Look for me in the whirlwind: Factual inaccuracies and slanderous statements

Cover for the book Emancipated from Mental Slavery.
Cover for the book Emancipated from Mental Slavery.

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Look for me in the whirlwind” is a quote from a message by Marcus Garvey. PBS used it as the title to a documentary it produced on him as well. Has the whirlwind Garvey referred to begun? Melanin is worth more than gold, the Red, Black and Green is rapidly approaching its 100th anniversary and the Afro, official currency of the United States of Africa, is worth over two dollars. Below is a criticism of the PBS documentary by Garvey’s son Julius.

My two major areas of criticism are:

(1) Factual inaccuracies and slanderous statements without even attempting to substantiate them and

(2) The absence of any in-depth analysis of what Marcus Garvey stood for or was trying to do.

I will attempt to deal with some of the former that I consider to be of major importance.

(1) The early incident of Marcus Garvey being left in the grave is dramatized and the statement is made that his father was teaching him `Never to rely on anyone’. The incident is factual, but the reason given to me by my mother is that my grandfather was teaching Marcus not to be afraid of anything!

It may seem initially like a small difference, but it sets the stage for later gratuitous statements that Marcus Garvey was always alone, never confided in anyone, did not take advice and was dictatorial.

So right from the beginning we have psychodrama and psychohistory. Incidentally the technique of leaving someone in a graveyard for an extended period of time is a well-known Tibetan Buddhist practice, used for centuries to test an initiate’s fearlessness and stability of mind.

(2) Statements that Amy Ashwood was the cofounder of the UNIA is an exaggeration in that Marcus Garvey returned from England to Jamaica on July 15th 1914 and within 5 days founded the UNIA.

It is unlikely that a 17-year-old girl had the vision to be anything more than an early member.

It is said that Amy Ashwood’s mother did not consider Marcus Garvey the right type of person for her daughter to date, as he did not have a solid income. Well at this point he was a world traveler, a master printer, a journalist and the founder of an organization that had her daughter as one of fifteen members of the “board of management”. Incidentally, both Amy Ashwood’s mother and brother were on the UNIA payroll.

Marcus Garvey was elected president and TRAVELLING COMMISSIONER of the UNIA at its founding.

I emphasize this latter with good reason. Incidentally both Amy Ashwood’s mother and brother were on the UNIA payroll.

(3) Marcus Garvey grossly mismanaged the funds of the organization and used them for his own purposes.

Again, not only is there no proof of this, but the opposite is true in that Marcus Garvey gave a public accounting of how the funds were used. At this early stage the organization was mostly uplift and philanthropy. It was a literary and debating society, did charitable work such as feeding and entertaining hundreds of poor and sick people, especially on Emancipation Day and at Christmas.

Garvey never ran away from Jamaica or left in a hurry. This was carefully planned and there are letters to Booker T. Washington and his successor, Moton, to prove that Garvey’s visit to the U.S. was to see Tuskegee Institute, which he viewed as a model industrial institute, and to raise funds for a similar institute and farm in Jamaica.
I think he was clearly carrying out his duties as TRAVELLING COMMISSIONER.
Also he never abandoned Amy Ashwood in Jamaica, as she had already left for Panama.

(4) Marcus Garvey is portrayed as being awed by the bright lights, richness and tall buildings of Harlem.

He had already had 4 years of world travel under his belt, 2 in the Caribbean (Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and 2 in Europe (England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy).

I do not think he was overly impressed with Harlem, New York, U.S.A.

He is said to have been so nervous at an early speaking engagement that he shook like a leaf and LITERALLY fell on his face.

Marcus Garvey even prior to leaving Jamaica in 1910 took part in debates and elocution contests and he trained himself in this area. He studied the speaking style of many ministers in Kingston, he spoke in public on many occasions in Costa Rica and Panama. He studied the speakers in London’s Hyde Park, at Speaker’s Corner. He participated himself. He also sat in the gallery of the House of Commons and studied the speakers there engaged in parliamentary debate.

He did not have to go to the U.S. to copy the speaking style of someone named Billy Sunday and he certainly would not have “shaken like a leaf”.

His topic, by the way was `Jamaica’ and the audience was largely West Indian.

