Sunday, 20 August 2017

Marcus Garvey Celebration Focuses on Economic Self-Reliance

By Neil Armstrong

Drum Call at "Garvey: Full 100" at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre in Toronto on Aug. 17, 2017.

"Garvey: Full 100" at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre in Toronto on Aug. 17, 2017.

Nene Kwasi Kafele of the Tabono Institute addressing the Marcus Garvey/UNIA birthday celebration.

Itah Sadu, co-owner of A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, welcoming patrons to the centre.

Lloyd Wilks, Jamaica's consul general at Toronto, speaking at "Garvey: Full 100."

Roy G. Williams gives a history of Garvey's chair now housed at the Jamaican Canadian Association.

David Smith and Allan Jones presenting a skit, "Mr. Garvey," at the Garvey 130th birthday/UNIA 100th anniversary in the USA celebration.

Roundtable discussion participants: left-right: Thandiwe Chimurenga, Zanana Akande, Roy. G. Williams, Miguel San Vicente, and Winston Husbands, moderator.

Participants of the roundtable discussion, "Africans Organizing to Achieve Complete Economic Self-Reliance," are from left to right: Thandiwe Chimurenga, Zanana Akande, Roy G. Williams, Miguel San Vicente, and Winston Husbands, moderator.

Marcus Garvey's chair at the Jamaican Canadian Association

Marcus Garvey's chair at the Jamaican Canadian Association

Africans organizing to achieve complete economic self-reliance was the theme of an event to celebrate the 130th birthday of Marcus Garvey and the 100th birthday of the UNIA in the United States.

Held at A Different Booklist Cultural Centre in Toronto on Aug. 17, Garvey’s birthday, it started with drumming and libations, and included messages from Lloyd Wilks, Jamaica’s consul general at Toronto, and Dr. Julius Garvey, son of Jamaica’s first national hero.

Itah Sadu, co-owner of the centre, noted that it was an occasion to “celebrate the spirit of a man who said we must do better, be bolder and be more determined, especially when it comes to the economics of our people.”

Dr. Garvey said the principles of his father are as needed today as they were almost 100 years ago when they were first enunciated.

“The world clearly needs a new paradigm and unfortunately even though we’ve been free as a people in the Caribbean and certainly in Africa, not necessarily in North America, but even though we’re free as a people our minds have not been free.”

He noted that in 1937 Marcus Garvey said: “We must liberate our minds from mental slavery.”

He said Garvey also said a person without a knowledge of their past is like a tree without roots.

Knowledge of self can lead to transformation, being self-reliant, and developing in a sustainable way, he noted.

Dr. Garvey said it is important to build institutions because that is “the only way we can teach our young people and leave something for our young people….”

Nene Kwasi Kafele of the Taboni Institute said the event entitled, “Garvey: Full 100,” was an opportunity to reflect critically on the contributions of the UNIA and Marcus Garvey but also to remember that the movement was more than only Garvey.

“The movement was a lot of people, especially a lot of women who have been under-recognized so when we talk about the UNIA and its impact we should remember the scope and depth of struggle and the extent to which many, many, thousands of people sacrificed and worked – many of them to go unnoticed and unnamed.”

He said their work has left a blueprint for economic success – “buy black, think black, be black was the mantra for economic empowerment.”

Kafele said the event was also held to have a conversation about the meaning of Garvey in 2017 with white supremacy alive and stronger than ever before.

Tabono Institute is an incorporated non-profit, community based research, public policy, archiving and capacity building organization.

Wilks said Garvey came from a lineage of people such as Quaco, Nanny of the Maroons, Tacky, Yaa Asantewaa who believed in freedom and rejected oppression.

“Garvey is a product of those genes,” he emphasized.

A roundtable discussion with Zanana Akande, Miguel San Vicente, Roy G. Williams and Thandiwe Chimurenga moderated by Winston Husbands examined organizing to achieve economic self-reliance.

Akande said it is extremely important to focus on economic independence because it is the thing that the Black community does not have.

She noted that many black parents who were educated and able to take their places in many different fields came to Canada and were not allowed to do so.

“They decided that their kids would be well schooled, that we would be able to take our places in the professions, that we would be able to speak well and do those things for which you got a higher pay or that you got the promotion. We forgot about businesses, we forgot about making sure that when we were spending our dollar we were giving it to each other,” said Akande.

She said there are communities in Toronto where the dollar that goes into their community never leaves it until it goes to taxes.

