September 26, 2012

Marcus Garvey: A New Narrative

In a recent article in The Washington Post, David McFadden while discussing the introduction of Garveyism into Jamaican schools followed the typical narrative that many other reporters have used to describe Marcus Garvey’s legacy: “Garvey was eventually convicted of mail fraud charges in connection with his steamship line and was deported to Jamaica in 1927.

While the article was fair in reporting the challenges facing the educators, there is no mention of the judicial and prosecutorial irregularities surrounding the case that writers such as Colin Grant, Tony Martin, Robert Hill, Justin Hansford, have revealed in their studies of Marcus Garvey.

It is for this reason that the Marcus Garvey Celebrations Committee (Miami), Rootz Foundation, and the Institute for Caribbean Studies, have joined to petition President Barack Obama to exonerate the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the first National Hero of Jamaica.

Now while some have chosen to view this request as an attack on President Obama, especially since began our petition began during the 125th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s birth (which coincidentally is an election year), we view it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for President Obama, an inheritor of Garvey's legacy, to set the record straight. It is also an opportunity for President Obama to honor Garvey’s memory as he had done previously in Dreams from my Father, where he quoted Garvey’s famous words, “Rise up, ye mighty race” (199).

So instead of the same old story, the new narrative about Marcus Garvey would read:

Marcus Garvey, the father of Pan-Africanism, was exonerated by President Barack Obama, who in signing the executive order noted Marcus Garvey’s role in the struggle for human rights in Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. Mr. Obama also addressed the judicial and prosecutorial irregularities surrounding the case, which as a legal scholar, he found extremely troubling.

“Marcus Garvey is a hero for all people who believe in justice,” said President Obama. “Garvey’s exoneration will clear the name of the calumnies that have tarnished this good man’s name and will restore his reputation as a leader in the struggle for human rights.”

800 million Africans at home and abroad are hoping you will do the right thing, Mr. President. Don’t let us down.


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