On the 17th August the NSOCA recognises the birthday of the Right Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey with a two minutes moment of silence. The NSOCA also recognises the 31st August as the International holiday for black people across the world. The Right Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s works, legacy and prophecies are far more important now in the early 21st century than any other time in the history of descendants of enslaved Africans who are domiciled in the Western hemisphere. This importance is even more emphasised by the current economic climate of recession across Europe and the rest of the world as well as the state of war in the Middle East, Africa, Ukraine and other regions of concern.
I recently read two of Mr Garvey’s writings one entitled ‘the Negroes greatest enemy’ and the other entitled the ‘Hidden Spirit of America’. Both speeches can only be described as profound, harrowing and alarming. Which has caused me and the NSOCA to consider our plight as people of culture and declaring it as a state of emergency.
I have taken extracts from both writings that drew my attention which I consider to be appropriate for today and I thought that needed to be firmly ingrained on the consciences of African Caribbeans living in the United Kingdom.
The extracts from the writings are as follows –
Looking forward a century or two, we can see an economic and political death struggle for the survival of the different race groups. Many of our present-day national centres will have become overcrowded with vast populations. The fight for bread and position will be keen and severe. The weaker and unprepared group is bound to go under.
‘The Negroes greatest enemy’ (September 1923)
We are so unprepared, we are so unprotected, that when the other race will have become independent of us, that is, economically independent- independent of Negro help in every way- when he arrives at that point, when he has a man for every job and is independent of Negro help, when he gets there- and he is getting there more and more every day- it is only a question of 60 days when the Negro problem is solved. Instead of 15,000,000 Negroes you will have 15,000,000 coffins, and epitaph will be: ‘Died from starvation’.
‘Hidden Spirit of America’ (February 1922)
The reader should note the dates when Mr Garvey wrote these two pieces of work. I consider these writings to be prophetic because they clearly describe our present day situation as a people in the United Kingdom. With the recent influx of European migration especially from Eastern Europe we have seen the increase of pressure on local services across England such as hospitals, public housing, welfare benefits, schools, the court system and the police service. I do not see these pressures being decreased at any time soon because the United Kingdom is now firmly embedded into the European Union under the power of the Maastricht treaty. Therefore European citizens from struggling economies are free to travel to the United Kingdom to apply for jobs, public housing and welfare benefits. The economic recession has caused the Government to cut back on spending in several public sectors such as education, legal aid, the criminal justice system, the police service and public housing just to name a few.
Garvey’s words are prophetic in the sense that we as people of culture in the UK are now reaping the years of our unpreparedness. We have continuously looked outside ourselves for assistance and relieved upon the hand outs given by the dominant society in the form of welfare benefits and the provision of jobs; without even planning and creating our own economy and industry. This trend of looking to others to supply our needs has now manifested itself in the worst way possible whereby today we mostly rely upon other cultures to provide us with our basic necessities such as food, hair products, skin creams, beauty cosmetics and other necessities. Our economic inertia as a group (there are roughly over 600,000 African Caribbean people in the UK according to the most recent UK census) has caused us now to be thrust into a situation whereby we are ill-prepared to not only compete with those ethnic groups within the UK that have been for several years such as the indigenous British peoples, Jews, British Asians etc. But we now are ill-prepared to compete with the new wave of thousands of migrants from Europe who in most cases are young and hungry for success, and want the same things that we as a people have taken for granted for several years in the UK. In addition to that, with the UK drawing closer economic and trading relations with China I have no doubt that the small Chinese population in the UK will inevitably increase in the not too distant future which will see a very formidable competitor arriving on these shores.
I often tell people from our culture (those who are sensible enough and willing to listen of course) to use their common sense and see what is happening around them even in their local community and they will see that our situation is increasingly worsening. The unemployment rate amongst African Caribbean men has sky-rocketed in recent years and does not look like it is coming down anytime soon. There is a severe problem with public housing and the private housing rent market especially in major cities like London. With very few new housing developments being built and those that are being built are owned by foreign venture capitalists who are looking for a good profitable return on their investments. The rent prices for new apartments across London are unaffordable for the average person and rent prices are generally overpriced. Hence the question, how can a people who have no economic base survive such harsh economic realities?
