In the name of the father?


A recent trip to Birmingham by Dr Julius Garvey, son of Marcus Garvey has been hot topic of conversation in the Black community, although not for the reasons that the organisers has hoped.




Unite as a people

In October, Dr Julius Garvey, who is based in New York, visited the UK for a speaking tour. He came to Birmingham and spoke at the University of Birmingham, the Drum and also the New Testament Church of God. OBU managed to get an interview with Dr Garvey where he talked about the pressures of being Marcus Garvey’s son growing up. He also spoke of the continuing neo-colonialism in African and the Caribbean and argued that we have to ‘unite as a people around that fact that we are African people, we have a unique history, unique culture and unique beliefs’. His talk at the University was generally well received but controversy was soon to follow based his choice of wife.


White wife

Julius Garvey was thrown out of the Universal Negro Improvement Association because he married a White woman. As anyone familiar with his father’s work, Garvey was totally against mixing with different groups and saw it as ‘race suicide’. He said ‘for a Negro man to marry someone who does not look like his mother or is not a part of his race is an insult to his mother, nature and God, who made his father’. ‘Africa for the Africans’ was a cry for the unity of Black people and for Garvey that unity was put in danger by marrying outside of the Black community. The decision of his son Julius to marry a White woman has been seen by some as a rejection of his father’s legacy and ultimately a betrayal. This all came to a head at an event in Birmingham where Julius Garvey was repeatedly questioned about his White wife and ended up being extremely rude to a young lady.


Caribbean legacy

Julius Garvey is settled in New York and America has its own legacy of Black activism, connected into the Civil Rights struggle. His father is not as prominent a figure in that tradition so Julius may have been surprised by the strong connection to Garveyism he found in Britain. Marcus Garvey is a one of Jamaica’s heroes and the large Caribbean descended community in the UK means that Garveyism has a much stronger legacy over here, particularly with the roots of Rastafari in the country. Whether or not we agree with Garveyism’s absolute rejection of race mixing, we certainly understand that for Marcus Garvey having a White wife was seen as unacceptable. Therefore Julius Garvey’s speaking tour was always likely to end in controversy because of the White wife issue. A lesson in future would be that if you come in the name of the father, you must make sure to represent him and his life’s work.

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