As to literally `falling flat on his face’. This is an outright lie, as to fall flat on one’s face, one would have to be in an altered state of consciousness so that the normal defense mechanism of putting out one’s hands to break the fall would not be operational. The one fact in all this is that Marcus Garvey fell off the platform while speaking on May 9th, 1916 at St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church Hall at 57 West 138th Harlem, N.Y. How one gets from this one fact to the tissue of lies and fevered mental projections is quite a leap. By the way he got up and continued his speech. He needed no medical attention for a broken nose, busted lip or bruised head as he would have done if he `literally fell flat on his face’ from the platform.

(5) Garvey is said to have been authoritarian, antidemocratic, naming himself and others with fancy titles, etc.

THE UNIA IS AN ORGANIZATION WITH A CONSTITUTION. Marcus Garvey was elected Provisional President of Africa by 25,000 delegates from all over the world at the first international convention of the Negro peoples of the world in N.Y. in 1920. He was opposed by Dr. Lewis from Nigeria, but he won the election. Important matters relative to the objectives of the organization and how they should be carried out were discussed at convention and by the delegates in committee and the recommendations voted upon democratically by the delegates present. Not autocratically dictated by Marcus Garvey.
There were 8 such conventions. The first in 1920 and the last in 1938 in Toronto Canada. WWII started in 1939. Garvey died in 1940.

(6) He is said to have fired his lawyer and no reason is given for this except to say that Garvey wanted to impress the jury with his oratory.

The fact is that his lawyer wanted to plea bargain and Garvey refused, protesting his innocence and therefore fired him. Nevertheless he hired lawyers to advise him on court proceedings, as he pleaded his case. He did this well enough to have a hung jury. At which time the presiding judge instructed the jury not to `turn the tiger loose’. They came back in 15 minutes with a guilty verdict.

The only piece of evidence was an empty envelope; the address was not in Marcus Garvey’s handwriting.

(7) A handbill is shown advertising and seeking subscriptions to buy a boat called the `Phyllis Wheatley’. This is said to be a gross misrepresentation, as the ship did not exist.
Well the ship did exist, and $20,000 had been paid down on it and the organization was raising funds to complete the purchase and rename the ship the `S.S. Phillis Wheatley’. The first ship of the Black Star Line was the `Yarmouth’, renamed the `Frederick Douglas’. The third ship was the `Kenawha’, renamed the `Antonio Maceo’. The fourth ship was to be named the `Phillis Wheatley’ after Afro-Americas first female poet and one of its most celebrated.

How this can be called misrepresentation requires a wide stretch of the imagination.

(8) Finally, the last scene that was dramatized showing Garvey, `the failure, who had come down, in the world’, being stoned by children and walking toward a hovel, presumably his home.

A despicable lie. We lived at 53 Lady Musgrave Rd., St. Andrew from 1927 to 1937. My brother and I were both born there. The house still stands and was lived in by the Hendricks family and subsequently housed the Indian High Commission. I do not need to tell a Jamaican readership of the many accomplishments of Marcus Garvey between 1927 and 1935 in Jamaica.

To end a documentary on Our 1st National Hero, Hero of the Americas and a Hero to millions of Africans, those at home and those abroad, climaxes the many distortions of fact, lies and character assassinations that are so numerous that I cannot include them all here.

One can only ask, Why?

Perhaps it is a situation of `who pays the piper calls the tune’.
I prefer to be charitable and say, `My father forgive them for they know not what they do’.

Julius W. Garvey, M.D.

By Nnamdi Azikiwe

The Mhotep Corporation uses its Keyamsha The Awakening brand to heighten perceptions and expand awareness. By producing content that engages, entertains and educates we create value for value relationships with our audience for mutual benefit. Mhotep is derived from the name of the architect and builder of the first pyramid in Kemet, so-called ancient Egypt. I formed the Mhotep Corporation in 2003 to produce and distribute 3D animation videos based on traditional African stories. Since then it has evolved to being a media production company including books. In a previous life I worked as a systems analyst developing solutions for government and multinational organizations. Born and educated in Washington, D.C. I have traveled to several places including Haiti, the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria (several times), Ethiopia (several times), Benin, Togo, and South Africa. I am married with three children.

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