August 17, 2010

Black Star Rising

Black Star Rising

"Marcus Garvey? He spoke beautifully, just beautifully," recalls UNIA faithful Mariamne Samad, in her own crisp and fruity voice. She speaks as precisely as her hero. Her diction is as clear as I imagine her writing to be. For Garvey, as the late Amy Bailey remembered, was intent on building a nation of black people who took as much care in their language as they did in their presentation.

Marcus Garvey had shown a love of words and learning from a young age. Famously, he walked around the quiet coastal town of St Ann ’s Bay in Jamaica with a dictionary in his pocket. He’d learn half a dozen new words in the morning and try them out in conversation with his friends and startled adults in the evening.

Marcus Garvey, the indefatigable proselytiser, would be a consummate blogger today. He’d have so many things to say, and he’d want, as he did during his heyday in the 1920s and 30s, to get his message out. His second wife, Amy Jacques, affectionately referred to Marcus Garvey as "the mouthagram."

Garvey with the username 'Black Star Rising' would not confine himself to a blog; he would be an engaging and energetic user of Twitter, with lots of 'followers', and would have an active and influential Facebook page, with lots of "friends."

Back in the day, Garvey relied on merchant seamen who volunteered to distribute his paper, The Negro World, to Africa, North and South America and the Caribbean . Today, he’d have an explosion of online volunteers, tagging and re-tweeting - ad infinitum.

On a typical day on his blog, "Black Star Rising" would forensically expose the pathology of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and their crude domain assumptions about black people (especially the commander-in-chief in the White House), as the enemy within. "Black Star Rising" would not brood quietly in his tent, but strap on his literary breast plate, take out his Blackberry and iPad, and exploit all of the social networking tools at hand to skewer the noxious bigots on Fox News and in the Tea Party 'movement'.

He’d also urge black people to see beyond the smoke and mirrors of the cable news networks' attempt to corral them in to denouncing people who are their natural allies.  "Black Star Rising" would do so with all of the wit, charm and passion that helped to make his name. Because even in a boiling sea, surrounded by corrupt business associates, FBI informants, black 'Garvey Must Go" campaigners, and an array of enemies attempting to destroy him, Marcus Garvey remained steadfast. He confounded them all through his words – spoken and in print. You could no more shut away Marcus Garvey and dim his voice than you could jail a rainbow.


Give thanks to Colin Grant for writing this post in response to a question I posed to him: If Marcus Garvey were alive today, would he be blogging?

About the author:

Colin Grant is a BBC radio producer and independent historian. His first book, Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey, was published in 2008 (Jonathan Cape/OUP). His memoir Bageye at the Wheel, an extract of which, ‘Lino’, will be printed in Granta 111: Going Back, will be published in February 2012.

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