Self-reliance: An essential tenet of Garvey

Marcus Garvey strongly believed that Black people should be self-reliant. He scoffed at the fact that “… we have in the past been living upon the mercies shown by others …” Therefore he continued to encourage his Black brothers and sisters to be economically independent and push the boundaries to be able to sustain themselves. “There is a world of opportunities awaiting us, and it is for us through unity of will and of purpose, to say we shall and we will play our part upon the great human stage of activity.” Consequently, through the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Garvey promoted self-reliance through the establishment of various enterprises. These were set up so as to eliminate the high rate of unemployment among Black people all over the world. One such enterprise was the Negro Factories Corporation which allowed for Blacks to invest in a company through the purchase of stocks. More important than the monetary benefit of this endeavour was, the fact that it allowed for Black people to feel a sense of accomplishment by being a part of a successful venture and to have a sense of ownership. With the establishment of numerous enterprises under the umbrella of the Negro Factories Corporation, the UNIA was able to provide jobs for a large number of Black people. Over time, the movement amassed several assets including properties, vehicles and of course, money.

Whilst Garvey’s efforts to uplift Black people through economic upliftment were significant across the world, here in Jamaica, it was a symbolic feat. At the Kingston Liberty Hall which served as Garvey’s office when he returned to Jamaica, Garvey established several businesses including a co-operative bank, a Laundromat and a restaurant. Several persons were employed at these businesses and they proved to be profitable for some time. The significance of this venture is that at that time in Jamaica’s history, Black people were not allowed to own their own businesses. So Garvey broke the status quo and empowered Blacks in Jamaica by giving them the opportunity to be entrepreneurs, to be employed, and essentially to be self reliant. 

Garvey spent his life advocating for the upliftment of the Black race. He succeeded in doing this by empowerment through self reliance. He made his intention very clear when he said, “We have to make new conquests in the economic field. We have to bring under control every available resource to which the Negro is allied on his native ground or wheresoever he happens to find himself in its midst. Be assured of this, that in the Negro’s rise to wealth will come the adjustment of most of the wrongs inflicted upon him. We must have wealth in culture, wealth in education and solidly wealth of economic values.”                  

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