A good friend of mine from my local church (a man in his early fifties) had a discussion with me some time ago about the plight of our people in the UK and he said something which has continued to stay with me today, his words were, ‘They no longer need us for anything. If we packed our bags and left tomorrow we would not be missed’. I totally agree with him. I am under no illusions that the days when we were called upon to be the bus driver or the dutiful nurse in the NHS are now over. I am also under no illusions that if we did pack our bags and leave tomorrow the Notting Hill carnival would still carry on and so would many other things which our rich culture has brought to these isles.
So where do we stand as a people of culture?
In October 2013, I delivered an exhortation at my local church commemorating black history month, it was an exhortation about the great African American Booker T. Washington and his desire to see African Americans become more economically independent and self-reliant. The guest preacher who followed my exhortation was a pleasant, humble and distinguished man by the name of Dr. Bishop Joe Aldred, he commended me for what I said, and I will never forget one particular thing he said until the day I die. He said this, ‘you gain no respect being a beggar’.
The NSOCA recognises that we cannot continue with the failing cycle of looking to the Government for hand outs to solve all of our ailments or even relying upon other cultures to provide our necessities. We have enough of our own talent amongst us to create industries for ourselves. We need to pool our financial resources together so that we can create more established high class business chains on the British high street instead of resorting to businesses on the back streets such as menu restaurants, hairdressers and barbershops. As noble and worthy as these businesses are they cannot kick start a macrocosm economy. Large businesses create mass employment and from that you create wealth for both young and old in our community. Henceforth, with our own economy we would end the self-destructive behaviour of black on black crime overnight by providing our young people with an alternative and ultimately a far superior avenue to earn money and success. We have to think outside the box and stop using old methods that continuously fail us.
We need to take hold of our young people give them an infrastructure that keeps them working within our culture for our own advancement. Many of our young people are leaving college and university with degrees to either work for companies that neither advance our culture or just use them as ‘diversity window dressing’. At same time many of our young people leave higher education disillusioned because they end up having to work in retail or work for a supermarket chain just to make ends meet and to start paying off student loans. The NSOCA recognises that this needs to stop and we must have an infrastructure that provides opportunities for our young people to be properly professionally trained and developed for the advancement of people of Caribbean culture not only in the UK but across the world. The NSOCA has plans in the pipeline that will enable our young people to travel to places across the Caribbean, North America and Africa to be involved in research on behalf of the organisation as way of gaining not only experience in their particular field of discipline but will also to serve as a means of our culture having a more secure footing in these regions.
However, the NSOCA’s plans for our people can only be realised when people of culture in the UK wake up and realise that we are in a crisis situation. If we continue to think that everything will work itself out without us pro-actively doing something about it then we will only be preparing for one thing and that is our self-destruction. The NSOCA needs the unified support of people of Caribbean culture not only economically but especially in terms of active volunteering in your local community to secure members and to carry out the work of the NSOCA. The NSOCA needs you to help us build for today and future generations.
If we do not plan, build and support each other then we will continue the cycle of failing future generations. It was African American historian Chancellor Williams who once said in his masterpiece ‘The destruction of black civilization’ that people of African descent ‘have been so split up and preoccupied with current problems that they seem to have lost this deep concern about the future of their descendants’. As a man who is favourable to reading scriptures every now and again, Proverbs 29:18 comes to mind ‘where there is no vision the people perish’.
The NSOCA today calls upon people of culture to take up the challenge and build with us. If we as a people ignore this challenge then I have no doubt that Mr Garvey’s prophetic words will certainly come to pass but this time the epitaph will read ‘600,0000 died in the UK from self-destruction’.
Written by Anthony R. Mcken (Head of the NSOCA Legal Department)