By Sam P.K. Collins, Senghor Jawara Baye and Baba Mos
Woodson Banneker Jackson-Bey Division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association – African Community Leagues (Division 330, UNIA-ACL)
Amid police-involved shootings, filthy drinking water, abysmal public education and drug infestation, the sleeping masses of Black African people, specifically those known as the Millennial (Y) and Z Generations, have awakened to its collective suffering and devastation.
However, ideological, and otherwise petty, differences hinder the creation of vast socio-political infrastructure with which Black African people can effectively rail against forces whose interests oppose theirs, including neoliberal leaders who market incremental, piecemeal overtures as significant progress.
That’s why, as the Black African world celebrated his August 17 birthday, the works and philosophies of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, arguably one of the most influential Black men of the 20th century, have more relevance than ever before.
On August 26, the Woodson Banneker Jackson-Bey Division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, the D.C.-based chapter of the organization Garvey founded, will pay tribute to Garvey at the Thurgood Marshall Center with noted historian C.R. Gibbs and psychologist Dr. Jeff Menzise as keynote speakers, and songstress Foluke as the entertainment.
From 1914 until his expulsion from the U.S. in 1927, Garvey, with the help of other Black men and women, brought millions of Black people under the banner of Blackness, a common factor in their suffering that became a source of pride in their common African heritage.
This global Pan-African movement marked Garvey as a target of the U.S. government and other Black leaders who didn’t embrace African fundamentalism, the school of thought in which Black Africans celebrate their trail blazers, not those of their oppressors.
At the height of its existence, the UNIA-ACL represented the global Black African nation, touting Africa as the home base. Rather than appeal to the White consciousness, Garveyites practiced Black Nationalism, which espoused control of Black social, economic and political affairs through the production of the Negro World newspaper and the launch of multiple businesses.
The UNIA-ACL’s first international convention in 1920 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden attracted more than 40,000 people, a considerable feat in the absence of social media. That gathering brought forth The Declaration of the Rights of Negro People of the World, under which the UNIA adopted red, black, and green as the colors of the Pan-African flag, a banner that gained popularity during Black Power Movement of the late 1960s and 70s.
Leaders of the newly independent African nations during that era placed those colors in their postcolonial flags in solidarity with their oppressed sistren and brethren. More direct action would’ve followed if not for the assassination and ousting of Garvey’s ideological offspring, Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah respectively, among other events. Today, neoliberal puppet leaders follow the call of their economic slave masters, blocking the continent’s virtually ceaseless resources from the masses of African people.
In the West, the Nation of Islam, Moorish Science Temple of America, Rastafari, and other radical movements continued where Garvey stopped, but they’ve, in a sense, forgotten that “One God, One Aim, One Destiny!” allows them to tackle a similar situation unfolding in the U.S.
Even worse, some of young people carrying on the mantle, immersed in American individualism, engage more in social media “beef” that collaboration around solutions to today’s problems. Part of that stems from a culture of hero worship in which they’ve fallen more in love with Black leaders than their products.
Garvey’s products were Black unity and independence. During Black August, a month dedicated to Black political prisoners like Garvey, let’s commit to supporting the UNIA-ACL, under which Black liberation agents can share resources with the confidence that the Black African nation will benefit.
Sam P.K. Collins, Senghor Jawara Baye and Baba Mosi are members of the Woodson Banneker Jackson-Bey Division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association – African Community Leagues (Division 330, UNIA-ACL).