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.