St Vincent PM Urges C’bean And African People, Leaders to push for Garvey exoneration

(CMC) – St Vincent Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is urging Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries and the rest of the world to put pressure on United States President, Joseph Biden, to exonerate Jamaican National Hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey for his “unjust, flawed and dubious” conviction for mail fraud almost a century ago.

In a memorandum to the people, mass organizations and civil society in the Caribbean, Africa, the United States and the world, Gonsalves called on them to support the campaign to get the late Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist exonerated, which was initiated by the PJ Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.

Specifically, he encouraged them to sign the online petition that was opened on February 1 and will remain so until February 28, the duration of Black History Month.

“The petition will be sent to President Joseph Biden of the USA for his action. Governments are urged to encourage their nationals to sign…. Assuming that President Biden accedes to this just and fair petition, he may find it of great convenience and moment to announce the exoneration of Marcus Garvey at the next Summit of the Americas to be held in June 2022 in California, USA,” the Vincentian leader said.

Gonsalves urged Heads of State and Government of countries, especially from the Caribbean Community and Africa, to send letters to President Biden.

He said leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) last month agreed to send a joint letter or individual letters, and the Caricom Secretary-General was also actively working on that.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said that these actions are especially important because there have been concerted attempts, in the United States and some other western countries, to roll back the hard-won rights of people of African descent and other historically marginalized groups.

“Persons and organizations, globally, who are wedded to justice, fair play, truth, human rights and sustainable development, whatever their nationality, ethnicity, class or religious orientation ought to join in the current campaign to exonerate Marcus Garvey,” he said.

“It is now widely accepted that Garvey was spied upon, framed and railroaded by J Edgar Hoover’s Bureau of Investigation, the precursor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, because Hoover and other powerful persons considered Garvey ‘a notorious negro agitator’.”

In the early 20th century, Garvey built the largest ever mass political movement of black people, globally – the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

“He is one of the Caribbean’s greatest leaders since conquest and settlement by colonialism,” Gonsalves said, adding that Garvey had greatly influenced the political outlook of several distinguished leaders from the Caribbean and the United States, including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

In 1922, Garvey was arrested for mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in the failing Black Star Line which he had founded in 1919 to provide transportation to Africa.

At the end of Garvey’s trial, which Gonsalves described as “farcical”, the Jamaican was sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison. He served nearly three years of that sentence, from 1925, before being deported to his homeland.

In 1935, he moved to London where he died in 1940 at the age of 53. His remains were in 1964 returned to Jamaica where they were reburied in the country’s National Heroes Park. Garvey was declared Jamaica’s first National Hero.