There's an Ethiopian proverb that states, “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” That’s how I feel about the petition to exonerate Marcus Garvey, which has drawn me out of my comfortable role as a writer and into the world of activism.
If you had asked me three years ago what I’d be doing now, I’d probably tell you with certainty that I’d be working on a book of poems, short stories, or a novel. This is not to say that I’ve stopped writing. I just never imagined activism as being part of my life.
But I blame my children’s book for all this. For once I wrote Marcus and the Amazons, a fable about a courageous ant whose rallying cry against invading Amazon ants was “Set the captives free,” it led me to consider the ways that all of us, and especially young Black children are held captive by a system that robs us of our dignity. And when I went into neighborhoods to read to the children, I saw the evidence all around me of their lack of self-esteem.
This bothered me into action. The more I looked, the more I realized that whatever challenges they faced, these were a direct result of their self-identity. For whatever “names” we call ourselves, these determine the types of experiences we will have. In other words, our children have been giving unwise answers to the question, ”Who are you?”
It was the same challenge that Marcus Garvey faced almost a hundred years ago. His question was linked another question that everyone in the Americas must confront: “How do I negotiate the African presence in my life?”
Unfortunately, Marcus Garvey was wrongfully arrested and convicted on trumped charges of mail fraud and Africans at home and abroad have never realized the full benefits of his answers. Since then, Garvey’s work has been deliberately distorted and his legacy has been all but erased from our collective memory.
It’s for this reason why I have joined with the Marcus Garvey Celebrations Committee (South Florida) Rootz Foundation, and the Institute for Caribbean Studies, to petition to President Barack Obama for the exoneration the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the father of Pan-Africanism.
For although Marcus Garvey does not need to be exonerated in our eyes, it will take political pressure to bring about change.
Garvey’s exoneration we hope will accomplish 3 things:
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.
But that means organization. For us to achieve our goal, the exoneration of Marcus Garvey, all the “spiders" will have to unite to tie up the lions that stalk our children. I like the image of spiders because it is reminiscent of Anancy, our Trickster hero from West African folklore.
The exoneration of Marcus Garvey is the cause to which I am committed and if you would like to join, here is the link: http://signon.org/sign/exonerate-marcus-garvey?source=c.url&r_by=4631897