UWI Vice Chancellor urges Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey

UWI Vice Chancellor urges Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey|UWI Vice Chancellor urges Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey
Jamaica’s first National Hero, Marcus Garvey.

Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles, has joined the global call on United States President Barack Obama to grant a posthumous pardon to Jamaica’s first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., for his 1923 mail fraud conviction in the U.S.

“Marcus Garvey was the victim of trumped-up charges orchestrated by the late J. Edgar Hoover, the famously anti-black director of the U.S.’s Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Sir Hilary in a statement on Saturday. “We are today calling on President Obama, himself the victim of racist campaigns to de-legitimize his presidency, to exonerate Garvey before he leaves office. It is the right and proper thing to do.”

Sir Hilary’s call comes in the wake of Jamaica’s National Heroes Week, the annual celebration of the country’s heroes and martyrs.

It also comes at a time when countries and communities in the Caribbean and across the world are observing the United Nations’ declared “Decade for People of African Descent.”

“Garvey’s call for the upliftment of all Caribbean citizens through education and political engagement constitutes a critical part of the ideological and philosophical currents that gave birth to the University of the West Indies almost 70 years ago,” Sir Hilary said. “UWI’s mission and mandate are manifestations of Garvey’s struggles for quality education for the masses of Caribbean peoples, for self-respect, self-determination and cultural awareness in our region.”

A global petition campaign demanding that Garvey’s federal record be expunged has generated tens of thousands of signatures. The campaign is supported by, among others, the Jamaica Government, the Caribbean Reparations Commission, the New York-based Institute of the Black World 21st Century, and by members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The campaign has intensified in the U.S., with supporters being urged to visit justice4garvey.org to sign the petition.

A letter circulated by the Jamaica Embassy in the U.S. in September noted to members of the Caribbean Diaspora that “there have been several efforts over the years” seeking Garvey’s exoneration.

The letter states that the petition is “currently also being led by the Garvey family, spearheaded by New York surgeon Dr. Julius Garvey, son of the late national hero, aimed at securing 100,000 signatures.

“It will complement efforts also being taken by political and community leaders, CARICOM Diplomatic Missions in Washington, D.C. and other community activists, etc., for exoneration by President Obama before he l office,” the letter says.

“We would be grateful if you could support this important cause by signing the petition,” it adds. “Please also encourage as many people as possible to sign by the targeted date.”

The letter further states that the signature is not limited to persons in the United States, but may be done by anyone who has access to the website.

On Sept. 6, Dr. Garvey presented his case for justice for his father to the Caribbean Community Caucus of Ambassadors and embassy staff in Washington.

The meeting, arranged by Dr. Goulda Downer, chair of the Washington-based Caribbean-American Political Action, was held at the headquarters of the Organization of American States.

During the meeting, Dr. Garvey said the group learned first-hand about the Garvey family’s campaign to seek justice for their father “through a posthumous presidential pardon and how the Caribbean, through our shared history as a region, can play a critical leadership role in this effort.

“The appeal for this pardon is on the grounds that Marcus Garvey was unjustly prosecuted,” Dr. Garvey said. “Garvey’s charges and conviction effectively ended his political movement and eventually led to his deportation to Jamaica, his country of birth. The family, 93 years later, now seeks justice for Marcus Garvey with their campaign to have his charges exonerated.”

Dr. Garvey said the Garvey’s legal team is asserting that Marcus Garvey’s conviction was “motivated by a desire on the part of the federal government to discredit, disrupt, and destroy Garvey’s civil-rights movement.”

The legal team, according to Dr. Garvey, said Marcus Garvey’s conviction was “executed through court surveillance and deception, with undercover agents posting as Garvey supporters,” and Garvey’s conviction was “aided by judicial proceedings that have been condemned as factually unsound and politically, and racially motivated.”

In addressing the pre-carnival breakfast of the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association on Sept. 5, Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke urged patrons to add their signature to the initiative.

“The evidence is clear that he was ahead of his time,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, referring to Garvey, “because, due to some folks we know who did not have the moral compass, he was deported, but he built a movement.

“I hope you’ll join me and go on line and sign this gesture,” added Clarke, who represents the Ninth Congressional District in Brooklyn.

In August, a number of Caribbean organizations in the U.S. joined the campaign to exonerate Garvey.

According to the Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies, Caribbean Diaspora organizations signing on the campaign included Caribbean Georgia; Caribbean American Advancement Foundation; Caribbean Political Action Committee; Foundation for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey; Jamaica Association of Maryland; Jamaica Nationals Association; and Rebuild Dominica.

“The campaign offers an unprecedented opportunity for engagement among civil rights actors, research and education institutions, and the Caribbean Diaspora community,” said Jamaican Dr. Claire Nelson, the group’s founder and president.

Julius Garvey said “justice can be delayed but cannot be denied,” noting that, in 1927, President Coolidge commuted Marcus Garvey’s sentence, “an act that was supported by nine of the 12 jurors who voted to convict.”

“However, the commutation still left Marcus Garvey’s conviction in place,” Dr. Garvey said.

The Institute said there have been two prior U.S. presidential posthumous pardons: Bill Clinton’s pardon of Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper and George W. Bush’s pardon of Charles Winters.

It added both were pardoned “because their wrongful convictions were racially and politically motivated.”

Garvey was a proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, inspiring the Nation of Islam and the Rastafarian movement.

According to Biography.com, Garvey advanced a Pan-African philosophy, which inspired a global mass movement, known as Garveyism.

Born on Aug. 17, 1887, in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, Garvey was an orator for the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, Biography.com said.

It said Garveyism would eventually inspire other groups and movements, including the Nation of Islam and the Rastafari movement.

Social activist Garvey was self-educated, who was dedicated to promoting African-Americans and resettlement in Africa, according to Biography.com.

It said that, in the United States, Garvey launched several businesses to promote a separate black nation.

After he was convicted of mail fraud and deported back to Jamaica, he continued his work for Black repatriation to Africa.

“The philosophy and teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garvey have long been internationally recognized for its strong and enduring influence on the independence movements in the Caribbean and Africa, on Rastafarianism and on the black liberation and Black Lives Matter Movements in North America,” Sir Hilary said.

Will President Obama pardon Marcus Garvey?
Associated Press / Susan Walsh

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