Marcus Garvey Special: A PBS Mockumentary

Marcus Garvey Special A PBS Mockumentary
By Mwariama D. KAMAU

Editor’s Note: On Feb. 12, 2001 PBS aired the documentary Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind. Since then there has been much discussion about errors and contradictions in the production. And it affirms once again that we must always critically evaluate all information presented in the interest of the community. Mwariama D. Kamau, 2nd Vice President of Div.#330 of the UNIA-ACL (founded by Garvey) provides a perspective here.

Courtesy photo, Rt. Ex. Marcus Mosiah Garvey

The recently aired PBS Special, {Look for Me in the Whirlwind,} was a malicious attempt to discredit the legacy of the Rt. Ex. Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association – African Communities League. The “mockumentary” was laden with outright lies, false rumors, and misrepresentations of Marcus Garvey the man, and the UNIA-ACL. I would like to dispel at least some of these ridiculous lies and give an accurate account of Garvey and the works of the UNIA-ACL, past and present.

The film begins at a cemetery, telling us that Garvey’s father, a brick mason, once dug a grave in the middle of the night, tricked little Marcus into the hole and left him there to teach him to trust no one. What the producers refuse to tell you is that none of Garvey’s friends or family ever validated the story and the source and accuracy of the story is still questionable. Besides, brick masons build headstones. Gravediggers dig graves and they do not dig them at night.

Next, Robert Hill, the Executive Consultant, claims that Garvey tremored, shook like a leaf and fell off the stage when he first spoke in Harlem and had to learn oratory from a white man. They also imply that Garvey, at age 14, was motivated to succeed due to rejection by a white girl. What they neglect to mention is the fact that Garvey was an exceptionally gifted student and had been winning oratory awards since 1910 and was a printer at age 14.

Additionally, there were slanderous remarks about Garvey’s mental health, allegations of financial improprieties, and one “historian” called Garvey a “grandiose megalomaniac” who “only hired loyal people despite their competence.” Yet, a few seconds later, they admit that Garvey’s most competent colleagues (i.e. lawyer, ship captain, business partner, etc) were FBI cooperatives who purposely sabotaged his business ventures. All of these lies, fabricated stories and contradictions were based on rumors, reports of FBI informants and speculative information from unnamed sources.

The film implies that the movement died with the deportation of its leader. They reduce the size of UNIA membership from the documented 11+ million to roughly 3/4 million. The Liberian Project was barely mentioned. They did not mention Garvey’s contribution to the Harlem Renaissance. Nor did they mention the government’s admission, during Garvey’s Exoneration Hearing, that he was “wrongfully convicted” of mail fraud. Also, interpretive commentary was given by unknown historians whose ignorance and disdain for the Garvey movement evident.

Dr. Tony Martin, leading scholar and authorized historian on Marcus Garvey considers this special a “barrage of negative commentary…They dug up every off the wall bit of rumor and uncorroborated innuendo they could find and elevated them to central events…The film started with Garvey abandoned in a grave and ended with kids stoning him as he approached a hovel which bore no resemblance to anywhere he lived at that period — a hell of a way to begin and end a documentary on Marcus Garvey.”

In a recent interview on WOL, the eldest son of Garvey, current President/General and 7th Successor to his father, Marcus Garvey Jr., blasted the film for its “hostile and distorted” depiction of his father and the UNIA-ACL. “The film was a misrepresentation of the Marcus Garvey Movement,” he said.

All in all, this was just another example of character assassination of the heroes and sheroes of the black race who truly exemplified the philosophy or “race first.” The “mockumentary” did not tell you that there are countless numbers around the globe who stand today as living examples of the whirlwind. It did not tell you that we, the UNIA-ACL have not lost faith in African Redemption or of our level of commitment to the cause. Why? Because they want to leave you hopeless and as long as we remain hopeless, we will remain as compliant and complacent subjects of others rather than the masters of our own destiny.

Dr. Julius W. Garvey, M.D., son of Marcus Garvey, has also written a commentary in response to the PBS special. Links to other accurate information on the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey and/or the UNIA-ACL include: The Black World Today and the UNIA.

Marcus Garvey once said:”The campaign of abuse and imprisonment against your leaders is but a part of the plan to harass and discourage you on the way towards destiny. But no sober-minded Negro will allow himself to be fooled by the design of the wicked. The wicked we have always had and will ever have. The wicked and unjust have opposed reforms in every age and under all circumstances. They crucified a Christ and drove His apostles from pillar to post. They made, by their wicked acts, martyrs of those who have lived and died for a principle and an idea; so let them go on. They, too, in this age shall drink the bitter dregs of sorrow and remorse, even as succeeding generations of those who crucified Christ and persecuted His disciples have become the cursed creatures of righteousness. Let our traitors sell themselves to the propaganda of the enemy who seeks to destroy the race! They, too, like the character of old, will find no use for the bits of silver.”

UP YOU MIGHTY RACE, YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH WHAT YOU WILL!

ONE GOD – ONE AIM – ONE DESTINY


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