AUGUST 1998, SPEECH AT MARCUS GARVEY\'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION



In my opinion, Marcus Garvey was the greatest organizer of Afrikan people ever in the western hemisphere, meaning the Americas. The only person who has come close since is Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and if he continues he may exceed Garvey.


Marcus founded and led the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in 1914. At its peak it had over 2 million members worldwide, 700 chapters in the united states, 74 chapters in Louisiana alone and its headquarters in Harlem, New York had 35,000 members. All this at a time when the Black population in Harlem and the u.s. was less than half of what it is now. It also had chapters in the Caribbean, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, etc. and in Central America, Costa Rico, Panama, Honduras, Cuba, Belize, etc. and in Latin America and Afrika.


When Marcus\' wife, Amy Jacques Garvey, met the King Of Swaziland in Afrika he told her he had heard of only 2 Afro-Americans in his life: Jack Johnson, the 1st Black heavyweight champion and Marcus Garvey. The early members of the ANC, the organization that later came to power in South Africa and freed Nelson Mandela, were Garveyites. The UNIA also had chapters in Australia, Europe and Canada; in other words almost where ever there were Black people in the world in significant numbers who had heard of Garvey there was likely to be Garvey sympathizers, supporters, or a UNIA chapter.


UNIA had a Negro Factories Corporation that one time employed up to 1000 people. It owned restaurants, groceries, laundries, a Black doll factory, hotels and trucking businesses. Its Negro World newspaper was the most widely distributed Black newspaper in the world. Besides English, it also published a Spanish and a French edition. Black long shoremen/merchant seamen helped distribute Garvey\'s newspaper around the world and smuggled it into countries where banned. One of Garvey\'s most stunning achievements was the founding/ownership of the Black Star Steamship Line. He named his 1st ship the Frederick Douglas. His 2nd ship was an excursion boat, the Shadyside, which took Blacks on cruises up/down the Hudson River of New York. His 3rd steamship was named the Antonio Maceo, after the great Black Cuban revolutionary who fought for the independence of Cuba.


For a Black organization to own a steamship line in the 1920s is comparable to a Black person today owning an airline, railway or car manufacturing plant. He planned to purchase/rename his next ship, the Phyllis Wheatly, after an early Black poet, but he was arrested, framed, sent to prison and afterwards deported in order to derail him, the UNIA and Black people from the path of freedom.


These are just a few of the material accomplishments of Marcus before he was struck down by the u.s. government who then used everything in their power to wipe out the record of his phenomenal career. As a result, whole generations of Afrikan children grew up and never knew of him or saw his name in history books. They could wipe him out of the history books but they couldn\'t wipe out the impact of his work, his spirit, and the influence he had on the many people he met, touched, inspired and influenced. Many later became world leaders of their people, like Kwame Nkrumah,


1st President of Ghana, who said Garvey\'s Philosophy & Opinions had a greater impact on him than any other book, and who named his country\'s steamship line the Black Star, in honor of Garvey. Jomo Kenyatta, leader of the Mau-Mau and 1st President of Kenya, met Garvey and was influenced by him during their earlier days together in London. Garvey had similar effects on Godfrey Binasia who later became President of Uganda and on Ho Chi Minh, the great Viet Nam nationalist, who as a young merchant seaman attended UNIA meetings in Harlem whenever his ship docked in New York; also Ida B. Wells, the courageous two-gun toting sister, who crusaded against Black lynchings in the u.s., and many, many more.


They could wipe him out of the history books, even wipe out his physical accomplishments, but they couldn\'t wipe out his greatest contribution which was to the spirit, mind, psyche and soul of Black folks. At a