Saturday, June 25, 2016

Marcus Garvey Said: Grow Your Wealth

Among the many things Marcus Garvey addressed was the role thrift, wealth and enterprise must play in the life of Africans globally.  In one of his speeches to the African American community in 1919 he said:

If we are to rise as a great ... national force we must start business enterprises of our own; we must build ships and start trading with ourselves between America, the West Indies and Africa. We must put up factories in all great manufacturing centers of this country, to give employment to the thousands of men and women ... we must manufacture boots, clothing and those things that people need, not only our people in America, the West Indies and Africa, but the people of China ... India ... South and Central America, and even the white man. He has for hundreds of years made a market for his goods among Africans ... therefore, Africans have the same right to make a market among white people for his manufactured goods.

Source: National Library of Jamaica

These words resonate deeply with sentiments that favor a belief in the market and capitalism, which many others including the Chinese have come to favor much later than 1919.  After all, it was Marcus Garvey who said, “Capitalism is necessary to the progress of the world, and those who unreasonably and wantonly oppose or fight against it are enemies to human advancement.”  His rationale for this position was that although the system is ruthless it was the one that allowed the disenfranchised blacks the best chance at self-empowerment.  I do agree, with the benefit of hindsight.

Among Marcus Garvey’s thoughts on the accumulation of wealth we can find the following quotes:

All wealth is good. God created all wealth and never created poverty. The man who is poor in the world has created his own poverty... What I mean ... is that you were born rich with the senses. All the wealth in the world today is the product of man's senses.

The African must become wealthy; he must become a master of finance, a captain of industry, a director of science and art, an exponent of literature; he must develop a concrete philosophy, and with combination of all these he must impress himself... upon the civilization of the world.

To the contented soul, wealth is the stepping-stone to perfection; to the miser it is the nearest avenue to hell. I would prefer to be honestly wealthy, than miserably poor.

I will not claim that all the ideas of Marcus Garvey are appropriate for this period, I certainly take issue with a meager sum, which in truth were very contextual.  Unfortunately, with the passing of time and the onset of modernization, not enough has changed with regards to the fundamental conditions Garvey initially sought to address.  As a result, many of his ideas are still useful. Many of the principles he espoused remain applicable to the African development cause.

In conclusion, I will say that there is no use crying over spilled milk.  My reflections should not be read or interpreted as blame on leaders who were the contemporaries of Garvey, or those who came along subsequently.  Blaming leaders of the past for the decisions they made will get us nowhere at this point.  The conspiracy against Garvey was massive, of the kind only governments could have undertaken, so many fell victim.  The more important point is that we learn from their mistakes.  The call to lend a hand to the betterment of the lives of African people globally is noble and we should get on with it.  Whosoever will come on our terms may come.

Source: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. Publishers

There is more to be said and I will say it in due course, but for now I will close with another Marcus Garvey quote:

When it is considered that twentieth century civilization pays homage and worships peoples and nations only on the basis of wealth, it should not be surprising to understand why the African is universally ignored...With all that may be said of the morals and ethics of our time, carrying with it the suggestion of rights, liberty and justice the whole fabric is based upon economic wealth ... so it behooves the African to think in terms of economic expansion through which he may endorse the consideration that is necessary for his political, social and other betterment.
*Quotes taken from the book Marcus Garvey Said... compiled and edited by Ken Jones 

This is a portion of an essay that was first published on March 19, 2011.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Role of Education (Inspired by Brexit)

Quite a few folks are upset about Brexit.  I completely understand it, and it perhaps seems like a no-brainer to vote for the United Kingdom (UK) to remain within the European Union (EU).  But, the votes have been cast and the people have spoken, so we will accept that the UK will exit the EU.

So while looking around Facebook I saw this graphic below titled "A Financial Times Reader Nails Brexit Vote", it is borrowed from Meanwhile in Canada.  I read it, and the next thing I realized was that a blog post was trigged, to which I gave in.  I trust it stirs some thought in you. 


