Garvey’s New Jamaica

In 1964, when Prof. Rupert Lewis was Deputy Head Boy at Calabar High School, he wrote an article entitled, “Marcus Garvey, He Opened the Minds of Negroes” which was published in the school’s magazine where he described Garvey as being, “… one of the architects of our new Jamaica.” Garvey had often spoken about a new Jamaica in his writings and speeches, but do we know what was idea of a ‘new Jamaica’? What was his vision for Jamaica? On the eve of our Emancipendence celebrations, we ought to take time out to reflect on what we have achieved since gaining independence and if this was what Garvey had envisioned. However, we must first know what he desired. As such, below is an excerpt from a speech entitled, “The New Jamaica and how we can build it” that Garvey had delivered at Edelweiss Park in Jamaica on July 10, 1932.

“Just at this time the whole world is undergoing a campaign of national inspiration in the respective countries, because the different peoples of the world’s national groups realize that if they do not take interest in themselves, no other group will, and so whether it is Germany, France, China, Japan and England or Russia or America you will find at this time the strong keynote of national preparedness …

You will see that the American group is seeing only from America’s point of view, Germany, from Germany’s point of view, the English group from England’s point of view, and so, those of us who love our country cannot but interest ourselves in this desire to see our country taking a place and standing second to none in the world. When I say second to none, I mean it only in a limited sense, because our country is small, our country is not independent. I mean it from an economical, industrial, social, educational point of view…

There is no reason why any country, whether it is subject to another or not, cannot be self-sustaining in itself, but it rests entirely upon the people who live in it to feel and act. As Jamaicans we claim Jamaica for our native home, we should therefore have the same feeling of love for Jamaica and interest in all things Jamaican as Englishmen have for things concerning England, as the Americans have for all things concerning America and are always on the look out to do everything for the development of their country.

There is no reason why we should not do everything for the development of our country to make Jamaicans the happiest people in the world … Jamaica should be second to none in the world – in the establishing of happy homes, in the contact of smiling people, self-satisfied and contented. Nature has blessed us with everything conducive to this, but by wrong education we have not taken advantage of these natural opportunities.

We have been submitting ourselves to the thought that we can do nothing by ourselves, which is wrong. As soon as we get rid of that thought and become self-reliant, we will be able to build a country sufficiently satisfactory to us and we will not have to leave the country for places abroad, for there is no other country (I can safely say) outside of Ireland where there has been such a continuous flow of depopulation as Jamaica. I hold that there is no other country, within three-quarters of a century, that has driven its citizens abroad more than Jamaica.

As regards pride of country, the Jamaican has none, and that is why his country is in such a terrible state and he himself is subordinate to everybody. It insults the pride of the proud Jamaican who would like to see his country standing alongside of others, and that is why I, along with others, have selected to do the things we know, are right …

Arise Jamaicans and do! The Americans have built up a great commonwealth, the envy of the whole modern world. How long are you going to keep your country back? Jamaica is as old as America, Jamaica is as old as France, Jamaica is as old as England, the Creator made it the same time with all things, animate and inanimate. How long are you going to let your country lie in ruinate while other countries make use of the things around them? How long are you going to be in your lethargic state?”

Garvey’s vision of self-government has since been realized through Jamaica gaining independence from colonial rule. However, we seemed to have failed to realize his dream of a better Jamaica through comradeship as he said, “We want the spirit of national comradeship, let us unite to accomplish this, and Jamaica will indeed become a better place for all of us.” We still have a far way to go, but let us all commit to trying. This is the only way we can reignite our nation for greatness as the theme for Jamaica 60 charges us to do.

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