At the beginning of this month, I got an opportunity to travel to Kingston, Jamaica, to write about the island’s history and also cover the island’s 47th Independence Day celebration. Below is Part III of the travel series. The publication I traveled on behalf of did not post all the articles written in the travel series, so I figured I would post them on my blog. Hope you enjoy! — Alan King
KINGSTON, Jamaica – One maxim of Marcus Mosiah Garvey was, “Education is the medium by which a people are prepared for the creation of their own civilization and the advancement and glory of their race.” Using that philosophy to inspire, excite and raise awareness about self-identity among Jamaicans is Liberty Hall at 76 King Street in the capital city.
The primary mission of the facility is to inform the public about the work of Jamaica’s first National Hero, while creating social and economic wealth. The building is now a national monument, according to Nicosia Shakes, senior researcher at Liberty Hall. What this means is that its owned by the Jamaican people and no longer a UNIA divisional headquarters. “The concrete structure that is there now was erected in ‘1933′ by Garvey to replace a wooden structure put up in ‘1923′,” Shakes said.
Informing the public about Garvey, in addition to creating social and economic wealth, includes a four-part system of education geared at uplifting members of surrounding communities. First, there is the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum, which opened in 2006.
According to Shakes, it’s the first fully multimedia museum in the Caribbean. Through interactive touch-screens, visitors experience Garvey’s life, work and philosophy in the exhibition: Marcus Garvey: The Movement and the Philosophy. Films on Garvey, Black Self-Identity and Africa are shown in two locations that chronicle Garvey’s life as a publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, Black Nationalist, Pan-Africanist, and orator.
Prior to the twentieth century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey advanced a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement focusing on Africa known as Garveyism.
Garveyism, or Universal African Nationalism, was comprised of five concepts for African nation building, according to unia-acl.org. The first concept was African Identity, which considered all persons of African ancestry and origin essential and integral parts of the same Black African Nation.
The Web site states: “A people who where separated from their ancestral homeland by the barbarous actions of the Aryan and Arab slave traders cannot be expected to accept the nationalities imposed upon them by their enslavers. The African, in freedom, has the right to determine his own nation, to delimit that nationality, and to seek the greater ingathering of African people from all sectors of the African Diaspora.”
The third and fourth concepts involved African Self-reliance and African Economic Power, respectively.
With African Self-reliance, the belief was that the work of African racial reconstruction will be accomplished by African organizations under African leadership with all-embracing African programs. African institutions designed for racial upliftment and liberation must be controlled by the race, financed, directed, organized and established by Africans with programs dedicated exclusively to the solution of Africa’s problems at home and in the diaspora, according to unia-acl.org.
Under African Economic Power, Garvey stressed that the wealth of the African community and the African nation had to be in the hands of the African people. This meant Africans had to control production, distribution and exchange within their own boundaries. As part of altering situations — such as alien ownership and exploitation — that were common to Black communities, UNIA-ACL formed the Negro Factories Corporation in 1920, with a mandate to establish and run commercial and industrial undertakings.
The fifth, and final, concept of Garveyism required African unity both in the national and international sense. Pan-Africanism, according to UNIA-ACL’s Web site, was a fundamental thesis of Garveyism.
That philosophy, promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam, to the Rastafari movement. The intention of the movement was for those of African ancestry to “redeem” Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it.
“Marcus Garvey is very popular all over the world,” Shakes said. “We’ve had a lot of foreigners coming here from as far as Europe because the UNIA could be found on almost every continent.” In fact, there were 1,056 divisions of the UNIA formed worldwide between 1921 and the 1930s – with 948 in the Americas, 18 in Africa and five in Europe, according to museum information. The Liberty Hall in downtown Kingston is one of 84 divisions of the UNIA in the Caribbean.
Other components of Liberty Hall include the Garvey Research/Reference Library and educational outreach programs. The research and reference library houses books, periodicals and audio-visual materials on Marcus Garvey, his movement, Pan-Africanism and the history and culture of African and the Diaspora. The Library also features a children’s collection, which caters to youth ages 7 to 17.
Their educational outreach programs include an after-school program and summer art program. The after-school program operates during the school year on weekdays and offers classes in computer skills, drama, art and craft, capoeira, reading and English.
Nicole Patrick-Shaw, administrator/program coordinator, noted that there is also homework assistance and counseling sessions on topics ranging from HIV/AIDS, to the environment, to emotional stress. The summer art program takes place every year from July to August. In previous years, the children produced works in painting, fabric and ceramics. This year, they started taking classes in performing arts and videography leading up to a major production.
Of the programs overall, Patrick-Shaw said, “We focus on the psychosomatic development of the child; so not only educational but also the emotional aspect of it.” Andrew Brown, a tour guide with Liberty Hall, said they do more than that. He said, “hopefully, we don’t just teach about the man but we teach about the message.”