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THE OPPOSITION TO GARVEY’S TEACHINGS IN JA’CAN SCHOOLS!

Everton PRYCE

Saturday, February 18, 2012 ——-

Fifty years on in Independence, it is alarming to discover that there exists a growing list of Jamaicans intent on sabotaging the legacy of Marcus Garvey with cynicism, ignorance and self-contempt.

Numbered among these misguided souls are those who take strong issue with the plan of the Ministry of Education for the teaching of Garvey’s life and work in schools. They are vociferous in their views and are not afraid to use the letter pages of our newspapers to suggest that the society should deny ancestral pride to our first National Hero by forgetting about Garvey’s teachings.

GARVEY… never lost sight of the centrality of Africa as the cradle of civilisation

Full blame, it seems to me, must be placed at the door of the Ministry of Education for this episode of psychic confusion. Over the years, it has failed to heed the call of advocates such as the late Rex Nettleford and Dudley Thompson, Rupert Lewis, Beverly Hamilton, Jerry Small, the Rastafarian community en bloc, and countless others of us who cautioned against ignoring the philosophy and opinions of one of the 21st century’s greatest visionaries.

Some of those cynics to whom I refer, in demonstrating further the psychic confusion that continues to throttle in our midst, even claim that we have had 80 years of Garvey’s teachings in this majority black country and little to show for them. But this claim is both false and alarming.

For the life and work of Marcus Mosiah Garvey have not been the subject of any rigorous epistemological focus among the masses, much less in academia. Thousands of our graduates continue to emerge from our universities flushed with knowledge of Marxism-Leninism, but ignorant of Garveyism. Though, of course, Garvey’s message persists among his heirs such as Bob Marley and Burning Spear and other legatees, including Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Capleton, Mutabaruka, Carolyn Cooper and Portia Simpson Miller.

This provides force of reason to suggest to the cynics that we bother with Garvey’s teachings because he remains relevant to our lives. His life and work have been seminal contributions to the liberation of millions of black and oppressed people the world over, from the bigotry and obscenities of imprudent power.

The Ministry of Education should be applauded for its decision, and needs to get on with the business of adding to the curriculum Garvey and those who have helped to release us from the human degradation to which our forebears sank for some three centuries. I share the following paragraphs from a review I wrote in 1987 of Rupert Lewis’s tome, Marcus Garvey: Anti-Colonial Champion, published in Jamaica Journal (Special Issue), with the readers of the Observer newspaper.

“Marcus Mosiah Garvey singularly represents the seminal black nationalist and pan-Africanist of the 20th century. To persist in the denial of this truism is sheer folly. Through whichever social historical lens we choose to assess him – whether via Marxism, Christianity, liberal democracy, or black nationalism – he has no equal as a leader of a mass movement among blacks anywhere in the world. As a Napoleonic personality in the true sense of the term, he occupies honourably his place within the black redemptive tradition.

“Garvey successfully linked the struggle for black liberation with all other dynamic nationalist campaigns in the Caribbean, Canada, Central America, the United States, Ireland, India, and China. He bequeathed to blacks a sense of racial pride and resistance to colonial domination that eventually formed the basis for the political freedoms that swept Africa in the decades after 1940. And although for his efforts he was convicted, jailed, reviled, persecuted and criticised, it is to his lasting credit that he retains the love and admiration of his people even to this day – so much so that despite his lonely death in London in 1940, his message of racial pride and dignity remains.

“Garvey successfully linked the struggle for black liberation with all other dynamic nationalist campaigns in the Caribbean, Canada, Central America, the United States, Ireland, India, and China. He bequeathed to blacks a sense of racial pride and resistance to colonial domination that eventually formed the basis for the political freedoms that swept Africa in the decades after 1940. And although for his efforts he was convicted, jailed, reviled, persecuted and criticised, it is to his lasting credit that he retains the love and admiration of his people even to this day – so much so that despite his lonely death in London in 1940, his message of racial pride and dignity remains.

“He discerned that the plight of black people was not reducible to a feeling but was rooted in a condition. Armed with a refined sensibility, slender resources, tremendous courage, and determination to succeed despite the odds, Garvey set about the business of challenging the vast material forces and the pervading social conceptions that conspired to destroy the black man’s achievement, by ways and means that remain one of the propagandistic miracles of this (20th) century”.

Although Garvey was forced to operate within the institutional parameters of a white world, he never lost sight of the centrality of Africa as the cradle of civilisation. Despite the influence in our lives of that world, he contends it has no monopoly on social organisation, cultural products of the imagination, and the administration of power or intellectual prowess.

We have kept out Garvey from mainstream thought long enough. Come back, Garvey, all is forgiven!

 

 

 

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