Wed | May 31, 2023

Gordon Robinson | Mental slavery is alive and well

Published:Sunday | March 19, 2023 | 12:54 AM

Marcus Mosiah Garvey
Marcus Mosiah Garvey

So far (time of writing Wednesday) the Budget debate’s main feature was an unattractive contest for best Garveyite.

Nigel Clarke started it. He produced a theatrical performance suggesting JLP loves Garvey/Garveyism more than PNP. Apparently, this was accomplished by putting Garvey’s likeness on a $100 bill.


His opening salvo:

“Most of all I’m most pleased that the man who inspired an entire diaspora of Africans, across oceans and continents; who awoke the consciousness of Jamaicans and instilled pride, belief and confidence; whose words resonate and guide today as much as 100 years ago…the man, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a National Hero who doesn’t appear on our banknotes today, is being restored to his rightful place on our upgraded $100 banknote.”

“Most of all” Nigel? Really? Seriously?

Most of all, Nigel, we the people want to know what’s in this trillion dollar budget for us. Most of all, Nigel, we want some acknowledgement, from Government, that we’ve been forced to find and pay Government $80 billion more than projected a year ago and we want value for that over-payment or our money back!

“Value” doesn’t include grand, political campaign announcements of projects not yet out of design stage and “projected” to finish years in the future. Cornwall Regional’s refurbishing” was “projected’ to finish March 2018!

We the people are glad Nigel knows Garvey is Jamaica’s first National Hero. After that, how is putting his face on a $100 bill that could soon be as obsolete as the $2 bill, restoring him “to his rightful place”? Garvey is ALREADY in his rightful place. This tomfoolery is mere political puffery and, demeans the great man.

Mark Golding’s response was spot on. The only way to further honour a National Hero is to keep his memory alive by teaching his life and philosophy to future generations in school curricula.

Nigel, sounding more like political panderer than Finance Minister, continued:

“Garvey is well known for his promotion of Black nationalism and Black consciousness but his legacy is much, much broader. For one, Garvey believed….and advocated for ordinary men and women to embrace and employ the tools and methods of the powerful to empower themselves and achieve their goals.”

Mebbe. But Garvey’s goals were NOT the Oppressor’s goals. Garvey urged followers to use those tools against the Oppressor. Malcolm X did much the same. Neither was capitalist. Both were segregationists at heart. Nigel doesn’t seem to have grasped the distinction between philosophy (capitalism) and strategy (economic). He said:

“[Garvey] understood the value of private enterprise and the critical role of capital, and he demonstrated an entrepreneurial risk-taking work ethic. 100 years ago, he sought to raise capital on the New York Stock Exchange for the Black Star Liner.

I want you to think about that for a moment.”

Ok, let’s.

At 27, Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Society (UNIA). He was a Black Nationalist and Pan Africanist who believed blacks should repatriate to Africa and leave the White man far behind. To that end he was prepared to take any risk.

Blackpast.0rg, 2014 ( Black Star Line 1919-1923 by Hannah Foster):

“Black Star Line (BSL) was a steamship corporation established in 1919 by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey…. BSL was part of a larger effort to encourage black self-determination and economic independence. Garvey saw that blacks across the globe were largely exploited and left out of the global economy. BSL would partly remedy that situation by facilitating shipment of goods among far-flung people of the African Diaspora, thereby fostering the growth of a self-reliant and resilient global black economy. BSL would also transport emigrants to Africa for the establishment of a black nation-state.

Garvey started to solicit funds for [BSL] from UNIA members at meetings in 1919 and soon raised enough money to establish the corporation. BSL shares sold for $5 which allowed blacks of modest means to own a piece of UNIA’s largest economic venture. Between 1919 and 1920 alone UNIA raised $800,000 and in the same year purchased BSL’s first ship….”

New York Stock Exchange? Wrong jungle! Maybe NYSE was the conduit for the share offer but the money was raised from UNIA members who, just a month after incorporation, numbered two million and eventually created 1,100 Chapters in 40 countries. Garvey needed funding but, like Malcolm, firmly believed blacks should build their own economy not support the white man’s economy.

