I am travelling a lot today and do not have enough time to think much less write a blog. I am travelling where the wind blows strong and rain is always expected. A perfect place to write once I land and have some other things to complete. On Monday, I will post Part 3 in the series I have been working on this week on EMU reform proposals. The quiz will be back tomorrow as usual. For the moment I am listening to …
Music while you wait for me to post again
This is what I was listening while travelling this morning.
It is an instrumental version of the great Burning Spear song – Marcus Garvey – and was on the 2004 album – Rock Steady – by Jazz Reggae greats Ernest Ranglin (guitar) and Monty Alexander (piano) with Hassan Shakur (bass), Quentin Baxter (drums), Gary Mayone (keyboards) and Junior Jazz (other guitars).
The whole CD is fabulous.
Marcus Garvey looms large in Jamaican political history and in reggae music. He lived from 1887 and 1940 and was a leader in the Pan-Africanism movement in Jamaica.
He founded the – Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA) – which aimed to advance the well-being and end the oppression of black people all around the world. You can learn more about UNIA – HERE
He founded a newspaper – Negro World – to publicise the intent and activities of UNIA. The organisation grew rapidly and developed a range of programs including job creation through many related businesses. They created a shipping company to foster trade among black people at fair rates.
Garveyism was a spearhead movement to relieve black people from the tyranny of racism and remove the colonial yoke.
It scared the Bjesus out of the white elites particularly those colonial vestiges in Africa and the Caribbean. The newspaper was banned in many nations because it was seen as a vehicle for raising black consciousness in their own capacity to break free.
It started to promote a ‘Back to Africa’ program (the ‘Garvey Movement’) where African Americans could return to their roots. It is a pretty grim story as to what happened next. The Liberian government had agreed to provide UNIA with land to facilitate the repatriation scheme.
However, after significant pressure from the US government the Liberian government closed entry to Garvey Movement followers and soon after announced the the Firestone Rubber Company would take a long-term lease on the land.
Garvey wrote in his – Negro World Editorial – on September 2, 1924 that despite the initial agreement with the Liberian government to help with the colonisation program and the considerable outlays that UNIA had made to ensure the first group could settle back in Liberia “as a permanent home for the black race” that:
… these enemies of progress worked in every way to block the carrying out of the plan. For the purpose of deceiving the public and carrying out their obstruction, they tried to make out by the protest that was filed by Ernest Lyons of Baltimore, with the government at Washington, that our Association was of an incendiary character and that it was the intention of the organization to disturb the good relationship that existed between Liberia and other friendly powers. A greater nonsense could not have been advanced by any idiot. What could an organization like the Universal Negro Improvement Association do to destroy the peace of countries that are already established and recognized? It is supposed that England and France are the countries referred to when, in fact, the authors of that statement know that England and France are only waiting an opportunity to seize more land in Liberia and to keep Liberia in a state of stagnation, so as to justify their argument that the blacks are not competent of self-government in Africa as well as elsewhere.
He went on to describe the way in which Firestone Rubber Company had been “spending large sums of money” to lobby US government officials to force the Liberian government to hand over the land to them. He said that “It is the duty of every Negro in the world to protest against this rape of Liberia encouraged by those who are responsible for giving the concessions to the Firestone Rubber and Tire Company. Why, nearly one-half of the country has been given away”.
Things turned pear-shaped for Garvey after that. The constant harassment by US officials eventually led to a trumped up criminal charge (relating to the shipping companies) and he was deported back to Jamaica in 1927.
He died in London on June 10, 1940 without ceremony. The racist conspiracy funded by various white-dominated governments had all but destroyed his movement.
His importance has been elevated again with the popularity of reggae music and the associated – Rastafarian movement.
The Rastafari consider Garvey to be a “prophet” because in the 1920s he had apparently stated that black people should “Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand!”.
They took his rhetoric and symbolism literary and when – Haile Selassie I – was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, the first black king of Africa, they interpreted that as a sign that the despot (Selassie) was the divine representation of God on Earth.
They believe in a Christian-style holy trinity and Selassie is Jesus.
Interestingly, Garvey was not a rasta and deeply criticised Selassie for leaving Ethiopia for Jerusalem as the Italian forces closed in on Addis Ababa in 1936 during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.
Selassie fled with his family to safety while the Italians took over the nation. It is not often known that the Italians actually did a deal with Selassie to allow him to leave safely and go into exile.
In an Editorial in the publication ‘Black Man’ (March/April 1937), Garvey wrote that:
When the facts of history are written Haile Selassie of Abyssinia will go down as a great coward who ran away from his country to save his skin and left the millions of his countrymen to struggle through a terrible war that he brought upon them because of his political ignorance and his racial disloyalty … Every Negro who is proud of his race must be ashamed of the way in which Haile Selassie surrendered himself to the white wolves of Europe … The future freedom of Abyssinia must be built upon the highest principles of democracy. That is why it is preferable for the Abyssinian Negroes and the Negroes of the world to work for the restoration and freedom of the country without the assistance of Haile Selassie, because at best he is but a slave master.
Garvey’s criticisms of Selassie created a major rift in his movement and partly explains why he died in relative obscurity.
But it also raises the question as to why the Rastafari so adore him and Selassie together. More on that topic another day.
For now, the music is it.
Here is a photo of where I am working today.
Part 3 of my series on EMU reform proposals will appear on Monday.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2017 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.