A recent conversation with a client inspired this month’s blog. She was a bit upset that there were persons who credited Marcus Garvey for the quote, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” She was adamant that it was Bob Marley who had said those exact words. She contended that Garvey said something completely different. Truth be told, there has been a long standing debate as to who should be credited for the words. This debate has often thrusted “Garveyites” against “Marleyites”, with both sides claiming the win.

The fact is, both men expressed the thought. However, it was Marcus Garvey who had expressed the original thought. In a speech given in Nova Scotia, Sydney in 1937, Garvey said, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Now Marley, who was born some eight (8) years after Garvey made that speech, made the thought a popular adage, through his song, Redemption Song. In the song, he said, Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds. Now, the scholars who will read this will tell you that that Marley paraphrased what Garvey said. For the rest of us, this simply means that he reworded or summarized what Garvey said. So, if credit is to be given, in my opinion, it should be that Garvey should be credited for the original thought, and Marley should be credited for popularizing it.

Marley was influenced by Garvey. He himself, in an interview with Gil Noble, said that Garvey was his greatest influence. So it is no surprise that he would convey Garvey’s philosophies and opinions through his songs. Therefore, time spent on debating who should be credited for this popular quote would be better spent looking at why these two visionaries felt the need to express such a thought. It is evident that both men saw that members of the Black race were being self-debilitating. They were being hampered by society’s ideals and status quo, thereby hindering their development and progress in life. So, Garvey and Marley were simply saying that Black people should free themselves from the things that bind them, mentally. Whether it is depression, racism, financial issues, inferiority complexes, relationship struggles, job dissatisfaction, etc, we should let it go. When things like those weigh on our minds, it prevents us from having breakthrough ideas which could help us develop ourselves, individually, and as a race.

So, let’s take up the charge given by these two great philosophers. Let us free our minds from whatever bondage they have been held captive by.    

Garvey and the Rastafari Connection

There is clearly a strong connection between Marcus Garvey and the Rastafari faith which has spanned decades. Though Garvey died over 80 years ago, this connection is still evident. Many Rastafarians not only quote Garvey, but many live by his ideologies. His philosophies and opinions provide the foundation for their existence, their way of life. One of Garvey’s most popular quotes was in fact made popular by another equally prominent Jamaican who was Rastafarian, Bob Marley. That quote, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery”, seems to embody a shared tenet of Garvey and the Rastafari faith which again highlights the connection. Another example of the Garvey-Rastafari connection is the fact that, every August 17, many Rastafarians make the trek to Liberty Hall on King Street, kind of like a pilgrimage, to commemorate Garvey’s birthday. There they have reasoning, chanting, drumming and sometimes showcase their wares. How did this connection come about though?

Garvey is thought of as the “father” of the Rastafari movement by some. Why? Maybe because it is believed that Garvey gave Rastafari their worldview and perspective on life. In addition, Garveyism was a major contributor to the rise of the Rastafari movement. According to I. Jabulani Tafari in his book, A Rastafari View of Marcus Mosiah Garvey: Patriarch – Prophet – Philosopher, Garveyism contributed to Rastafari on five levels.

  1. Spiritually – By Garvey’s controversial yet explicit statement that Black people should see the Divine Creator as Black. (Rastafari has Haile Selassie I as the Divine Head of the movement.)
  2. Historically – By Garvey’s constant and repeated references to ‘Ethiopia’ in place of ‘Africa’. (Rastafarians view themselves as exiled Hebrew Ethiopians (Israelites) in the West and see Ethiopia as the Holy Land.)
  3. Politically – By Garvey’s promotion of Pan-African unity and collaboration. Rastafari promotes international African cooperation.)
  4. Socially – By Garvey’s emphasis on physical repatriation ‘Back-to-Africa’. Rastafarians are strong advocates for repatriation to the motherland of Africa.)
  5. Culturally – By Garvey’s widespread use of the cultural arts as a primary tool for the re-education and re-socialization of the Black masses internationally. (Rastafarians use the cultural arts, particularly music, as the principal weapon in their struggle to liberate the minds and hearts of Black people worldwide.)      

