August 17, 1887–The spirit formerly known as Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in Jamaica. Early in his life, he emigrated to the United States and became one of the greatest black leaders in history. Through his organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Garvey instilled a philosophy which sought to unite all Africans across the globe. His ideals bore his name, Garveyism, but it is also referred to as Pan-Africanism.
In the documentary, A Great and Mighty Walk, Dr. John Henrik Clarke posited that Marcus Garvey should be re-examined and more thoroughly analyzed. I couldn’t agree more. Garvey could be considered a prophet of sorts because much of his philosophical thoughts were seriously ahead of its time. Some 124 years after his birth, the African Diaspora is still not unified with Africa struggling to regain control and rebuild after centuries of colonialism. Here in the U.S., truthfully speaking, African Americans are still largely engaged in a ‘catch up’ phenomenon that is being threatened by this current economic turbulence. To that end, much of what Garvey wanted for Black people has not been fully realized. Therefore, revisiting his ideals and concepts could perhaps light the way to a new understanding of how we are to proceed as a people in the Obama era.
For the record, Garvey supported the notion of Black women being involved in the movement, having a branch of the UNIA that was specifically designed for women. I highly recommend locating a copy of the documentary, Look for Me in the Whirlwind, which is an in-depth look at the life and work of Marcus Garvey. He died in 1940 at the age of 53.
Meanwhile, you may also visit his official website for a host of content related to the legacy of Garvey and Pan-Africanism. The poem featured here is taken from that website.
The Black Woman by Marcus Garvey
Black queen of beauty, thou hast given color to the world!
Among other women thou art royal and the fairest!
Like the brightest of jewels in the regal diadem,
Shin’st thou, Goddess of Africa, Nature’s purest emblem!
Black men worship at thy virginal shrine of truest love,
Because in thine eyes are virtue’s steady and holy mark,
As we see in no other, clothed in silk or fine linen,
From ancient Venus, the Goddess, to mythical Helen.
When Africa stood at the head of the elder nations,
The Gods used to travel from foreign lands to look at thee:
On couch of costly Eastern materials, all perfumed,
Reclined thee, as in thy path flow’rs were strewn-
sweetest that bloomed.
Thy transcendent marvelous beauty made the whole world mad,
Bringing Solomon to tears as he viewed thy comeliness;
Anthony and the elder Ceasars wept at thy royal feet,
Preferring death than to leave thy presence, their foes to meet.
You, in all ages, have attracted the adoring world,
And caused many a bloody banner to be unfurled:
You have sat upon exalted and lofty eminence,
To see a world fight in your ancient African defense.
Today you have been dethroned, through the weakness of your men,
While, in frenzy, those who of yore craved your smiles and your hand-
Those who were all monsters and could not with love approach you-
Have insulted your pride and now attack your good virtue.
Because of disunion you became mother of the world,
Giving tinge of robust color to five continents,
Making a greater world of millions of colored races,
Whose claim to beauty is reflected through our black faces.
From the handsome Indian to European brunette,
There is a claim for that credit of their sunny beauty
That no one can e’er to take from thee, 0 Queen of all
women who have borne trials and troubles and racial burden.
Once more we shall, in Africa, fight and conquer for you,
Restoring the pearly crown that proud Queen Sheba did wear:
Yea, it may mean blood, it may mean death; but still we shall fight,
Bearing our banners to Vict’ry, men of Afric’s might.
Superior Angels look like you in Heaven above,
For thou art fairest, queen of the seasons, queen of our love:
No condition sball make us ever in life desert thee,
Sweet Goddess of the ever green land and placid blue sea.
February 28, 1927