The message is: “Exonerate Marcus Garvey!” The University of the West Indies (The UWI), through its P.J. Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy and Centre for Reparation Research has joined the global campaign calling for US President, Joe Biden to exonerate the Jamaican-born, Black nationalist, leader of the Pan-Africanism movement and freedom fighter, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. In a public show of support, on Wednesday, February 16, the regional university hosted a Vice-Chancellor’s Forum, aimed at engaging persons across the world to join the Justice4Garvey campaign led by Marcus Garvey’s son, Dr. Julius Garvey. The campaign aims to garner 100,000 supporters to petition the US President to respond.
During the hybrid forum, Dr. Julius Garvey thanked The UWI for supporting the Justice4Garvey campaign. He shared, “We’ve been at this for a very long time and we have accumulated significant legal evidence that there was no crime committed. There was a Motion to Reconsider (“MTR”), there was an empty envelope, there was perjury, etc., but my father spent three years in jail and his movement and his career were somewhat blunted by what J. Edgar Hoover, the Justice Department, and the FBI in the United States did. It has stood as an injustice for 100 years.”
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, who in 2016, also publicly called on President Obama to exonerate Garvey before he demitted office, shared some historical context to The UWI’s involvement in the campaign. He explained, “At the dawn of the 20th century, Garvey led the largest democratic movement in the world. For his commitment to humanity, he was persecuted and prosecuted. He was convicted on the basis of fabricated evidence and he was a victimised freedom fighter and convicted within that context of fabrication. Our University of the West Indies emerged against a background, and within the context of his struggle.”
Vice-Chancellor Beckles added, “He called for an institute of higher learning in the Caribbean, in our West Indies, in the 1920s and while he called for an institution of higher learning, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Lloyd George famously stated that the West Indies is the slump of the British Empire. Garvey gave hope to the slum; the slum dwellers of the Caribbean, our hemisphere, and the world. Our University came into being 20 years later, but we are an academy dedicated to social justice, social justice for all. We are honoured, therefore, to join forces with the world, the Marcus Garvey Institute, the peace, and justice-loving people of the world to call upon the government of the United States to exonerate our Garvey and that justice is meted out to him.”
Moderator of the Forum, Professor Verene Shepherd, who serves as Director of The Centre for Reparation Research noted, “In a month that we variously call Black History Month, African History Month, African American History Month, we are here to bring a new attention to this injustice against this Jamaican born activist, who had a decisive impact on the struggle for racial equality and civil rights in the United States and Europe, and who was involved in the decolonisation of Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.”
In his remarks, the Most Hon. P. J. Patterson, ON, OCC, PC, QC, Statesman in Residence, The UWI and Director, The P.J. Patterson Centre for Africa-Caribbean Advocacy stated, “The petition for Garvey’s posthumous exoneration should not be confined to persons of African ancestry; it deserves [action from] every man and woman in every continent and island who loves justice and equality under the law. It is more than 100 years ago since this manifest act of injustice was perpetrated on Marcus Mosiah Garvey; a man whose only conviction was to ‘get up, stand up, stand up for your rights’.”
In addition to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, and The Most Hon. P. J. Patterson, featured speakers at the Forum included, Professor Rupert Lewis, Professor Emeritus at The UWI as well as endorsing feature messages from The Honourable Olivia Grange, CD, MP, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Jamaica; HH Paul J. Eganda, Global Chief of Embo Kingdom, Ambassador Dr. June Soomer, Diplomat and Chair, The UWI Open Campus Council, and Consul-General for Jamaica in New York, Alision Wilson, among others.