The Awakened Man. 10 Lessons From Old Marcus Garvey

The first time I heard the name Marcus, was in the lyrics of a Burning Spear song in high school from my two natty dread friends. They hailed Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and Burning Spear as demigods, gifts to mankind and invariably we all became converts of roots and conscious reggae music.  They had one mixed tape, that they played over again and it served as my introduction to the reggae elders.

On slow Saturday nights, usually past 11, when everyone was broke and bored out of their minds, they sneaked in a battery power cassette player and entertained the massive. The musical offering was lean and as sure as the sun would set, they would play two iconic songs from Burning Spear and Bob Marley on repeat. The volume was never loud, so as not to attract the attention of nosy teachers and envious prefects but on those silent nights, when half the dorm was asleep, it was seductive.

As soon as the trumpets sounded at the start of the song, Old Marcus Garvey, we would anticipate the gruff voice of Burning Spear, ready to join in chorus…

No one remember, old Marcus Garvey
No one remember, old Marcus Garveeey


Followed by the acoustic spiritual guitar that opens up the Bob Marley classic, Redemption song that held us in a trance as we waited for the lines…

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, because None but ourselves can free our minds

How long shall they kill our prophets, while we sit aside and look, ooh!

Many years later in college, I would discover that Bob Marley had extracted those lines from a speech given by Marcus Garvey and that set me off in search of the teachings of this man that Peter Tosh described as Moses, the Prophet.

Remember Marcus Mosiah Garvey
Him no dead
That man no dead…
That man a trod earth still [3x]
Watching his prophecy fulfilled

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was the father of Black Nationalism and the Pan Africanism movement. He was the inspirational figure behind the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica, the Nation of Islam and the early civil rights movement in America.


Marcus was original black revolutionary and his teachings and philosophies would live on through his extensive writings and speeches and the millions who drew inspiration from his life journey.

Marcus was born on 17th August 1887 in St Ann’s bay, Jamaica as the last born in a family of 11 children. He moved from Jamaica to the United States in the early 1920s where he founded the largest mass movement in African-American history, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). At its height, UNIA established 700 branches in 38 states and boasted a membership of 4 million strong.

Garvey preached Black Nationalism, black economic reliance, rights to self-determination and advanced a Pan African ideology at a time when people of African descent were deeply subjugated under the yoke of racism.

His teachings became the gravitas behind significant African liberation movements in Africa and the Americas in the 20th century. He passed on the 10th June, 1940.


At the end of this article are a series of links that delve into Marcus Garvey’s legacy for those who seek a deeper understanding of his life story and contribution to humanity.

This blog remembers Marcus Garvey on his birth date 17th August and celebrates the “Black Moses” for his life long effort in raising African consciousness and releasing millions from the psychological bondage of racial inferiority.

Here are 10 timeless lessons extracted from “The Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey”, a collection of speeches and articles, delivered and written by Marcus Garvey in the 1920s edited by Amy Jacques-Garvey. They hold true today as they did nearly a century ago.

  1. On Christianity

A form of religion practiced by the millions, but as misunderstood, and unreal to the majority as gravitation is to the untutored savage.

We profess to live in the atmosphere of Christianity, yet our acts are as barbarous as if we never knew Christ. He taught us to love, yet we hate; to forgive, yet we revenge; to be merciful, yet we condemn and punish, and still we are Christians.

I am not one of those Christians who believe that the Bible can solve all the problems of humanity.

If hell is what we are taught it is, then there will be more Christians there than days in all creation.

To be a true Christian one must be like Christ and practice Christianity, not as the Bishop does, but as he says, for if our lives were to be patterned after the other fellow’s all of us, Bishop, Priest and Layman would ultimately meet around the furnace of hell, and none of us, because of our sins, would see salvation.


History is the landmark by which we are directed into the true course of life


  1. On Africa

Let Africa be our guiding star: our star of destiny.

So many of us find excuses to get out of the Negro race, because we are led to believe that the race is unworthy, and that it has not accomplished anything. Cowards that we are! It is we who are unworthy, because we are not contributing to the uplift and up-building of this noble race.

How dare anyone tell us that Africa cannot be redeemed, when we have 400,000,000 men and women with warm blood coursing through their veins? The power that holds Africa is not divine.

No race in the world is so just as to give others, for the asking, a square deal in things economic, political and social.

The power that holds Africa is human, and it is recognized that whatsoever man has done, man can do.


  1. On African Renaissance

We of the Negro race are moving from one state of organization to another, and we shall so continue until we have thoroughly lifted ourselves into the organization of government.

Be as proud of your race today as our fathers were in the days of yore. We have a beautiful history, and we shall create another in the future that will astonish the world.

The whole world is run on bluff. No race, no nation, no man has any divine right to take advantage of others. Why allow the other fellow to bluff you?