“We give ours away immediately, some of us are so well educated that we wouldn’t think about being a cleaners, and yet Donald Moore did. We wouldn’t think of opening some of the businesses that require work. And I’m not saying as an alternative to education, I’m saying in addition to.

“When we take responsibility for taking care of ourselves and each other we will begin to think like business people.”

Chimurenga said a strong economic base requires an understanding of one nation of people moving a similar direction.

“I think one of the key components of building economic self-reliance among African people in Canada is perhaps to first recognize the commonality of our identity – that we’re daughters and sons of Mother Africa and that for us to move forward we need to organize the genius, the resources and all of the assets that we have in our community.”

She said the other important thing is to, in the spirit of nationhood, have an economic plan.

Chimurenga also said there is a need to “educate ourselves from an African perspective about our history and this myth that we as African people aren’t good business people is just that…we are the first business people of the universe. We showed the world in the continent of Africa what businesses are about.”

Williams, the first president of the 55-year-old Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA), provided a history of the chair that Garvey sat in whenever he attended conventions in Toronto in the 1930s. That chair which had a place of prominence in the former UNIA Hall on College Street is now housed at the JCA.

“He preached unity of the black race and against factionalism, parochialism, regionalism and all the other isms, and he advocated for an African diaspora,” said Williams, noting that Garvey encouraged education and training as a path to self-development, freedom and independence.

San Vicente said one of the most important things about Garvey and his movement was “he made black people feel that they were the equal of everybody, that sense of black pride infected large numbers of blacks in the period in which he lived and carried on since.”

Tiki Mercury-Clarke, emcee, provided an overview of the UNIA –established in Toronto in 1919 -- and some of its founders such as Violet Blackman, Don Moore, B.J. Spencer Pitt, and black families in Toronto who were committed supporters of Garvey and the principles of the UNIA.

Kafele said capitalism has been the enemy of black people and its co-conspirator of white supremacy.

“Capitalism breeds greed and individualism and acquisition and materialism. It is counterproductive to collective action and cooperative economic development. Our history manifestly demonstrates that it is not in our best interest to organize economically using a model that has consistently failed us.”

He endorsed the idea of individual effort, entrepreneurial activity, business initiatives but he urged those present to be mindful of “the approaches we use that we can undermine the very critical, cultural, political, economic values that undergird our community from time immemorial, which is working together collectively and cooperatively, sharing resources for the benefit of all of us and doing so in an ethical framework that advances the very best of our people. It is not greed, it’s not individualism, it’s not materialism; it is collective effort, collective action, collective impact.”

He said there is a Black Star Line Cooperative Credit Union in Ghana founded on the principles of Garvey which is about ten years old.

Kafele will be embarking on a feasibility study to see how practical it might be to bring a chapter to Toronto.

“If we don’t have a financial institution to fuel the economic engine of our community we’re always going to be relying on others to do it for us. So we need to own and control our own economic institutions.”

One of the things they will be doing is something called an “income, inequality and poverty program” that is looking at addressing the problem with children and youth who are extremely poor in a couple of specific geographical communities in Toronto.

“We’re gonna focus collective energies, in terms of impact on a whole range of things, education, health, income support programs, economic activity, and so on to see over five years if that massive intervention can make an difference in terms of a quality of life and the level of poverty that our community is facing. And when we look at the research that comes out of that we’re gonna see if it’s something we can duplicate and replicate in broader areas across the community.”

The evening included a drumming and flute performance by Anan Xola Loli, and a spoken word performance by Allan Jones and actor, David Smith, of an excerpt of a play, “Mr. Garvey,” written by Jones in 1988.

The event was a partnership of the JCA, Tabono Institute, Ryerson University’s Faculty of Community Services, and the All Afrikan People’s Revolutionary Party.

Meanwhile, A Different Booklist Cultural Centre: The People’s Residence will host a stream-a-thon, “Planting the Seeds,” on Sunday, Sept. 17, 7am-10pm at to raise funds for the centre’s community and education programs.

It will broadcast live from 777-779 Bathurst St – home of the centre – and feature interviews, meet and greets with influencers, authors, community groups, artists, corporate friends and supporters.

“Join us for a sophisticated after work ‘Summer’s Evening Social,’ commencing at 6pm-9pm,” notes the promo inviting people to drop by sometime during the day and “say hello, we’ll be glad to see you!”

For more info contact 1-833-772-3222/1-833-77ADBCC.

No comments:

Post a comment