With each of my visits to my homeland, I have had the chance to reflect on not only the beauty of the island but its rich history since gaining Independence fifty three years ago. With my most recent visit to Jamaica, I decided to stop by a place that I have passed so often while growing up, travelling the North coast route. It is located in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica.
This place is the home of Black Nationalist, Marcus Garvey, who created a ‘Back to Africa’ movement in the United States in the 1920’s. Garvey founded the Black Star Line to provide transportation for blacks who wanted to go back to Africa. He also founded the Negro Factories Corporation to encourage black economic independence, long before Jamaica experienced independence. This was at a time when racism was rampant in the United States, and most blacks were treated as if they had no value.
Garvey became an inspirational figure for later civil rights activists and is still a name with which Jamaicans are proud to associate. Marcus Garvey is the epitome of proof that one does not have to come from greatness to be great. Like many Jamaicans who have made indelible marks in history, Marcus Garvey is indubitably, no exception.
In Jamaica, we celebrate what we unofficially call ‘Emancependence.’ We celebrate Emancipation Day on August 1 (freedom from slavery), and Independence Day (independence from being a colony of Great Britain) on August 6. We therefore summarize the week of celebrations (starting July 31) and call it Emancependence. Marcus Garvey’s life and teachings are really centred around emancipation and independence (‘Emancependence’).
He is forever remembered for his famous quotes, that have inspired people worldwide. At this time when we celebrate our 53rd Independence, let us remember some of these most famous quotes as they pertain to us as a nation:
- Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.
- A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
- If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.
- With confidence, you have won before you have started.
- The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.
- Up, you mighty race, accomplish what you will.
- Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.
- Whatsoever things common to man, that man has done, man can do.
Happy Independence to Jamaicans at home and all over the world. Why should we celebrate? As Garvey said: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”