Prime Minister, Marking The Birthday Of Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey On August 17, 2006

Friday, August 18, 2006

On this special day, when we salute the memory of the Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, National Hero, let us be grateful for the storehouse of wisdom, experience and extraordinary qualities that he has bequeathed to Jamaica and the world.

We should ask ourselves how it was, that a black man born in humble circumstances in 19th century Jamaica came to have such a resounding impact on civilization. Let us ask how he was able to accomplish all that he did during the first half of the last century, long before the age of the jet planes, cable television and the internet.

He was a man of great intellectual curiosity and deep compassion; qualities that made him question the colonial order and respond to the plight of the workers who were at the bottom of the ladder. A dreamer of big dreams and a man of action, he devoted his entire life to the cause of liberation not only here in Jamaica but throughout the African Diaspora.

His was an eloquent and stirring message of racial pride and self-confidence. He was determined to see the downtrodden take control of their destiny. Using every skill at his disposal, from elocution to printing, he began building an international organization that would empower the oppressed to get up and stand up for their rights. That organization was the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which is still alive today.

Leading by example, Marcus Garvey boldly stood his ground against influential opposing forces at home and abroad. Not even prison bars could quench his large spirit and stop his powerful ideas from sparking liberation struggles all over the world. Today his work continues to interest, inform and inspire freedom fighters and political leaders as well as scholars, musicians, writers and poets.

Marcus Garvey gave us a global perspective, putting the struggles of the Jamaican people for political, economic and social justice in the larger context. He destroyed the myth that a country relatively small in size could not be a leading force in the world. Whenever our people and our products excel on the world stage, we are living the world-class vision of Marcus Garvey.

The Government of Jamaica will become far more involved in supporting the long-standing and ongoing movement to have Garvey’s name cleared, by the Government of the United States.

It is good that we can say that some progress has been made on the visionary programme he advocated for Jamaica as far back as 1929, which included the establishment of a minimum wage, an eight-hour working day, land reform, and legislation to promote local industries. However, to be true to Garvey’s spirit, we still have a long way to go in achieving his vision of economic self-reliance. To continue his work, we must pursue this course relentlessly.

Marcus Garvey has left us sound principles, excellent examples and rich inspiration. Let us honour these inherited treasures by using them to make our nation great.