  Another connection between Garvey and Rastafari is the fact that it is widely believed by many Rastafarians that Garvey predicted the rise of Ras Tafari Makonnen as Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia and subsequently, the divine head of Rastafari. The prediction is credited to Garvey saying, “Look to Africa, when a Black King shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is near.” Consequently, Selassie’s coronation followed shortly after this prediction and seemed to be the fulfillment of Garvey’s doings and sayings in his mission to advance the Pan-African movement. For this, Garvey is highly respected by Rastafarians.

It should be noted, however, that not all Rastafarians admire Garvey. Firstly, there is a small number of them who condemn him for his criticisms of Haile Selassie I while the latter was exiled in England. Garvey questioned Selassie’s loyalty to Ethiopia because he had left when Italy invaded his country. There are others who criticized him for not accepting Selassie’s invitation to repatriate Black people to Ethiopia. Instead, Garvey sought to establish his “utopia” in Liberia. Others disapproved of his treatment of Garveyites who were Rastafari pioneers, such as Leonard P. Howell. It is said that Garvey presided over an alleged “unsympathetic hearing” for the supporters of the “new” Royalist doctrine. There are a few Rastafarians who are also upset that Garvey did not break from the colonial tradition of combing hair and did not grow dreadlocks.

Nevertheless, despite the few who harbour negative feelings towards Garvey, the majority of Rastafarians continue to revere Garvey and recognize his invaluable contribution to their movement. In fact, Rastafarians can be credited for being the main proponents of Garvey’s ideologies over the decades into present day. As a result, there will always be a connection between Garvey and Rastafari.           


“One may be a poet without versing, and a versifier without poetry.”

  • Sir Philip Sidney

Many would not refer to Marcus Garvey as a poet. Many do not even know that Garvey wrote poems; but he did. He used his poetry as a means to spread and promote his ideas, to document his struggles and to express his private emotions. While Garvey had been writing for a long time, it was not until he was an inmate in the Atlanta prison between 1925 and 1927 that he took on writing poetry seriously. His works were published mainly in his publications, Negro World and Black Man between 1927 and 1935.    

Whilst he himself questioned whether or not his poetical efforts were comparable to “real” poetry, his followers held his poetry in high esteem. In fact, many sought to follow in his footsteps and wrote poems too. Tony Martin, Garvey scholar, explained that “The writing of poetry was little short of an obsession with Garveyites. Everybody did it.” Many of the poems written by Garveyites were published in the Negro World. Eventually, poetry became a regular feature in the newspaper. 

Most of Garvey’s early poems were collated and published in two volumes by his wife, Amy Jacques Garvey. These publications were, The Tragedy of White Injustice and Selections from the Poetic Meditations of Marcus Garvey. The former got its name from a 70-verse poem written by Garvey which was described as “An Epic of Rare Beauty, with an Historical Theme”. The remaining poems in that first volume are Hail! United States of Africa! and Africa for the Africans.The second volume comprised poems of various themes. Some were autobiographical, such as The Start and My Trip to the West Indies. Other themes portrayed included, Religion, Family, Race and Politics.

Marcus Garvey was truly a renaissance man. He was not only a formidable political figure but was also an earnest cultural individual. He was unique in how he conveyed his philosophies and ideologies and poetry was one of the media he chose to do this. His poetry have proven to be of great importance to Garveyites and even now, for those who are aware of these works, there is still a sense of appreciation for the work of this prolific thinker.    

Tony Martin wrote two books which focused on Garvey’s poetry and other literary skills. So, for further reading, try and get a copy of The Poetical Works of Marcus Garvey or Literary Garveyism: Garvey, Black Arts and the Harlem Renaissance.


The word “royalty” often conjures images of kings, queens, princes and princesses of European  and Asian blood line; the most popular being the British royal family. A July 2013 article on The Washington Post website lists 25 monarchies outside of the British monarchy, “a fascinating network of kings, queens, sultans, emperors and emirs who rule or reign over 43 countries in all”. Interestingly, this list includes monarchies from three (3) African countries: Lesotho, Swaziland and Morocco. It isn’t often you hear about royal families in African countries. However, kings and queens have reigned in Africa for centuries. For instance, African empires such as Benin, Kongo, Mali and Songhai had very powerful monarchies around this time, spanning centuries of sovereignty. Let us take a look at two (2) of these African sovereigns.     

