For us, we choose to acknowledge the shortcomings of Garvey while also focusing on his organizing capabilities. This man led an organization that recruited millions of African people worldwide. The UNIA had a newspaper which was published in three languages - English, French, and Spanish - in 33 countries. And all of this happened during the 20s without the benefit of the internet. Today, so many of us have internet, email, text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whats App, Snap Chat, etc., and with all of those resources, we would have trouble getting 25 people to attend a baby shower.
Its those wonderful attributes that makes us honor Garvey and his work and we definitely can't let people who struggle to organize roaches out of their living quarters convince us to dismiss Garvey's unquestionable organizing skills. Skills which are without question desperately needed today. We possess the capacity to learn from people what will improve our work while also figuring out how to leave behind the qualities they possess which are not desirable. This is true for Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, Louis Farrakhan, you, me, and anyone else who has breathed air.
Of course, the creation of the red, black, and green flag, one of the few flags considered the identity for people of African descent wherever we live, was a contribution of Garvey and the UNIA. After observing that the European countries had histories and identities, Garvey correctly surmised that African people - colonized and oppressed - had more right and purpose for having an identity and history (as a vehicle for dismantling colonialism and establishing our national identity on the road to liberation), than anyone from Europe. So, the red, black, and green flag was created. When Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People's Party came to power as a mass, socialist, Pan-African political party in Ghana in 1957, Nkrumah made it quite clear that he saw Ghana's achievement as a step in the complete liberation of Africa. In the course of his analysis, Nkrumah rose up the mantle of Garvey's great contribution to African unity by highlighting his creation of the flag. And, although Nkrumah and others eventually added yellow to the flag to represent the Pan-African flag (red for the blood, green for the land - Africa, yellow for the gold that they stole, and black for the people), the original basis will always be Garvey's red, black, and green. This is the reason that so many flags from African countries today have variations of the those colors and/or the black star to commemorate Garvey's black star.
The reason why all of this is relevant in 2019 and beyond is because there is so much confusion within the African community today. Africans born and living within the U.S., people who haven't read one single book about Africa. People who if they have traveled outside the U.S., its been as a bourgeoisie tourist, these people are telling everyone that there is some sort of divide that needs to exist between Africans born in the U.S. and the rest of our African family. These people are so dumbfounded and confused that some of them raise up the red, black, and green flag (some of these confused people prefer to wrap themselves in the imperialist and racist U.S. flag), despite the fact it was created by an African born outside the U.S. This ill-logic shouldn't shock anyone because these are the same people who would tell you that Africans outside the U.S. haven't done anything for Africans living within the U.S. That is the most absurd statement and its only because truth and justice exist within the backward U.S. completely divorced from material reality that such stupidity can flourish. Certainly influenced by the Garvey movement, as Nkrumah's pronouncements about Garvey illustrate, the African independence movement, sky rocketed by the 5th Pan-African Congress in 1945, carried initial independence throughout the African continent. That 5th Pan African Congress, where Nkrumah worked with Amy Jacques Garvey - the widow of Garvey - where she was honored, along with W.E.B. DuBois, as the conveners of the congress, served its purpose. It made the call for mass movements and political parties and those parties carried out the independence movements in Africa like a wild fire. This is relevant to the African in the U.S. only crowd because without that 5th Pan Congress there wouldn't have been an African independence movement. And, without that African independence movement, there wouldn't have been a U.S. civil rights movement. And, without a U.S. civil rights movement there wouldn't have been a Black power movement. Without those last two movements, these African traitors attempting to forge division among our people today would never be in the positions they occupy to speak to our people in the first place. The evidence is overwhelming. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who attended Ghana's independence ceremony in person, stated numerous times that his work was widely influenced by what was happening in Africa. The founders of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton in particular, were quite clear that the Kenyan Land and Freedom movement e.g. the "Mau Mau" had much to do with inspiring them on their mission. And the impact of African revolutionaries like Nkrumah and Sekou Ture on the consciousness of people like Malcolm X, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer, Kwame Ture (his name makes that pretty obvious), formally Stokely Carmichael, greatly influences our existence within the U.S. today. Kwame Ture, of course, was born in the Caribbean, but anyone in the U.S. who doubts his outstanding contributions to both the U.S. civil rights and Black Power movements needs to be hospitalized immediately.
Clearly, there is no concrete way to separate our existence within the U.S. from the contributions and existence of our African family members outside of the U.S. If this piece has made any one point certain, its that one. Another point we have strove to make here is that Marcus Garvey and his movement had a serious impact on much of what we believe and practice today even if we don't know it e.g. those who hang up and/or wear red, black, and green without even having a clear understanding of Garvey's work. So, for those who already honor Garvey's work, please use August 17th as a reflection point to push us to work to achieve more of his vision of international African unity and justice. For those who hopefully learned something positive about Garvey here, use that information to inspire you to get involved on deeper levels so that you can reach your full potential in this work. And, most of all, let's all make a commitment to silence this nonsense about us being different types of African people based exclusively on us identifying our existence based on the colonial borders created by our enemies.