The Garveyites: Part Two


IN Part One we reported that Marcus Garvey and his wife Amy formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) as a rallying point for black people.
Members of the UNIA met every Sunday.
At these meetings Garvey spoke on all issues pertaining to the domestic, spiritual and economic aspects of the black community.
He taught that the history of black Americans did not begin with slavery.
He taught that blacks were the founding fathers of the world civilisations and if they had done great things in the past, they could make great achievements again.
Garvey would encourage blacks to keep their heads up and be satisfied with their physical beauty.
“Think of yourself as a perfect being, lacking nothing,” he said.
He also put it in the minds of his followers that the blacks of America needed to set up a powerful nation of their own and get in touch with their brothers in Africa.
These ideologies had been unheard of in the black communities of the America.
The ideas of black patriotism became wide spread in the black community and before long thousands of followers were attending the UNIA meetings.
Garvey treated each black person as a prince of a great nation which he was determined to bring into existence.
Blacks with common occupations like cooks and maids were given noble titles and uniforms.
The men belonged to a group called the African Legion.
The women belonged to a group called the Black Cross Movement.
And the youths of both sexes belonged to a group called the Juvenile Division.
These three groups made up the Garveyites — the followers of Marcus Garvey.
The Garveyites admired Marcus Garvey and they aspired to be as outspoken and free minded as him. They held sacred their flag which was designed by Marcus.
The flag was black, red and green.
Garvey had adopted the colours of the Ethiopian flag and afterwards these colours became distinctly Pan-African in nature.
Garvey used to say a nation without its own flag was also without pride.
The Garveyites had an anthem called ‘Advance’ which they sang with honour at the beginning of every UNIA meeting.
The lyrics were authored by Marcus who was a good singer and music composer.
The lyrics defined the worldview of the Garveyites and read as follows:
“Ethiopia the land of our fathers, the land where the gods love to be.
“As struggles suddenly gather, all armies come rushing to thee.
“Advance to meet the foe, and let Africa be free, with the might of the red, the black and the green.”
Before Garvey’s movement, blacks in America were commonly called coloureds and niggers.
The Garveyites demanded to be called Africans or African-Americans.
Garvey himself taught that since the term nigger was used derogatorily since the times of slavery, it was necessary to change it to Negro.
This was done in order for blacks to tell clearly if a whiteman meant to offend them by the way the white man would address them from thenceforth.
The Garveyites were successful in this respect because the derogatory names are no longer used by whites to refer to the blacks of America, at least not openly.
Nowadays, the word ‘nigga’ is only openly used among African Americans, and they still take offense if someone from outside the black community uses it.
The whites now call it the ‘N’ word, and their fear to call blacks ‘niggers’ was brought about by the Garveyites.
The Garveyites held parades and each UNIA member had his or her uniform.
The men dressed like captains with noble hats, badges, swords and so on.
The women wore beautiful apparel which was white and covered their whole body.
Both the men and women marched in battle order.
The sight of these mighty blacks was very imposing on the whites and on some occasions white women would faint.
The Garveyites were united and organised.
They trusted Marcus Garvey with their lives and their wealth because they were certain that he was delivered to their race.
Marcus Garvey was named Moses by the Garveyites.
Before Garvey there were very few black businesses.
This was not because blacks had no wealth, but they were disunited and lacked direction.
By Garvey’s guidance and persuasion, blacks both rich and poor would invest money in the UNIA through buying stock.
With this money they entrusted Garvey to do whatever he saw fit to improve the livelihoods of the African Americans.
In Harlem, the Garveyites purchased a half-finished church building which they named Liberty Hall.
At Liberty Hall, Garvey ran a newspaper called Negro World.
In the paper, Garvey wrote editorials on the front page of every issue.
The rest of the paper contained essays, poetry and articles on issues pertaining to blacks and world events.
The Negro World newspaper was eventually banned in Africa and the Caribbean by the whites who feared his influence on their colonies.
The newspaper made both black and white readers feel as if blacks were sleeping giants and the messages of the Garveyites meant their awakening.
In Garvey’s time, the Negro World newspaper was the most popular black newspaper in the USA.
Apart from the newspaper, the Garveyites used their investment funds to open several businesses and projects to benefit black people.
The idea was to teach themselves success and self reliance.
The Garveyites had laundromats, restaurants, clinics, schools and so forth.
The Garveyites also had a UNIA division called the Negro Factories Corporation.
This large company was funded by the Garveyites through small, but many contributions.
The Negro Factories Corporation at one point employed as many as 1 000 people in Harlem.
These projects and more were the pride of the Garveyites and blacks in general.
The numbers of Marcus Garvey’s follower’s increased drastically and by 1919, there were more than 750 000 registered Garveyites.
This number excludes blacks all around the world who were keen followers of Marcus Garvey.
At the end of the First World War, many of the black soldiers who returned to the USA became Garveyites.
The white authorities began to fear that the Garveyites would become militarised and they labelled their leader, Marcus, a serious threat.
The message of Garvey was challenging the foreign policies of the white nations and demanding them to forgo their colonies in Africa.
He spoke saying Belgium was too small a country to manage the Congo which they had made their colony.
The Garveyites developed the motto, “Africa for the Africans.”
Britain then worked hand in hand with the USA to eradicate the Garveyites and their strong and growing movement.
Britain feared that if the Garveyites continued receiving world attention, they would undoubtedly cause a revolution with millions of blacks all under Marcus Garvey’s influence.
The patriotism and nationalism of the Garveyites was now being associated with revolution and rebellion.


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