As a youth growing up in Harlem, New York City I always had a love/hate relationship with school. I loved seeing my friends and pretty girls every day. I loved the feeling you got when the bell rang that last period signifying it was time to go (Sorry Mom), and I absolutely loved History class. From elementary to High school history was the one subject that I always got the highest grades in. I had this genuine interest to understand what other people went through before my time. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I realized the lack of Black History I had been taught up to that point. One day I brought this up in a conversation with my older Cousin and he told me “If you want to learn Black History, you have to do your own research, they won’t teach you in school” shortly after he showed me a book he was reading titled “They Came Before Columbus”. According to my older Cousin the Premise of this book was to prove that Africans were the First non-natives to visit the Americas. He showed me huge ancient stone statues in Mexico with clear African features. The book even had a map that showed the Ocean currents between West Africa and America that would have led African ships directly to the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus got lost. This knowledge was the beginning of my awakening, it brought a sense of pride I had never felt. For the first time in my life I was proud of my African Roots, and Immediately I understood the importance of knowing the true history of your people. The next day I walked into my Global History class, and when I opened the door I felt like a Cowboy from out of town walking into a bar I had never been in. Full of Bravado, I walked to my desk and not even two minutes went by before I eagerly raised my hand and asked my Caucasian teacher what she thought of my recent discoveries. She laughed off my “theory” and questioned the sources of my information while reaffirming what she had taught us earlier that year, “Christopher Columbus discovered America”. I didn’t let this discourage me.
8 Years later at the age of 23, I’ve learned much more about the history of my people. Naturally the more I learned and matured I have adopted new idols and hero’s whose values and knowledge I hold close to my heart. Some of them modern day hero’s, and some heroes of the past. But this week we’re celebrating Black Bravado! So with that said, it’s time I recognize arguably the bravest and most influential African to live in the 20th Century, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887. He started his career in the printing industry and by the time he was 23 years old Garvey was elected assistant secretary of the National Club of Jamaica, the Country’s first Nationalist Political Organization. It was Garvey’s dream to unite African people all over the world, and so he founded he (UNIA) UNITED NEGRO IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION. THE UNIA had over 100,000 members, most of whom also helped fund Garvey’s movement. The UNIA had gained the global recognition Garvey dreamt of, he owned factories, and The (BSL) Black Star Line, a company with Ships that were intended to return Africans from America and other countries back to their homeland. When I first learned of Marcus Garvey’s accomplishments, I got pissed off! For the life of me I couldn’t understand why I never learned of such a great black man in high school. I come from a generation of inner city Black kids who think Sports, rapping, selling drugs, or working a 9-5 are the only options they have in life. But if these kids knew of the many successful black inventors, and leaders who were able to chase their dreams and accomplish their goals, it’s safe to say that most would broaden their horizons.
As a lecturer and publisher a main theme of Marcus Garvey’s views on African life in the post slavery era was racial Independence. A theme extremely important and relevant today almost 100 years after the UNIA was created. Garvey believed we needed our own schools that taught our children the history of their ancestors, and our own scientist to develop the cures we need for diseases that affect us. Garvey knew that American and European textbooks would in some way justify their cruel acts of slavery, and peonage against African people thus giving Africans who learned in these institutions an indirect sense of inferiority to whites. In today’s American society blacks are still going through many of the social issues that were prevalent during Garvey’s time. I can’t say how Garvey would have reacted to movements like Black Lives Matter, but I do know he would have wanted us to be more dependent on each other. White privilege exist because white people have racial independence. I believe Garvey would say it’s time for African Americans to organize politically, and support each other economically so that we may create our own privileges instead of lamenting the privileges of others. Marcus Garvey’s life and accomplishments affirm that we can be all things when we believe and work had enough. This was truly a man full of Black Bravado.
“Negros must never lose the Empire Urge” – Marcus Garvey
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