Julius Garvey seeks to change history on behalf of his famous father
November 12, 2016
Julius Garvey set out to change history this year. He wanted to get a posthumous pardon for his father, Marcus Garvey, before President Obama left office.
Marcus Garvey is best known for his fight to unify African-Americans by advocating for strong black communities. He cultivated those communities by building strong businesses. He's best known for founding the Black Star Line, a shipping and passenger line that advocated African-Americans to return to Africa in the 1920s.
So far, Julius hasn't faced any criticism for his attempt to pardon his father. He's glad for that. For those who might criticize his father's movement, called the Pan-African movement, he said the issue is about building strong black communities.
"Hopefully this will make people look at the justice system," Julius said. "What has changed if people are being shot down in the street?"
The University of Northern Colorado's Marcus Garvey Cultural Center calls Garvey one of the most charismatic African-American leaders before Martin Luther King Jr. Even so, Tahlia Carroll, director of the center, said she knows Garvey isn't as well-known or well-liked as King, even if an institution carries his name on a university campus.
Garvey was rougher than King in his interaction with the public, and sometimes folks see his ideas as divisive.
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"I think that sometimes we are socialized to only appreciate the efforts of folks who make us feel good," Carroll said.
Julius hopes to change that perception. He said the petition to get Garvey pardoned has about 26,000 signatures from different organizations. He said it has considerable support from the Caribbean nations and Jamaica.
Garvey was convicted of mail fraud in 1923, but many experts agree it was a bogus charge.
Evidence has since revealed the FBI did not want to see the rise of what president Calvin Coolidge called a black Messiah, said George Junne, professor of Africana studies at UNC, and the organization fished for reasons to put him away. He topped the list of 18 people the government wanted to deport.
The way Garvey handled the trial, Junne said, was his own undoing.
"He did the worst thing anybody could do," Junne said. "He was his own attorney."
The jury did not respond well to his aggressive tactics.
"The trial was going to be appealed," Junne said. "Coolidge knew if Garvey went with an actual attorney, the case wouldn't hold up."
So Coolidge made a deal with Garvey to get him out of the country. Garvey took the deal and resided in Jamaica.
Julius wants to see that conviction lifted, he said, because his father's ideas are still relevant in today's world.
"I think with the lifting of that conviction, more people would look at his work and see his solutions are still viable for African-Americans today," Julius said.
Garvey had some real things to say back in the early 1900s, and now his son wants those messages to be heard.
America needs more strong black communities and a better multicultural education, Julius said.
"(The lack of community) is a problem for today's black youth," Julius said. "They have no understanding of self. This needs to be corrected."
Kelly Ragan writes features for the Greeley Tribune. Email her at email@example.com.