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Monday Aug. 17 is the 128th anniversary of the physical birth of pan-African icon Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and to commemorate that occasion the 75th annual Black Power March departs at from the park in Central Harlem that bears his name.
“He was a lightening bolt to wake up Black people about our oppression in America,” contends historian Dr. Jack Felder. “He made great contributions to the upliftment of the African race and their aspirations and belief in self.”
Born in 1887 in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, the youngest of the 11 children of Marcus Garvey Sr. and Sarah Jane Richards, Garvey utilized much of the Western Hemisphere as his domain. Becoming a printer’s apprentice at age 14, he learned the power of the printed word. He later traveled throughout Central America, working as a newspaper editor and documenting the exploitation of migrant plantation workers, among other social issues.
Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in 1914 with the goal of uniting all Africans throughout the Diaspora to “establish a country and absolute government of their own.”
In 1918, he began publishing the widely distributed The Negro World newspaper to convey his messages abroad.
“He started the largest mass-movement for liberation, in history, of Black people in the world,” Felder reveals. “…amassing over 5 million before the Internet, cell phone or computer.”
The Negro World promoted Garvey’s self-determining pan-African philosophy and advocated for resettlement in Africa. It sparked a global mass movement known as Garveyism, which heavily influenced Black Nationalism and the Nation of Islam, and sprung the Rastafarian way of life.
“He projected positive images [about Africans] and amassed the largest movement, and influenced future generations,” surmised street scholar, Brother Sekou. “Marcus Garvey has given us a blueprint … he started apprenticeships putting people into business they could control and make contributions to our people, nurturing Black business.”
Garvey launched several ventures advocating for a separate Black nation, as well as efforts seeking repatriation to Africa.
In 1919, Garvey had launched the Black Star Line, a fleet of ships established to facilitate trade and commerce between Africans throughout the Western Hemisphere and those in the Motherland, “That’s mind blowing!” says Sekou.
By the following year, the UNIA claimed several million members and held its first International Convention at NYC’s Madison Square Garden.
His message of race-pride and dignity inspired many during turbulent times.
“He gave us so much as African people in our struggle against white supremacy,” Felder concluded. “Not only was he a hero for Black people, he was a get up and doer. He did things. He inspired people. Long live the teachings of Marcus Garvey!”
Garvey passed in London in 1940 after several strokes.
The march leaves at 5 p.m. Monday from the corner of 124th Street and Mt. Morris Park West.