A forum at the University of the West Indies focused on the Black History Month movement to posthumously exonerate civil rights activist and Jamaican icon Marcus Garvey
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wed. Feb. 16, 2022– This past Wednesday, The University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor’s Forum, titled “Exonerating Garvey” held in collaboration with the P.J. Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy, focused on the recent movement to have Jamaican hero, Marcus Garvey, exonerated posthumously. Garvey, who played a pivotal role in the Black Nationalist movement in the 20th century, was arrested in the US, charged with mail fraud, and ultimately deported. Subsequent research has shown, however, that Garvey was wrongfully convicted, with the charges laid against him merely being an attempt to derail his advocacy by those who saw the movement as a threat. Recent research has also revealed that Garvey was never even allowed a fair trial.
Present at the forum was Dr. Julius Garvey, son of Marcus Garvey and organizer of the campaign titled “Justice4Garvey”. He explained the goal of the campaign—obtaining 100,000 signatures to petition President Joe Biden for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey through the Posthumous Presidential Pardon.
“We have been at this for a very long time, and we’ve accumulated significant legal evidence that there was no crime committed. My father spent approximately three years in jail, and his movement and his career were somewhat blunted by what J. Hoover and the Justice Department, the FBI, did in these United States of America,” he said.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, shared opening remarks at the opening of the forum, moderated by Professor Verene Shepherd, Director of The Centre for Reparation Research. According to the Vice-Chancellor, Marcus Garvey was not only the Father of Caribbean civil rights, but a believer in freedom for all.
“Coming close to the centenary of the abolition of slavery, the Rt. Excellent Garvey mobilized the Caribbean people towards a vision of democracy and freedom. He is indeed a Caribbean hero. He is a Caribbean regional hero. And, in my judgement, should be so recognized in every nation-state, in every community in this Caribbean as a regional hero,” he stated.
For his commitment to humanity, said Professor Beckles, Garvey was persecuted and prosecuted, ultimately being convicted on the basis of evidence that has been proven to have been fabricated. He expressed that the University of the West Indies is honored to be able to join forces with the Marcus Garvey Institute to call upon the U.S. government “to exonerate our Garvey for the injustices meted out to him.”
The Hon. P. J. Patterson, who is a former prime minister of Jamaica, director of the P. J. Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy, and Statesman in Residence at the UWI, echoed Professor Beckles’ sentiments in addition to referencing some of the many instances of injustice and brutality that Black Americans have suffered at the hands of white supremacists, including the Tulsa race massacre and the lynching of countless African Americans—all moments that Garvey openly denounced and condemned.
“As his denunciation of these evils intensified, as he raised funds to assist the victims of racial violence, as he started to publish the weekly Negro World newspaper, and dared to launch the African Community’s League to become a business arm of the UNIA, the white supremacists came to realize that his message and power of mobilization were repugnant to their evil designs. Garvey came to be known as ‘the Black Moses’,” stated the former Jamaican prime minister.
One of those who saw Garvey—who would go on to be described by Martin Luther King Jr. as the first man of color in U.S history to lead a mass movement—as a threat was the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover reportedly sought to “deport Garvey as an undesirable alien.” He, along with the FBI, would eventually accomplish that goal in 1923 after Garvey, charged with fraud on the basis of one empty envelope, was made to face an all-white male jury along with a hostile judge and a hostile federal prosecutor. This ultimately led to three years of imprisonment and Garvey’s subsequent deportation in 1927.
Dr. Julius Garvey along with the UWI has issued a call to all young persons to make a stand by signing and sharing the Justice4Garvey petition.
“Now I’m asking you, young people … to participate and to strike a blow for freedom. You know, Marcus Garvey is our first national hero, but all of our national heroes have fought for freedom—freedom from slavery, freedom from colonialism …,” he stated.
To learn more about the global campaign to exonerate the Rt. Excellent, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, please visit the petition at www.justice4garvey.org.