Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

The Hard Truth…U.N.I.A. —The personification of ‘badass’

20th August 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Min. J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Columnist

Today we are seeing the resurgence of the largest Black movement that has existed in the U.S. or this hemisphere, the Garvey Movement, aka the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League.

That this man, the Honorable Marcus Garvey, and his movement have all but been erased from our history is an indictment of our leaders and a testimony to the strength of our enemies. Their control of education and media ensured that within four decades of his death in 1940, most Black people would have no idea of who he was. Most of those who did hear of him only heard that he wore fancy outfits, purchased ships to take every Black person back to Afrika and went to jail.

Our enemies did their job. We did not.

But that’s changing. During this week, (his birthday is August 17), Garvey Day celebrations are being held across the nation and around the world, as more and more of our people recognize the importance of what he was able to do nearly 100 years ago. The teachings, the businesses, the factories, the medical and military organizations, the ships. Even with a documented infestation of federal agents working to sabotage UNIA at all levels, their accomplishments were massive…by today’s standards.

What Garvey built speaks to both his own greatness and the greatness of our people. He could not have done all of this by himself. There were Black people, millions of them, ready to hear his message of self-pride and self-reliance. There were people, Black people by the millions who were fed up with trying to fit in, be accepted or solicit justice from white people. Yes, as early as 1916 there were overt and covert Black nationalists.

Based on the number of elders I have worked with and interviewed over the years, I honestly believe the number of undercover Garvey­ites at least equaled, if not doubled the three to five million who put their names on the dotted line. Remember, during this time people were losing jobs and lives for merely joining the “radical” NAACP.

Garvey’s influence could be seen in the Nation of Islam, the Moorish Science Temple of America, the Black Panther Party, the Republic of New Afrika, the Rastafarian movement and in many other formations, movements and even nations.

Through the years his line of thinking has drawn a smaller and smaller sector of the Black Nation for several reasons, the first of which being the drive of most of our leaders for assimilation into a white system of culture and economics. The vision and goal of most Black leaders has been to seduce or force white people into accepting us as equals and treating us accordingly. That goal alone is evidence of self-hatred.

Other factors include the rather massive egos of Black Nationalist/Pan Afrikanist leaders and a marked deterioration of the sense of direction of the movement. The ridiculous proliferation of Black mega-conferences that don’t lead to action or change is evidence of this problem. Yes, some of this may be caused by paid agents within our midst but I personally believe that even without the saboteurs and provocateurs we’d be in pretty bad shape. As a movement and as individuals our goals, priorities and plans have not been very clear. Low aspiration is evidence of self-hate.

Being angry or hating white people is not an agenda; it’s simply an unproductive state of mind. Merely exposing and discussing the evils and conspiracies of white people has not done much for us either. Fighting to be the next Big Thing only siphons off good energy that could be used for building. It also discourages people.

To truly emulate Marcus Garvey, you have to offer people an idea of where we are going and how we are going to get there. You have to offer practical, tangible models of action that will give credibility to all that excellent rhetoric. Your plan is more important than your complaint. What you are building is more important than whatever you are denouncing.

That’s why we at Destiny One & Liberated Zone Ministries have been working since 1995 to get Black people to agree on a definition of Liberation and clear short-term and long-term goals. We still offer this definition: Black Liberation = Self-Sufficiency (provide for self) + Self-Determination (decide for self) x Justice (treat everybody right).

My current involvement in UNIA is a result of seeing/believing that this is the best structure to unify us across religious, political and other lines and move a practical, proactive agenda forward. And then, of course, there is that Lega-cy Factor. Yeah, I want in on that.

An encouraging sign is that today we are seeing Black Nationalist groups come together seeking operational unity, and not a second too soon. You’d think that with a Black president being elected, any arguments for separation from this nation or for looking to ourselves for solutions would have been obliterated. You’d be wrong.

The increase in repression and police abuse/murders, the efforts to end public education, the increasing trend of re-enslaving Blacks through incarceration: these are only a few of the trends that are forcing many of our people to realize that this system was never designed to benefit us as a people. Like a living .organism, whenever the U.S government finds itself doing something that will elevate Black people, it begins to self-correct.

Garvey told us not to wait on anyone else. He said, “Up you mighty Race! You will accomplish what you will!”

So here we stand, on our own, being forced to march toward either our greatness or our graves. The choice is ours, only ours.

…and That’s the Hard Truth!!!

This article was originally published in the August 20, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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