark’s research conducted between 1939 and 1940 on “children's self-perception related to race” became part of the landmark Supreme Court decision on education, Brown v. Board of Education.
The doll experiment involved a child being presented with two dolls. Both of these dolls were completely identical except for the skin and hair color. One doll was white with yellow hair, while the other was brown with black hair. The child was then asked questions inquiring as to which one is the doll they would play with, which one is the nice doll, which one looks bad, which one has the nicer color, etc. The experiment showed a clear preference for the white doll among all children in the study. These findings exposed internalized racism in African-American children, self-hatred that was more acute among children attending segregated schools.
Interestingly, filmmaker Kiri Davis repeated the experiment in 1976 and the conclusions were similar to those of Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark.
Although researchers and educators have proposed many solutions, Marcus Garvey’s exhortation in African Fundamentalism,” (6 June 1925,) is as true now as it was then:
"We must canonize our own saints, create our own martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honor black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history... Africa has produced countless numbers of men and women, in war and in peace, whose lustre and bravery outshine that of any other people. Then why not see good and perfection in ourselves?"
Garvey went even further by not only encouraging Black enterprise, but also promoted businesses such as Berry & Ross that manufactured Black dolls.
Despite his visionary approach to education and Black identity, Marcus Garvey, a hero to people of African descent worldwide, was wrongfully convicted on June 21, 1923 on charges of mail fraud. From 1925 until 1927, Garvey served his sentence in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary until President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence. To this day, Marcus Garvey remains a convicted felon.
Garvey’s arrest and conviction is one of the great ironies that many parents and educators confront whenever we try to teach our children about heroes such as Marcus Garvey. How do we in in one breath engage our children’s imagination with quotes by Marcus Garvey such as “The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness,” and in the next breath explain that Garvey is still a criminal in the eyes of the law?
Of course, this situation could be reversed by the exoneration of Marcus Garvey by President Barack Obama, who wrote about Black self-hatred in his remarkable memoir, Dreams From my Father and quoted Marcus Garvey’s famous words, ‘Rise up, ye mighty people” (199).
It is for this reason that the Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey is petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the First National Hero of Jamaica.
It is hoped that Garvey's exoneration will accomplish three goals:
1. In the name of justice, initiate the PUBLIC rehabilitation of the good name/character of Marcus Garvey
2. Honor the legacy hero in the struggle for Black identity
3. Reintroduce Marcus Garvey's ideas of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and success into the body politic.
Here is the link to the petition: https://www.causes.com/campaigns/71936-urge-president-obama-to-exonerate-marcus-garvey
Mr. President, the children of the African diaspora are calling out to you to become their champion and to exonerate our hero—an action for which you are uniquely qualified, as an inheritor of Marcus Garvey’s legacy.