Pharaoh Amenhotep III

Considered one of the greatest pharaohs of Egypt, Amenhotep III served between 1538 BC and 1501 BC. Whilst his legacy did not include much military activity (in fact he was only called upon once to lead an army to quell a rebellion, he was highly regarded for his patronage of the arts. He was said to be the driving force behind the widespread artistic push during this reign, helping to set new standards of quality and realism in representation.

During his reign, Egypt flourished and enjoyed much prosperity and stability. This led to the construction of several great monuments and buildings including temples and statues. A few of his most grandiose constructions were the Temple of Luxor which contained hundreds of statues of himself and Amen-Ra (chief of the Egyptian Gods), and, his own mortuary temple which was said to be the largest of its kind ever built. He also built the first man-made lake outside of his palace in honour of his wife, Queen Tiye.   

Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye also developed strong diplomatic ties and foreign policies. Egypt began to export her culture and goods throughout the Mediterranean and the Near East. Queen Tiye arranged diplomatic marriages and gave gifts of gold to Asians who in turn sold them semi-precious stones and cedar wood. Her husband frequently corresponded with the Babylonians, the Mitanni and the Arzawa. 

Amenhotep III is arguably one of the most exemplary monarchs the world ever saw.

Queen Nefertiti

Queen Nefertiti was wife of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, son of Amenhotep III. She is one of ancient Egypt’s most famous queens. The translation of her name is said to be, “The beautiful one is come”. This may explain why she is the Egyptian queen with the most surviving appearances on monuments and other artistic media.     

Nefertiti played an important role in the religious and political structures of Egypt after her husband restructured them around the worship of the sun god Aten. Alongside Amenhotep IV, she served as the female element in the divine triad formed by Aten, her husband and herself. She is often depicted as being more powerful than any other queen in Egyptian history. This was substantiated by the many etchings in tombs and on walls of her, alongside her husband; this was not seen for any other queen. Her characteristic headwear was also similar to what the Pharaoh would wear. All this suggested that she was more of a co-ruler than consort and as such possessed a unique authority more than any other queen.

Mysteriously, she disappeared from historical records round about the 12th year of Amenhotep IV’s reign. However, a bust said to be of her was found in 1913 and is now on display in Germany at the Berlin’s Neues Museum.  

A peek into our collection: Garvey’s Cane

A cane belonging to Marcus Garvey forms part of the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum collection at Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey in Kingston, Jamaica. The 2 1/2 foot, 2lb, cane has a sterling silver, looped handle which has an inscription which reads, “Marcus Garvey, August 1922”. One can only assume that the cane might have been a birthday gift to Garvey, being that his birthday is August 17th.

But why would Garvey need a cane? Was it a fashion statement of that period or did he need it for support? The informed guess would be the latter. Did you know that there was an assassination attempt on Garvey’s life in 1919? Whilst there are several versions of the incident, Garvey, in his autobiographical writings, The Negro’s Greatest Enemy, recounted that in October [14] 1919, he was at his [UNIA] office at 56 West 135th Street in New York City when a man named Tyler, entered and told him that he was sent by the Assistant District Attorney of the County of New York, Edwin Kilroe, to “get him”. He subsequently fired four (4) shots from a .38 calibre revolver at Garvey resulting in Garvey being shot in the right leg and the right side of his scalp. Amy Jacques’ recount of the incident is much more dramatic as she said George Tyler, who was a part-time vendor of the Negro World, brushed past her on entering the building and began shouldering and kicking open the doors for the offices located downstairs, all the while, shouting and demanding to see Garvey. Garvey, who was on the upper floor with Amy Ashwood and another secretary, Mrs. Mary Clarke Roach, came to the top of the stairs to investigate what the commotion was about. No sooner than he got in position, Tyler fired at him. The first shot was a wild one and Garvey ducked, so it missed him. However, the second grazed his right temple and the third and fourth lodged in his right leg. After being hit, Garvey fell to the ground and was shielded by Amy Ashwood and Mrs. Roach. The switchboard operator tried to disarm Tyler but was unsuccessful. Tyler fled the building but was quickly apprehended by a passing patrolman and taken to the local precinct. Garvey was taken to hospital in an ambulance and rushed into surgery.

