Mistaking Mr. Garvey
The following is in response to an article entitled What is the Future of Black Advocacy in America By Anthony Asadulla Samad
I read your piece on “The Future of Black Advocacy” as it appeared in the Black Commentator. While I agree with the overall sentiment of the piece I must disagree with the following portion:
Two of our major advocacy organizations, the NAACP and SCLC, have on-going leadership battles centered on what the future direction of “the movement” should be. New groups like the National Action Network and Operation HOPE claim to be the future of the struggle but are fueled by “personality driven” activism (Al Sharpton and John Bryant) that seems to serve a more singular interest than collective – some say, replicating “the Jesse Model.” The “Jesse Model” only replicated “the King Model” which replicated “the Garvey Model” which replicated “the Booker T” in terms of organizations driven by personality leadership. It’s a 20th Century phenomenon we can’t seem to get away from, and the “take me to your leader” syndrome now causes a rush to the front of the line that breeds conflict on another level – the lobby for the white man’s (mainstream) attention. The point is, when you get in front of him, do you really have anything to say?
Nothing could be farther from the truth in regards to Marcus Garvey and the UNIA. While Marcus Garvey was indeed a charismatic person who at pivotal times let his ego get in the way of his organization, the model that the UNIA represented is in no way comparable to the NAACP, SNCC, NAN or Operation HOPE. A cursory glance at the work of the UNIA would confirm this.
Take for example the fact that the UNIA, from its inception was an international, Pan-Africanist organization. The NAACP, which was founded by white people with Dubois installed at it’s head, was not a Pan-African organization, nor was it international in scope. Nor was the SCLC. Furthermore, while the NAACP was putting the political cart before the economic horse and aiding and abetting the US Government to oust Garvey, the UNIA was attempting to empower millions of blacks worldwide. How then can we even begin to equate the NAACP and its “struggle” with that of the UNIA?
If one looks deeper at the NAACP vs. the UNIA one would note that the UNIA was founded and funded entirely by blacks for blacks and was not beholden to white sponsorship for it’s programs as the NAACP was and still is.
If we look at the connection between Garvey and Washington we would note that what Garvey admired about Booker T. Washington’s program was the insistence on self-help and economic activity as a means to be independent. Garvey soon went far beyond what Booker T. Washington’s ideologies. A more relevant American ideologue to predate Garvey is Martin Delany who also advocated, unsuccessfully that blacks ought to self separate themselves in order to develop economically and politically. He believed, as Garvey did later, that blacks in continued close contact with whites were and would continue to be overly dependent on whites for their “welfare.” and would continue to be the objects of their violence.
Clearly you can see that Garvey is the “odd man out” in your line up of 20th century leadership. And perhaps that is a reason why Garvey ought to be revisited as we seek answers to the question of “black advocacy.”