The Barbados-based Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration (CMPI) is supporting a call by St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves for pressure to be put on the United States government to exonerate Jamaica’s first National Hero Marcus Garvey, almost a century after he was convicted of mail fraud in the US.
For the duration of February, which is recognised as Black History Month, an online petition will be open, calling for people to support the campaign to get the late Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist exonerated.
The campaign was initiated by the P.J. Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
In a February 1, 2022 open letter to the people of the region, Africa and the rest of the world, Prime Minister Gonsalves called on people and governments to sign the petition to have Garvey exonerated of his “unjust, flawed and dubious” conviction in 1923.
“The petition will be sent to President Joseph Biden of the USA for his action. Governments are urged to encourage their nationals to sign…. Assuming that President Biden accedes to this just and fair petition, he may find it of great convenience and moment to announce the exoneration of Marcus Garvey at the next Summit of the Americas to be held in June 2022 in California, USA,” the Vincentian leader said, as he further urged Heads of State and Government of countries, especially from the Caribbean Community and Africa, to send letters to President Biden.
CMPI General Secretary David Denny has supported the cause, citing the large influence Garvey’s work had on the labour movement within the West Indies during the early stages of social changes in the early 1930s.
“Garvey made a solid contribution to the labour movement in the English-speaking Caribbean region, and also for the labour parties in the region. Garvey’s philosophy is one that would have helped to build the political consciousness among the progressive forces in the region, with his philosophy also playing a big role in the 1937 Rebellion in Barbados,” he said.
Prime Minister Gonsalves, who spoke glowingly of the Jamaican social activist and Black Nationalist, said the time was right to correct the historic injustice met upon him, given the resurgence of social issues that are once again threatening the rights to people of African descent.
“Persons and organizations, globally, who are wedded to justice, fair play, truth, human rights and sustainable development, whatever their nationality, ethnicity, class or religious orientation ought to join in the current campaign to exonerate Marcus Garvey,” he said.
“Today, especially in the USA and some other western countries, there are concerted attempts to roll back the hard-won rights of people of African descent and other historically marginalized groups. Right-thinking persons are resisting in solidarity…. Garvey’s philosophy and opinions are helping us to see more clearly the path we must pursue; he was not right about everything, but his visionary ideas are uplifting,” Gonsalves added.
“He is one of the Caribbean’s greatest leaders since conquest and settlement by colonialism,” Gonsalves said, adding that Garvey had greatly influenced the political outlook of several distinguished leaders from the Caribbean and the United States, including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.”
The Vincentian leader said while there may be pushback from persons who will seek to paint Garvey in a negative light, his legacy for social justice cannot be ignored.
“The intellectual heirs of those who railroaded and framed Marcus Garvey are likely to use negative propaganda against Garvey and our efforts. Disregard it all. Garvey, by his thoughts, ideas, vision, and deeds, is in the top drawer of the pantheon of heroic personalities in our hemisphere, and globally. We must honour and revere him and his main body of work. We must support his exoneration,” Gonsalves said.
In the early 20th century, Garvey built the largest ever mass political movement of black people, globally – the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
He was arrested in 1922 for mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in the failing Black Star Line which he had founded in 1919 to provide transportation to Africa.
He was sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison after being found guilty in 1923, and after serving almost three years he was deported to Jamaica. Garvey lived there until 1935 when he moved to London and he died there in 1940 at the age of 53. His remains were returned to Jamaica in 1964 where they were reburied in the country’s National Heroes Park. (SB)