There is always a turning point in the destiny of every race, every nation, of all peoples, and we have come now to the turning point of the Negro, where we have changed from the old cringing weakling, and transformed into full-grown men, demanding our portion as men

No one knows when the hour of Africa’s redemption cometh. It is in the wind. It is coming. One day, like a storm, it will be here. When that day comes all Africa will stand together.


Do not remove the kinks from your hair, remove them from your brain


  1. On Propaganda

We are living in a civilization that is highly developed. We are living in a world that is scientifically arranged in which everything done by those who control is done through system; proper arrangement, proper organization, and among some of the organized methods used to control the world is the thing known and called “propaganda.”

Propaganda has done more to defeat the good intentions of races and nations than even open warfare.

Propaganda is a method or medium used by organized peoples to convert others against their will.

We of the Negro race are suffering more than any other race in the world from propaganda—

Propaganda to destroy our hopes, our ambitions and our confidence in self.


  1. On True Education

To be learned in all that is worthwhile knowing. Not to be crammed with the subject matter of the book or the philosophy of the class room, but to store away in your head such facts as you need for the daily application of life, so that you may the better in all things understand your fellowmen, and interpret your relationship to your Creator.

You can be educated in soul, vision and feeling, as well as in mind. To see your enemy and know him is a part of the complete education of man; to spiritually regulate one’s self is another form of the higher education that fits man for a nobler place in life, and still, to approach your brother by the feeling of your own humanity, is an education that softens the ills of the world and makes us kind indeed.

Many a man was educated outside the school room. It is something you let out, not completely take in. You are part of it, for it is natural; it is dormant simply because you will not develop it, but God creates every man with it knowingly or unknowingly to him who possesses it, that’s the difference.

Develop yours and you become as great and full of knowledge as the other fellow without even entering the class room.


Intelligence rules the world, ignorance carries the burden


  1. On Radicalization

“Radical” is a label that is always applied to people who are endeavoring to get freedom. Jesus Christ was the greatest radical the world ever saw. He came and saw a world of sin and his program was to inspire it with spiritual feeling. He was therefore a radical.

George Washington was dubbed a radical when he took up his sword to fight his way to liberty in America one hundred and forty years ago.

All men who call themselves reformers are perforce radicals. They cannot be anything else, because they are revolting against the conditions that exist.

Conditions as they exist reveal a conservative state, and if you desire to change these conditions you must be a radical.

I am, therefore, satisfied to be the same kind of radical, if through radicalism I can Free Africa.


  1. On Power

Power is the only argument that satisfies man.

Except the individual, the race or the nation has POWER that is exclusive; it means that that individual, race or nation will be bound by the will of the other who possesses this great qualification.

It is the physical and pugilistic power of Harry Wills that makes white men afraid to fight him.

It was the industrial and scientific power of the Teutonic race that kept it for years as dictator of the economic and scientific policies of Europe.

It is the naval and political power of Great Britain that keeps her mistress of the seas.

It is the commercial and financial power of the United States of America that makes her the greatest banker in the world. Hence it is advisable for the Negro to get power of every kind.

Power in education, science, industry, politics and higher government. That kind of power that will stand out signally, so that other races and nations can see, and if they will not see, then feel.

Man is not satisfied or moved by prayers or petitions, but every man is moved by that power of authority which forces him to do even against his will.


A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots


  1. The Destiny of the Black Man

Man is the individual who is able to shape his own character, master his own will, direct his own life and shape his own ends.

When God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life, he made him a living soul, and bestowed upon him the authority of “Lord of Creation,” He never intended that that individual should descend to the level of a peon, a serf, or a slave, but that he should be always man in the fullest possession of his senses, and with the truest knowledge of himself.

But how changed has man become since creation?”

We find him today divided into different classes—the helpless imbecile, the dependent slave, the servant and the master. These different classes God never created. He created man. But this individual has so retrograded, as to make it impossible to find him— a real man.

As far as the Negro race is concerned, we can find but few real men to measure up to the higher purpose of the creation, and because of this lack of manhood in the race, we have stagnated for centuries and now find ourselves at the foot of the great human ladder.


  1. Purpose of Creation

The man or woman who has no confidence in self is an unfortunate being, and is really a misfit in creation.

God Almighty created each and every one of us for a place in the world, and for the least of us to think that we were created only to be what we are and not what we can make ourselves is to impute an improper motive to the Creator for creating us.

God Almighty created us all to be free. That the Negro race became a race of slaves was not the fault of God Almighty, the Divine Master, it was the fault of the race.

Sloth, neglect, indifference caused us to be slaves. Confidence, conviction, action will cause us to be free men today.


  1. On Death

Death is the end of all life in the individual or the thing; if physical, the crumbling of the body into dust from whence it came.

He, who lives not uprightly, dies completely in the crumbling of the physical body, but he who lives well, transforms himself from that which is mortal, to immortal.


The greatest possession of man is character


Links on Marcus Garvey


Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan newspaper columnist. The blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.

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