In my view educated elites (who often hail from the working classes thanks to public education) have become a pariah in and of themselves. 

Unfortunately, too many of them once credentialed (and perhaps less so educated) forget (and want to forget) their humble roots. Admittedly, in some instances the very education they receive teaches them, explicitly or implicitly, disdain for the mores of their parents and elders. In far too many of them a disrespect and a disregard for who they are culturally is cultivated, which in turn does not allow education to lift a community economically, but rather only the individual. No wonder so many poor older folk see no benefit of education, and intellectualism is sometimes shunned. They too are angry that their offspring have obtained their social passports and have fled to higher society, leaving them in their world to fend for themselves in rapidly diversifying modern contexts. How are they to effectively respond in this new world, when their ideas are often still trapped in a world of pre-industrial notions? What are they to do? So few spend time to share understandings and bring their community along. Youth education should not only be for a personal transition into a higher social class, but I believe it should also extend in service to the immediate community.

I know I have some credentialed folk among my friends, and I'd like to point out, that not because you may be in a better place economically, does it mean that your relatives are not hurting economically, socially and culturally. You have a responsibility to validate their concerns in my view. A continued turning a deaf ear, or ignoring some of the issues that may be of concern to them can at some point come back to doom one of your big projects up there in the ivory tower. We're all connected in some way. Each one should teach one, cut the airs (because the only one fooled is you) and the selfishness, but above all, be nice!

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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Sound of Jamaica's Festival

I recently came across what I consider a very catchy patriotic song online, Jamaica by Bella Blair. 

I like it! It's a good song and I think the video is awesome.  While listening I couldn't help but wonder if this song could ever have made it as a festival song competitor.  I really don't know the motive for doing this song, but I think we're lucky to have it.  Yet, I still harbor the question, could this have been a contemporary festival song?

Her words in the chorus, "I'm lucky cause I live in Jamaica" is a mantra that I think many Jamaicans at home and abroad can appreciate.  

In discussing this with a friend who is has a fairly good knowledge of the competition, some of my reservations were affirmed.  He too felt that this song would probably not have made it.  Sadly so.  This song celebrates the nation, which is part of the festival competition's mandate, but the sound (and possibly other aesthetics when we think of tourism) is not something we typically expect in this sphere and therefore it may not be so readily embraced.

All is not lost however, as that conversation also led to my discovery of a very insightful academic study on the subject, A We Dis?!: The Contestation of Jamaica's Post-independence Identity in the Jamaica Festival Song Competition.  In the undergraduate thesis, the writer Carolyn McCalla contends that the tension of the state to sanitize and present one image of Jamaica versus allowing the competition to reflect the actual essence of the Jamaican people have over a number of years contributed to a competition that is weak and distant from the popular culture.  I think having an idea of what's wrong is half the battle of fixing it.

The Jamaica Festival Song Competition began in 1966 and continues up to present day, but it's current impact is in question.  Carolyn MaCalla in her study reminds us that "the Competition was also to serve as a means of integrating Jamaica's popular music into the international music scene (one of the goals of the Popular Music Development Programme...)".  But if this is so, do many Jamaicans really think that many of the songs we have heard in recent times qualify as popular and have gained a life beyond the competition?  If this in not the case then it seems to me that the competition is failing at its mandate.

Some years ago I worked at the Ministry of Education, Youth & Culture, and back then I raised my concern about the sound of festival.  My question was why is the festival sound stuck in the 70s?  For some reason the sound stopped evolving as a popular music and remained something nostalgic. I recall that there was an effort to change this sound, but this was subsequently reversed. My thinking is that a festival song ought to be contemporary, and it ought to be a song that plays for years and years beyond the competition. Let's consider the more successful of these festival songs, here is a link to JCDC Festival Song Winners 1966 - 2015, chances are you actually know them, even if you did not know they were festival entries.

I think if we work towards creating the conditions that encourage entries of contemporary popular sounds the organizers could bring forward a certain relevance to the annual competition. 

Would you have voted for Bella Blair's Jamaica for a festival song winner? 

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