WHEN Pan-Africanist Dr Julius Garvey speaks about the dislocation of African people, the breach they have endured and the African diaspora, people listen.
It was no different on Friday night, when Dr Garvey, the son of activist Marcus Garvey – the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association – gave a lecture at The College of The Bahamas’ Performing Arts Centre that traced the history of European imperialism, chattel slavery, colonialism and its impact on African people.
The audience was riveted by Dr Garvey’s message, given in an address entitled “To Repair the Breach” in which he provided perspective on the cause for reparatory justice within the context of the historical enslavement and genocide of Africans.
“We, as a people, have had a breach in our continuity and we have to restore that breach by understanding our story,” he said.
Dr Garvey outlined the 500-year history of European imperialism and colonialism, the socio-economic, cultural and physical domination of Africa and the impact on the Western world.
“By physical violence, psychological dislocation and spiritual coercion, we have become the pawns of Euro-American civilization that dominates the world. Western concepts of social democracy, capitalism, socialism, communism, progress and development have universal preeminence,” he said.
“We are incarcerated by a materialist vision of the world that has the status of secular religion. The capitalist entrepreneur is our saviour, the multinational corporation is our employer, greed is our god, money our only value, and Heaven is where the profits pile up.”
Dr Garvey is an avid proponent of Pan-Africanism, an ideology of his father that advances the solidarity of African people around the world. During his lecture, he explained that Pan-Africanism is the continued legacy of a struggle to repair the vision of the redemption of Africa or what is now termed the African Renaissance. The African Renaissance is rooted in the historical fact of Africa being the cradle of mankind and the birthplace of human civilization, he said.
Dr Garvey’s sentiments add further perspective to the national and regional discussion about reparations for slavery and the formulation of a comprehensive response.
He asserted that there is currently an unprecedented opportunity to galvanize the Caribbean as an integral part of the “Sixth Region of Africa” made up of the African Diaspora.
“We have to unite politically and become federated states. This is the only way that we can resist the changes that are coming down and the debt slavery that we are already in,” he said, calling for elected officials and a Pan-African parliament to begin dialogue on the development of legal structures, think tanks and appropriate proposals.
“It is up to each of us, the organizations and governments to which we belong, to bring about the personal, institutional transformations necessary to move us towards our goal of economic freedom, true democracy, peace, prosperity and happiness. We are one billion people strong. . .There is no reason why we cannot make the 21st century the century of African Renaissance and accomplishment.”
Dr Garvey’s address to the inaugural reparatory justice lecture came at the invitation of Philip Smith, who co-chairs the Bahamas National Reparations Committee with College Council Chairman Alfred Sears. Both of them attended the lecture on Friday.
Long before scholars and academicians championed the cause of reparations, members of the Rastafarian community issued a clarion call for it. The community has insisted that repatriation is an essential aspect of reparation and has advanced the argument that petitioning Queen Elizabeth was only fitting given the historic legacy of the British monarchy and its direct involvement in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
In his remarks at the reparatory justice lecture, House of Rastafari Priest Philip Blyden hailed the contributions of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA.
“This year, August 1, we celebrated the centenary of the UNIA and truly speaking, there has never been another model of African reparations than that of the UNIA which is the golden standard of African reparations,” he said.
The Bahamas National Reparations Committee, The College of The Bahamas and the House of Rastafari hosted the lecture which also featured a traditional African Libation Ceremony in honour of Marcus Garvey, performed in part in the Yoruba language, and a cultural drum presentation.
The CARICOM Reparations Commission has called upon the former slave-owning nations of Europe – principally Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – to engage Caribbean governments in reparatory dialogue to address the living legacies of these crimes. According to the commission, reparatory democracy and diplomacy should focus on public health, education, cultural institutions, cultural deprivation, psychological trauma and scientific and technological backwardness.