A visit to will also help educate our leaders to educate us about Garvey. Garvey’s “entrepreneurship” was for one purpose namely to fund segregation of blacks from the white man’s racist economy.

The white man’s system, led by the despicable J. Edgar Hoover, fought against Garvey (as it did against Malcolm and Martin) with every available tool including trumped up mail fraud charges that no Jamaican Government is yet to effectively or even enthusiastically contest.

But no worries. We’re putting Garvey’s face on the $100 bill.

Or, as Nigel said:

“…we are pleased to restore Marcus Mosiah Garvey to a centrestage position on our banknotes.”

Well, whoop-di-doo!

If a photo on a $100 banknote is centre stage who needs National Heroes?

Mark and I are together on this black consciousness thingy. We must instil national pride (very contiguous to black pride) in our children. The current education system can’t accommodate this crucial mission. We need radical education transformation. It’s not about Garvey alone although teaching his philosophy must take “centre stage” in any future curriculum.

How many know the history of the name Sabina Park? An interesting column in the Trinidad Express (published September 2022) by Vaneisa Baksh recorded: “Sabina Park…was an enslaved woman who took the life of her four-month-old son. At her trial in Half-Way-Tree court, she admitted to the infanticide. The Crown witness relayed her complaint that ‘she had worked hard enough for ‘Backra Massa’ already and she wouldn’t be plagued to raise the work for white people’….

“She was found guilty of murder, hanged, and her remains buried in the place that bore her name Sabina Park Pen.”

Vaneisa quotes many credible sources including veteran Jamaican journalist Calvin G. Brown (runs Caribbean online publication In a February 3 article, Calvin quotes Orlando Patterson (who chronicles Sabina Park’s origin in The Sociology of Slavery, 1969) who described slavery as “protracted genocide”.

Why do we still gloss over slavery’s truth and consequence? Sabina Park Pen was the site of Rosemount Great House – a 30 acres estate. Vaneisa quotes legendary cricket commentator Joseph “Reds” Perriera as her source that Bourda was named after a liberal Englishman estate owner; St Vincent’s Arnos Vale was an arrowroot estate; Queen’s Parks in Trini¬dad and Grenada were named after the British Monarch.

Here’s one for our American friends. I’ve told the joke before about the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding west, east and north but encountering Indian warrior tribes blocking each path. Every time the Lone Ranger suggested a change of course, Tonto dutifully replied “Yes, Kemo Sabay.” When their final option was blocked by angry Apaches, The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says “Looks like we’re done for, Tonto.”

Tonto replies drily “WE, white man?”

Many cowboy heroes (and anti-heroes) were real people. The original Lone Ranger is credibly believed to have been a black man named Bass Reeves. Reeves was born a slave; escaped (probably during the Civil War); lived with Indians; and eventually became the Deep South’s first Black Deputy. As a US Marshall [thus “The Lone (Black) Ranger”], he allegedly made 3000+ arrests, often surviving gun battles and killing many fugitives in self-defense.

Naturally, America “whitewashed” the character as soon as possible.

Children need to learn from Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and Sabina Park’s fight against slavery’s protracted sequelae that you don’t “get over” slavery by “moving on”. Slavery’s philosophy, creating chattel of humans, drove Garvey to strategies that brought financial ruin and Malcolm X to the philosophy and policy he proclaimed in 1965 “We declare our right on this earth to be a man; to be a human being; to be respected as a human being; to be given the rights of a human being in this society; on this earth; in this day; which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”

Slavery’s protracted sequelae also drove Mandela (initially) to violent insurrection and Sabina Park to infanticide.

Abuse of Garvey’s name to glorify politicians’ pictures on more valuable banknotes than those bearing a National Hero’s means mental slavery is alive and well. Slavery won’t be erased from generational mindset until we learn everything about it (good, bad and ugly). Only then will we understand what drives some irrational behaviour and how to redirect those forces towards production rather than destruction.

Banknotes? Schmanknotes!

Peace and Love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to