The ADOS Assault on Marcus Garvey’s Legacy and Jamaica's History
The ADOS responses to a recent tweet made by Joy Reid about Marcus Garvey are what I have come to expect from ADOS. In their typical arrogantly misinformed manner, ADOS supporters tried to claim that Jamaicans did not support Garvey.
The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) had branches all over the world, so to claim that only ADOS were “messing with” Garvey is complete ignorance. In Race First, Tony Martin demonstrated that there were 11 branches of the UNIA in Jamaica in 1926. Cuba had the most branches of the UNIA of any country outside of the United States.
This is not to say that establishing the UNIA in Jamaica was an easy task. In Garvey and Garveyism Amy Jacques Garvey wrote about the struggles her husband endured in Jamaica to establish the UNIA. She notes that he endured the same struggles in the United States as well, so it was not as though Garvey went to America and his organization took off immediately. Amy Jacques explained that “Americans could not understand why that ‘foolish foreigner’ would go hungry and stand up talking about Africa until he brought tears to the eyes of some on his sidewalk…” Garvey himself was not discouraged by these challenges because he strongly believed that unity among African people around the world was necessary and he tirelessly worked towards this cause.
Keep in mind that Garvey himself complained: “My enemies in America have done much to hold me up to public contempt and ridicule, but have failed. They believe that the only resort is to stir up national prejudice against me, in that I was not born within the borders of the United States of America.” The African American masses supported Garvey, but let us not pretend as though Garvey did not face opposition as well because he was an immigrant from Jamaica.
For some reason certain people in the ADOS movement try to misrepresent history to make it appear as though Garvey ran away from Jamaica because he received no support there, but Garvey himself never said this. Dynast Amir, a Pan-Africanist who supports ADOS, is among those who made this claim.
At 38:50 in the video above Dynast claims Garvey was run out of Jamaica. Garvey himself explained that “it was not then my intention to remain in America, but to return to Jamaica.” He then goes on to explain that the Harlem branch “requested me to become President for a time of the New York organization so as to save them from the politicians.” He consented and that was why Garvey stayed in Harlem. Amy Jacques says the same thing in her book. She says that Garvey “planned to set up branches of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities’ League under colored American leadership, and return to Jamaica to establish his trade school and black cultural center…”
What Dynast also doesn’t mention is the Pan-African movement in Jamaica existed before Garvey organized the UNIA. One of Garvey’s mentors in Jamaica was a man named Joseph Robert Love, who was from the Bahamas. Love helped to organize the Pan-African Association in Jamaica. Garvey himself felt that“ if Dr Love was alive and in robust health, you would not be attacking me, you would be attacking him…” But Dynast wants to give the impression that there was no Pan-African movement in Jamaica before Garvey and that Jamaicans did not support Garvey, but this was not the case at all. Moreover, I also want to note that Dynast mentions Martin Delany, but makes no mention of Delany’s Jamaican colleague Robert Campbell. Why is ADOS trying so hard to erase the contributions that Jamaicans have made to the Pan-African struggle?
ADOS members try to give the impression that Pan-Africanism is the sole creation of African Americans, which is why in the past I wrote an article to debunk this idea that African Americans alone are the sole pioneers of Pan-Africanism. The comments I have seen about Garvey are part of this attempt to distort history in an attempt to undermine the contributions that Caribbean people have made. What is even worse is that the writings of Garvey and Amy Jacques Garvey themselves contradict everything that ADOS supporters have been saying about Garvey.
What ADOS also won’t mention is that when Garvey was deported from the United States, the UNIA’s influenced waned there, but it remained strong in the Caribbean throughout the 1930s. After he was deported from the United States, Garvey returned to Jamaica and engaged in electoral politics. He was elected to public officer there, which was an especially impressive feat considering that the majority of the black masses in Jamaica could not vote at the time. I cover all of this history in The Life, Goals, and Accomplishments of Marcus Garvey.
The ADOS commentary about Garvey and the UNIA is interesting to me because Garvey’s movement began in the Caribbean and spread to the United States. The United States is where the UNIA achieved its greatest influence and no one is denying that African Americans played a significant role in the success of Garvey’s movement, but the lesson of the UNIA is lost on so many. The UNIA became what it did because its members placed the collective interests of African people first, but the ADOS movement is so committed to division that these people will even lie about Garvey’s history to promote their narrative.
I am not saying that ADOS is wrong for critiquing Joy Reid, but it would be more practical to engage in political critiques than “lineage” based ones. I myself am not fond of how Reid has defended things like Democrats taking money from corporate donors, so I hope readers do not try to interpret this article as a defense of Reid. Rather, it is a defense of Jamaica’s contributions to the Pan-African struggle.
My question is why is the ADOS movement misrepresenting Caribbean history? Yvette Carnell herself claimed that Black immigrants can’t speak for ADOS or walk into ADOS’ spaces, but it seems ADOS have no problem speaking for Caribbean people’s history.
I personally don’t care. Garvey became a spokesman for Black America, so I don’t believe that national identities are barriers for whom can speak for whom. The Haitian Revolution was started by a Jamaican named Dutty Boukman. The famous Trinidadian labor leader Tubal Uriah Butler was born in Grenada. Walter Rodney, the Guyanese scholar, became a very popular Black Power advocate in Jamaica — so much so that the government there deported him, which caused a riot. The political party which eventually led Chad to independence from France was founded by Gabriel Lisette, who was born in Panama. I can list so many more examples, but the point is that African people have always spoken for each other’s struggles and have been involved in each other’s struggles.
What I take issue with is that ADOS as a movement does not properly research the history and struggles of African people around the world. The movement is narrowly focused on the particular struggle of African Americans, which would not be a problem except for when ADOS supporters then try to speak about history that they do not know about. ADOS has yet to understand that a reparations movement for African Americans does not have to be based on undermining the contributions and the history of other groups of African people.
Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.