The Keen Wisdom of Marcus Garvey

By Hakim Abdul-Ali  

If you’ve read my views over the past two decades you undoubtedly know that I champion the continual study of learning about Black “Our-story,” no matter what time of the year that it is. It’s part of who I am as a thinking brother of color and as a believer in being proud of who I am.

For me, the piercing importance of knowing the authentic truth about one’s cultural and historical past can never be underestimated. There’s much to be learnt from the practice and implementation of that philosophy for the consciously aware among us.

Loving, learning about and advocating the appreciation of the heritage of the Afrikan and Afrikan-descendant peoples is nothing to be ashamed of. No, to the contrary, it’s a vital part of knowing that you are beautiful and worthwhile as an individual and also as a representative segment of “hue-manity.” And because of that explicit, valid comprehension, and with due respect to the sacrifices and struggles of our present and past cultural heroes and sheroes, I’ll always know that “Black is Beautiful” is more than a whimsical motto. Being born of the Afrikan bloodline is a divine blessing and it’s not a curse.

So, for today I’d like to share some insight about one of the true giants of the Afrikan diaspora, who left a lasting treasure trove of Black wisdom for all of us who claim to have even an iota of Black consciousness about us to decipher. His name was Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and he truly was a pioneer in advocating pride and establishing unity among the descendants of the Motherland everywhere.

Briefly, Marcus Mosiah Garvey was a Jamaican-born Pan-Africanist, cultural organizer and orator who was born in 1887. He was a major proponent of Black nationalism in his native homeland and especially here in America during the early 20th century.

My thoughts of Mr. Garvey, a leader of a mass movement called Pan-Africanism, are about his poignant, noble and dynamic wisdom about unity and pride, necessary ingredients that we all would take heed in digesting totally today. If you do, you may gain some robust sagacity from his collective wisdom and astute presence from way back then until his death in June 1940.

In sharing some of his thoughts with you, I want you to know that this founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League was always about Blacks unifying themselves as proud souls of creation. Sometimes, our cultural aristocrats’ efforts and achievements get swept under the rugs of truth by deceptive and cunning “his-storians”.

So, again, I’d like you to carefully read what this forgotten hero of our heritage had to say in some of the indelible thoughts he left with us. They resonate today with ingrained communal clarity, even if you may oppose some of his idealistic dreams of Black unity.

Mr. Garvey said, “The whole world is run on bluff. No race, no nation, no man has any Devine right to take  advantage of others. Why allow the other fellow to bluff you?” That says a lot to a thinker. Are you thinking with me as you read further? I hope so.

He defiantly once said, “If you want liberty, you, yourself, must strike the first blow. If you must be free you must become so through your own effort, through your own initiative.” Are you in total understanding what he meant by this? Please don’t get twisted what he said as many of us sometimes do and may. Marcus Garvey, founder of the Black Star Line, a shipping and passenger line which promoted the return to the Motherland for all aware Afrikans, once related, “Men may scorn us. Men may spurn us and men may say that we are on the wrong side of life. But, let me tell you that the way in which you are traveling is just the way all peoples who are free have traveled in the past.”

He also strongly uttered, “Sloth, neglect and indifference caused us to be slaves. Confidence, conviction and action will cause us to be free men today.” Think about that and in another arena he voiced, “A race that is solely dependent upon its enemy for its economic existence sooner or later dies.” Makes sense to me. What about you?

Moving on, at one point in my life’s experiences, decades ago, I taught Black History in New Jersey and Marcus Garvey’s words of wisdom always resonated with my aware students of consciousness.

One such gem from him was, “Preparedness is the watchword of this age. For us as a race to remain as we have been in the past –divided among ourselves is but to hold ourselves in readiness for the great catastrophe that is bound to come –that of racial extermination at the hands of a stronger race.”

Mr. Garvey always said, without fear, that “God almighty created each and every one of us for a place in the world.”‘  He also related, “If you have no confidence in self you are twice defeated in the race for life. With confidence you have won even before you started.”

This concept of inner confidence has always been a part of my personal understanding of believing in one’s self in order to achieve or accomplish anything worth attainable in life. I’m honored to say that in over fifty years of study this proud son of Jamaica, I’ve gained tremendous intuition into who I am and also about the battles I, and others of my culture, have to face daily in the quest for freedom and liberation.

One strong sentiment from Mr. Garvey’s mind that never left my level of understanding was what it took to become strong in knowing who I was as a proud member of the Black race. Mr. Garvey said, “The difference in strong and weak races is that strong races seem to know themselves. (They) see to realize that above them there is no other but God and anything that bears human form is but their equal in standing.” As a personal believer in God Alone, I, somehow, always felt a respect for what Mr. Garvey was saying and trying to do in uplifting the Black masses everywhere he went. Though despised and attacked by some in our communities, when all he was evidently trying to do was galvanize prideful unity and consciousness among Afrikan descendants, he persevered with his beliefs and messages for one and all to hear and comprehend.

To that end the great orator said, “For hundreds of years we have been the footstool of other races and nations of the earth simply because we fail to realize, to recognize, and know ourselves as other men have known themselves and felt that there is nothing above them except…God.” Makes sense.

As I conclude my column for today, I’ll leave you with one more of Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s pearls of wisdom that I’d often tell my former students in Black History. It says as much now as it said and did  back then in New Jersey because, obviously, not too much has changed overall in Black America today.

Mr. Garvey wisely said, “Negroes should be more determined today than they have ever been, because the mighty forces of the world are operating against non-organized groups of people who are not ambitious enough to protect their own interests.” Wow! Is that the truth. I don’t think I need to say anymore in validating what’s before today’s Afrikan-world. For today, that’s, “As I See It”.


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