In this present era of economic and educational
onslaught against the African Community in America,
it is important that we understand that the rise of the African
Centered Education Movement should be linked to our quest
for economic independence. We
must free the “African mind” through African Centered Educational
activities so that we might better understand the importance
of economic self-reliance.
One model from which we draw strength, in pursuing
economic and educational liberation, is the model established
by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the Universal Negro
Improvement Association (UNIA) in the 1920s. The more I read
and study about Marcus Garvey, the more I am amazed at the
great contributions he made to African people to become a
self reliant and self sufficient people. At the core of Marcus
Garvey’s program was his urging of African people to acquire
education and economic power. As he always started, “A race
without power is a race without respect.”
When we examine the economic condition of Africans
in America, and throughout the world, we find one
glaring problem - African people do not control our economic
resources at the level we should. This is primarily due to
our miseducation as a people. In a disproportionate manner,
African people depend on the European and Asian world for
food, clothing, and shelter. More often than not, the European
and Asian worlds are the producers, processors, distributors,
and wholesalers. African people are the consumers. This was
one of the major problems that the Honorable Marcus Mosiah
Garvey addressed during his lifetime and that Minister Louis
Farrakhan continues to address.
As Dr. Tony Martin writes in his book Race
First: The Ideological and Organizational Struggles of Marcus
Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (New
Marcus Garvey Library),
which is one of the best books written on the works of
Marcus Garvey, “Marcus Garvey, unlike his major rivals in
the United States, built a mass organization that went beyond
civil-rights agitation and protest and based itself upon a
definite, well thought out program that he believed would
lead to the total emancipation of the race from white dominion.”
To implement his program, Garvey set up the Negro Factories
Corporation (NFC). Its objective was to build and operate
factories in the big industrial centers of the United
States, Central America, the Caribbean,
and Africa. The NFC established a chain of cooperative grocery stores, a
restaurant, a steam laundry, tailor and dressmaking shop,
a millinery store, and a publishing house.
Mr. Garvey also established a steamship company,
The Black Star Line. He envisioned a fleet of steamers carrying
passengers and establishing trade among African people of
the United States,
Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa.
In the summer of 1920, Garvey launched his
full blown program at the First Annual Convention of the Universal
Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) of which he was the founder
and first President General.
On August 2, 1920, after a massive parade of
thousands of well drilled, uniformed ranks of the UNIA, 35,000
delegates from all over the United
States and some twenty-five countries
convened at Madison Square Garden,
in New York City. It was, according to the New York Times, one
of the largest gatherings in the history of the hall.
Dr. Martin explains that, “Central to the ideological
basis underpinning Garvey’s program was the question of race.
For Garvey, the Black man was universally oppressed on racial
grounds, and no matter how much people try to shy away from
this issue, the fact is, this is still true today.”
As Malcolm X used to say, it was our Blackness
“which caused so much hell not our identity as Elks, Masons,
Baptists or Methodists.” If we are ever to become a liberated
people this idea must be deeply rooted in the day to day organizing
and mobilizing of our people as we seek economic and educational
liberation. Far too many Africans in America
have abandoned this idea in their organizing projects.
Mr. Garvey understood that the foundation of
our liberation was economic and educational independence based
on racial solidarity. There are numerous lessons we can learn
from the legacy of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Without
economic independence tied to the acquisition of political
power, African people in America
and African people everywhere will continue to be subject
to the whims of other people.
In this regard, Garvey said, “...you can be
educated in soul, vision and feeling, as well as in mind.
To see your enemy and know him is a part of the complete education
of man... Develop yours and you become as great and full of
knowledge as the other fellow without entering the classrooms.”
Columnist, Conrad W. Worrill, PhD, is the National Chairman
of the National Black United Front (NBUF). Click
here to contact Dr. Worrill.