In all pictures of Garvey seen holding the cane, he always has it in his right hand. So, more than likely it gave support to the right leg in which he was shot twice. Garvey had the cane up until his death in 1940. So how did it get to Jamaica? Well, credit should be given to a gentleman called Cunningham. It is said that after Garvey’s death, the British Government had his belongings thrown out of the house he resided at 53 Talgarth Road, Hammersmith, Fulham, London. One of the men contracted to dispose of the items, Cunningham, knew of Garvey and his significance, so instead of throwing them out, he kept two walking sticks he found among the items. After his death, his grandson, Ben Cunningham, with the help of Garveyite, Ferdinand Satchmo and Neville Garrick, arranged for the cane to be returned to Jamaica. On its return in 1987, it was received by then Minister of State in the Ministry of Culture, the Hon. Mike Henry on behalf of the government ant citizens of Jamaica. The cane was then given to the Institute of Jamaican. When the Marcus Mosiah Garvey Multimedia Museum was established in 2006, the cane was handed over to form part of the museum’s permanent display.

Garvey inspires the labour movement in the Caribbean

Trade Unions form a significant part of the political scenery in Jamaica. Long before they were recognized by the Jamaican Constitution in 1962, trade unions were pivotal in the protection of the rights of the working class in Jamaica. After decades of injustice meted out to enslaved Africans and, later on, to working class groups, the trade union movement emerged to eliminate the exploitation of workers. Though it was not until the labour riots of 1938 that trade unions came into prominence, they were a part of the Jamaican landscape for some time before.

When we talk about trade union leaders, we often talk about persons like Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley, Hugh Lawson Shearer, and Michael Manley. Yet, not many of us talk about Garvey in this context. However, it should be no surprise that Garvey would have been involved in the trade union movement as he had always had a special interest in the welfare of the working class. He spent most of his life representing the interests of these workers on numerous issues.  

By the late 1920s, Garvey, through his movement, had evoked a strong sense of black consciousness and black nationalism, worldwide. New leaders emerged who were ripe with, “a national spirit centred on racial self-respect…” according to the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson in his presentation entitled, “The History and Development of the Modern Labour Movement: Lessons from the Past, Prospects for the Future.” They sought to end decades of marginalization and exploitation of poor, black workers. Consequently, in 1930, Garvey, along with some of his colleagues, founded the Jamaica Workers and Labourers Association (JWLA). He was elected Chairman of the organization. The platform of the JWLA included issues such as the need for (a) a minimum wage, (b) definite (eight) hours of work, (c) housing and medical provision for workers who lived on the estates, (d) prohibition of labour for school-age children, (e) insurance against accident or failing health for all workers, and (f) a Royal Commission to investigate the condition of Jamaican workers who had little or no rights. The JWLA served as an inspiration to future labour organizations in Jamaica.

However, Garvey’s pro-labour rhetoric and efforts not only impacted the Jamaican landscape, but also greatly influenced the labour movement across the Caribbean region. According to Tony Martin, in “African and Indian Consciousness”, “The regional labour movement of the inter-war years in the British Caribbean was thoroughly Garveyite.” He seemed to have made this statement because at the time, leaders of the various union groups across the Caribbean were either Garveyites or had some connection to the movement. For example, the leader of the St. Croix Labour Union at the time, David Hamilton Jackson, was a Garvey supporter; there was a special relationship between the UNIA and the British Guiana Labour Union led by Hubert Critchlow as well as the Trinidad Workingmen’s Association; and founder of the Barbados Labour Union, Clement O. Payne was a Garveyite.

So, Garvey and the UNIA were instrumental in paving the way for the modern labour movement in the Caribbean. Through the efforts of these trade union pioneers, trade unions now exist to secure the collective bargaining rights of their members.

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.”                  

The relevance of libraries to Garvey

With this week (October 26 – October 30) being celebrated as National Library and Information Week, for many, the ever recurring debate about the relevance of libraries has been rehashed. However, for us at Liberty Hall, it brings to mind the connection between Garvey and libraries. It is not by chance that there is a library at Liberty Hall, the Garvey Research/Reference Library (GRRL). Besides providing a place for persons to come and learn more about Garvey and his movement, Pan-Africanism, and Africa, among other topics, the library serves as a reminder of the role libraries played in shaping Garvey’s development and acts as a medium for the fulfilment of some of his aspirations.

