“In a world of wolves one should go armed, and one of the most powerful defensive weapons within the reach of Negroes is the practice of race first in all parts of the world.”
- Marcus Garvey
There is no doubt that if Garvey was alive today that he would be a part of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Black Lives Matter is a global organization, with divisions in the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada, that was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of the white murderer of black teen, Trayvon Martin, in the USA.
The mission of the movement, “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black Communities by the state and vigilantes”, is very much in keeping with what Garvey, and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) by extension stood for. As such, Garvey would definitely, not only participate, but lead several protests against the injustice being meted out to black people in the USA. He would probably address each gathering by first giving some background as to why Blacks in America should be treated better, why they should be treated equal to all other races. So he would probably start by saying, “Millions of our people in the early days of slavery gave their lives that America might live. From labours of these people the country grew in power, until her wealth today is computed above that of any two nations. With all the service that the Negro gave he is still a despised creature in the eye of the white people.” (1917). He may have gone further to say, “The American Negro is … entitled to all considerations in his country, but unfortunately he is a minority group, without even the prestige of a metropolitan country to enquire of his welfare through an Ambassador.” (1934)
At the 1920 UNIA convention in New York, Garvey and some fifty (50) delegates drafted and signed a Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World as a show of protest against the treatment of Black people by their White counterparts. A preamble to the Declaration listed several injustices faced by Black people, not only in America but across the world. The first on the list of rights says:
- Be it known to all men that whereas, all men are created equal and entitled to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …
This speaks to the doing away of white supremacy through the premise that all are created equal.
Other rights which are encapsulated in the BLM movement include:
- We assert that the Negro is entitled to even-handed justice before all courts of law and equity in whatever country he may be found, and when this is denied him on account of his race or color, such denial is an insult to the race as a whole and should be resented by the entire body of Negroes.
- We believe that any law especially directed against the Negro to his detriment and singling him out because of his race or color is unfair and immoral, and should not be respected.
- We believe that all men entitled to common human respect, and that our race should in no way tolerate insults that may be interpreted to mean disrespect to our color.
- We believe that the Negro should adopt every means to protect himself against barbarous practices inflicted upon him because of color.
- We believe that all men should live in peace one with the other, but when races and nations provoke the ire of other races and nations by attempting to infringe upon their rights, war becomes inevitable, and the attempt in any way to free one’s self or protect one’s rights or heritage becomes justifiable.
- We protest against any punishment, inflicted upon a Negro with severity, as against lighter punishment inflicted upon another of an alien race for like offense, as an act of prejudice and injustice, and should be resented by the entire race.
- We believe that any limited liberty which deprives one of the complete rights and prerogatives of full citizenship is but a modified form of slavery.
- We demand of all men to do unto us as we would do unto them, in the name of justice; and we cheerfully accord to all men all the rights we claim herein for ourselves.
This Declaration of Rights, though drafted in 1920, is very applicable and still very relevant to modern society. This shows that not much has changed since that time in many nations. Therefore, it would be expected that if Garvey were alive and in his prime now, he would be a central figure at these protests as his fundamental philosophy of “Race First” is still very pertinent.