Harlem celebrates Marcus Mosiah Garvey: African redemption

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“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life,” states Marcus Garvey.

The legacy of Pan African advocate Marcus Mosiah Garvey will be commemorated this Tuesday with numerous events worldwide. Locally, the 81st annual “Marcus Garvey Black Power Parade” is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 17 at 5 p.m., departing from 124th St. and Marcus Garvey Park/Mt. Morris Park West, from the very park bearing his name. It will be led by Sister Yaa-Asante Waa, African National Pioneer Movement’s first female administrator, and navigates through Central Harlem, and is one of the longest running traditions honoring an African ancestor in North America.

Born Aug. 17, 1887, in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, Garvey devoted his life to resurrecting people throughout the African diaspora. He’d utilize aspects of the Pan African paradigm laid out by his predecessors Edward Wilmot Blyden and Hubert Harrison, to amass a global following of millions.

“Some of Marcus Garvey’s dreams about African redemption were being realized,” noted historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke. “In his lifetime, he was a man who had a stubborn belief in the impossible and came close to achieving it.”

In 1914, Garvey established the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) advocating self-determination and empowerment, as well as the ‘back to Africa’ movement. Two years later he migrated to the U.S. and linked with Booker T. Washington.

During the Great Migration (late 1910s-1930s) many Americanized-Africans became attracted to the UNIA’s invigorating doctrine and became Garveyites. As the Harlem Renaissance boomed during the Roarin ’20s, Garvey was among dozens of activists who participated.

“He built the largest Black movement that this country has ever seen,” Dr. Clarke explained. “There was never a leader like him, before or since. His popularity was universal, his program for the redemption of Africa, and the return of African people to their Motherland, shook the foundation of three empires.”

Through proper education always correcting errors propagated by the miseducation system, they helped raise the self-esteem of many Africans. They learned history through their own perspectives, rather than from their oppressors.

“I am not opposed to the white race as charged by my enemies,” Garvey counters. “I have no time to hate anyone. All my time is devoted to the up-building and development of the Negro Race.”

After Garvey transitioned on June 10, 1940, his lieutenant Carlos Cooks, representing the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, established this annual parade.

“His prophecy has been fulfilled in the independence explosion that brought more than 30 African countries into being,” Dr. Clarke explains. “The concept of Black Power that he advocated, using other terms, is now a reality in large areas of the world where the people of African origin are predominant,”

There will also be other events on Tuesday Aug. 17 at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building’s Community Garden, as well as Harlem’s Schomburg Center.

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