A young Garvey had to leave school when he was only 14 years old so that he could work and help to provide for his family. However, this didn’t stop his desire for knowledge. In order to quench this thirst, he began reading books in his father’s collection. Garvey senior had built a room off the house where he stored his books and newspapers and this is where Garvey junior would often go so that he could read of the experiences of others and learn from what he read. After reading all the books in his father’s mini library, he then delved into his godfather’s library. Alfred Burrowes gave Garvey an apprentice position at his printer in St. Ann’s Bay. This not only provided Garvey with the opportunity to learn about printing and publishing, but it also gave him the chance to make good use of the extensive library Mr. Burrowes owned.

It was these libraries that facilitated Garvey’s learning after leaving school. This is why he was always encouraging persons to read, for example, he said, “Read history incessantly until you master it.”, “Never go to bed without doing some reading.”, and “…read at least four hours a day.” He also recognized that learning did not only take place in the classroom and stated that, “Many a man was educated outside the school room.”    

As for libraries, Garvey instructed us to, “Spend most of your spare time in your library.” He went further to say that, “If you cannot buy books outright and own them, go to your public libraries and read them or borrow them, or join some … library in your district or town so as to get the use of these books.” So, Garvey was aware that libraries played an integral role in the advancement of the Black race. So strongly was his belief and support of this, that one of the planks of his platform when he drafted the People’s Political Party manifesto was to establish a public library in and have civic improvement done for each parish capital.

The Garvey Research/Reference Library endeavours to continue Garvey’s vision by facilitating learning through the provision of material that tells the true history of the Black race, that empowers and uplifts the race and that stimulates the mind and creativity of Black people.

Race First and Black Lives Matter

“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.    

Kwanzaa vs. Christmas?

In December, we advertised on our social media platforms that we had Christmas cards on sale in our gift shop. In response, one follower commented “Shouldn’t this be Kwanzaa?” Afterwards, we advertised our Pre Kwanzaa Fest and the same follower posted, “This is more like it.” These questions evoked several questions. Is it that this follower is saying that Black people should not be promoting Christmas? As Jamaicans, should we be celebrating an African-American holiday? What did Garvey think about Christmas?

Kwanzaa, the brainchild of Dr. Maulana “Ron” Karenga, is a relatively new observance, having its inception in 1966. Dr. Karenga created this holiday so that African-Americans, who were in the midst of a period of great social change, could have a time when they honour the values of African cultures and be inspired to fight for equality and progress.  Kwanzaa is observed from December 26 to January 1 and is based on seven (7) principles that are believed to be the foundation of strong relationships among individuals, families, and communities.

Christmas, on the other hand, is originally a Christian observance of the birth of Jesus which dates as far back as 221; however it became a popular celebration in the 9th century. It was not until later in the early 20th century that the observance took on the secular components of gift shopping and giving, and Santa Claus.  

Though Garvey was afro-centric, he was also a religious man who celebrated Christmas because he believed in Jesus, as is evident in his December 1921 Christmas Message. He referred to Jesus as “the Christ, the Emanuel to us, the Son of Righteousness, the Prince of Peace”. He began the speech by saying, “To us is born this day the Child Jesus—the Christ. The Shepherds and wise men are now wending their way toward Bethlehem, there to behold the Wonder of God. Because, there, in a manger, is to be found the Baby Christ who is to be the Redeemer of the world”. There is no doubt that Garvey would have also celebrated Kwanzaa, as it was a celebration of Black people. However, it would be highly unlikely that that would shift his belief in the Trinity.

It should be noted also, that Kwanzaa was not designed to replace Christmas. Both serve different purposes. We at Liberty Hall are guided by Garvey’s philosophies and opinions, and as such, whatever we do is in keeping with these principles. I bet Garvey would have liked the Christmas cards we were promoting as the images depicted Black people and the inside was blank, thereby allowing persons to express themselves. He would also have been at our Pre-Kwanzaa Fest to help promote and showcase the talents of our people.    

It is the right of each person to observe both Christmas and Kwanzaa; no one should be forced to choose one over the other.