“WE must canonise our own saints, create our own martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honour black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history.”
The African Heritage Foundation (AHF) is of the opinion that the contributions of pan African Caribbean heroes and heroines need to be taught in Barbadian schools. It is the opinion of this Barbadian based pan African organization that the African liberation struggle in the Caribbean be formulated into a curriculum and taught in schools. I Simba Simba founder and president of the AHF thinks this is as fitting a time as any to explain why for us (AHF), Marcus Garvey is as relevant today as he was 80 years ago, albeit in a different time and social context.
The AHF is not a racist organization, in fact, we see past colour and judge each person on the content of his/her character. I was born in Grenada, grew up in Trinidad and lived the majority of my teenage life in Barbados and the world is my oyster. But Garvey stands out for the AHF, because many of the dreams he wanted for the black race in the 1900s, we want for Barbadians today.
“The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself, but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.”
Born in Jamaica, in 1887, Marcus Mosiah Garvey is celebrated as the first black man to lead and develop a mass movement of people. He was the first man, on a mass scale, to give millions of blacks a sense of dignity and destiny. He was a visionary, whose teachings and philosophies are as relevant today as they were a century ago, especially for a country with a 90 per cent population of black people, though in a totally different time. Among the main tenets of his teachings were: a sense of pride in self, as a black race; respect for each other and the idea of black enterprise and entrepreneurship. If Barbados could get these right, then Barbados and the conceptual framework referred to as Brand Barbados would be unstoppable. This also applies to every Caribbean island state.
Garvey taught self-belief, positive self-esteem and self-respect to black people at a time when the black race was considered less than second-class citizens. Some may argue that this is still the case of African descended people in Barbados. Such a concept was revolutionary then, and in some ways still revolutionary now. He emphasised education, and an awareness and appreciation of our rich African heritage, as avenues to locate a deep sense of self-identity, which engenders personal and national growth. To achieve greatness, Garvey believed that people needed to believe in themselves, understand history and arm themselves with the knowledge of how to move forward cooperatively.
“The black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”
It is therefore surprising that, more than 70 years after Marcus Garvey’s death, we are still struggling with issues of love for our black self, so much so that outside of white owned Black Panther movie, Barbadians have little interest in African heritage or culture. This is reflected in the attendance of the Barbadian public to anything that is based in African culture. Emancipation day celebrations are poorly supported each year and our pan African groupings suffer from minimal membership and support from the government and private sectors of the island. Barbados boasts of a pan African commission who is now staffed with two people and does little as far as pan Africanism is concerned. This government based entity has done so poorly in recent years, continual calls for it closure are founded on its ineffectiveness. As African descended people in Barbados, we need to draw pride from somewhere; pride in ourselves, pride in our country, pride in our achievements. Thus the AHF’s strong belief is that Garveyism should be taught in schools from the primary level. Too many of our youth have little sense of identity, no idea of their past, and no interest in their future.
Understanding that the theoretical construct of national identity is about collectivity and connectivity, Garvey’s teaching will help to provide that cognitive, moral, and emotional connection, which must be made between an individual and his/her broader community or category. With this in place, we would have created a system of meaning which allows people to feel a sense of oneness, security, inclusion, and belonging. Collective identity guides individual action, provides a moral compass and emotional connection with other people who share similar interests and ideologies in a broader community. Self-belief affects self-image, which affects nation development. A people who love their nation don’t deface national symbols, throw garbage on roads or in gullies, or urinate at every street corner or display blatant disregard for law and order. Pride in self must overflow to respect for each other. A people working together for the development of self and nation have no time to annihilate the brother working beside him.
“The Negro will have to build his own government, industry, art, science, literature and culture, before the world will stop to consider him.”
Garvey also believed in economic self-sufficiency and financial independence, seeing this as the black race’s only protection against discrimination. Once this economic foundation was created, they could then move on to social and political pursuits. Still, 50 years after Independence, Barbados has neither economic self-sufficiency nor financial independence. Sadly, we have not been able to curb spending, while our taste for everything foreign continues to drive us deeper into debt. Despite the Government’s campaign to ‘Eat what we grow; Grow what we eat’ there has been little overall traction in encouraging demand for locally produced products or injecting enthusiasm in local manufacturing. But, this is where we need to look if we are to experience any economic success as a nation. Garvey truly got it right.
So, as the great visionary Marcus Garvey said: “We Are arbiters of our own destiny. God and nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own creative genius we make ourselves what we want to be.” So, I guess the question is what do we want to be?
“Intelligence rules the world, ignorance carries the burden.”
The African Heritage Foundation is inspired by the philosophies and opinions of Marcus Garvey. This organization has in its 3 year existence created a home school service to give Barbadians choices in their children’s education and the opportunity to take more control of it. It has also set itself the task of building a model of economic self sufficiency that is based collective business development and ownership. In the words of Robert Mugabe. ” we cannot just be workers, workers, workers, we must be owners, owners, owners”. Not only owners of small businesses, owners of substantial community based businesses and ultimately our destiny.
Should you be interested in knowing more the various initiatives that the AHF is developing in the areas of education, agriculture, business development, grassroots media creation, event planning and social security to name a few, contact us at 262 0068 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All members contribute $15 BDS of the collective each month and the benefits to everyone are what we create for ourselves. Each member works in the area they best feel suited and volunteers their time as they are able to. The AHF headquarters is located on Two Mile Hill, St Michael and meetings are on Thursday evenings at 6pm, you are invited to attend. All races and classes are welcome to join us.
Adapted from the writings of Melody Cammock-Gayle