Friday, March 22, 2013

Marcus Garvey and "Through Our Spectacles"

Yesterday during my presentation I did not get a chance to play a clip from on Garvey’s speeches due to time constraints, but I think this clip is important and shows how many later ideas and ideologies were adopted from Garvey. He speaks with a Jamaican accent so you might need to listen more than once, but it is a powerful speech.

Garvey was in many ways a black supremacist as he thought Africans had a higher dignity throughout history, but unlike other nationalist leaders around his time Garvey was not as concerned with a violent acts against other groups, and rather sought to unite and uplift black people of the world. He says in the speech that it is human to see God through ones own spectacles, claiming that whites see a white god through their spectacles, but now blacks must see their god.
since white people have seen their God through white spectacles, we have only now started out (late though it be) to see our God through our own spectacles. The God of Isaac and the God of Jacob let him exist for the race that believe in the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. We Negroes believe in the God of Ethiopia, the everlasting God -- God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, the one God of all ages. That is the God in whom we believe, but we shall worship him through the spectacles of Ethiopia.”

Two of the most important themes of Black Nationalism, Self- Definition and Self-Determination were the main ideas of Garvey.

Long before the black power movement, Garvey proclaimed that Black is Beautiful.
"I do not speak carelessly or recklessly but with a definite object of helping the people, especially those of my race, to know, to understand, and to realize themselves."
The idea of looking through black spectacles can be seen throughout the Black Arts Movement. Garvey was often critical of the Harlem Renaissance and thought that black artists and writers must not create art under the direction of the white man. Instead he encouraged black authors who have character, who are loyal to their race, who feel proud to be black…”
This is not to say that Garvey disregarded the art that came out of the Harlem Renaissance, there certainly were some examples of this pride and loyalty being displayed, but the Black Arts Movement was the pinnacle of a Black Aesthetic that was so important to Garvey. Amiri Baraka’s works we have been going over in class are a good example of the influence of Garvey’s ideology

But I am curious what the class thinks….
What do you think of Garvey’s speech? Does any part in particular to stand out to you? How important do you think Garvey’s influence on the Black Arts Movement was?

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed listening to this speech, in part because I like to hear different speeches from black leaders from different parts of the world at different time periods. It undoubtedly also made me think about Malcolm X, and the influence Garvey had on his parents and even on Malcolm as well. Two phrases that resonated with me after hearing this speech are the "United States of Africa" and "Africa is not dead, just sleeping". His phrase the United States of Africa immediately made me think of the term, "United States of America", and in turn, I thought about the methods and urgency that American revolutionaries had in their quest for an American state. While not the same in setting, background, or justifications, the end goal of Garvey and the revolutionaries are close to one another. Yet, Garvey, as you pointed out Matthew, was seen as "the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race in America and in the world" by W.E.B. duBois. duBois' accusation still forces me to question if his accusation is true. I want to lean to the side of "no" because ultimately, I would not call Garvey an "enemy" because to be an "enemy of the Negro race" I would say (or in my opinion) is to not question and act against a status quo that oppresses black people so wrongfully.
    When he chooses to call Africa sleeping, and not dead, he places an image in my head of a human being or an animal sleeping, and soon, they wake up and they perform an action. At this time period and long before as well, Europeans viewed Africa as a place to conquer and explore. It had no spirit. Europeans viewed it as an old, dead melting pot of civilizations. Garvey's redirection of word choice is very smart in my opinion, and it reveals to me his desire to wake up Africa and make it come alive by having its descendants come back and renew the multiethnic civilizations.
    While I can't really judge how much Garvey had an influence on the Black Arts Movement, I wouldn't be surprised if Baraka credited Garvey for helping him to formulate his views. Both Garvey and Baraka were black men who strongly advocated for Black creations, Black determinism, and Black power.


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