Friday, November 30, 2012

Multiculturalism in Context - Summary and Reaction to Marcus Garvey's Madison Garden Speech

SUMMARY: Marcus Garvey's speech at Madison Garden begins as a preamble, drawing attention to the vast African population of "six million people" who must unite as a nation in Africa. Garvey gives the movement meaning by placing it in cultural context: he mentions that through the world "we hear the cry of Ireland for the Irish  Palestine for the Jew, Egypt for the Egyptian, Asia for the Asiatic, and thus we Negroes raise the cry of Africa for the Africans, those at home and those abroad." His speech reverberates what he feels is true, that all men should be free, "free to work out their own salvation. Free to create their own destinies." Garvey also lays out the limits of his vision and qualm fears of whites telling the audience that "We are not asking the white man to turn Europe and America over to us" and stating that he seeks a "peaceful, prosperous and progressive" race for all people. From here Garvey talks about distinct racial group idealism; that no man is good enough to govern another man, of any race. Garvey also invokes religious rhetoric by quoting biblical such as "though shalt not kill" taking a contextually common sense approach to the audience. Garvey attacks race superiority both at an intellectual level and with philosophical and moral argument of no exclusivity; to Garvey the world is a place created by "our Heavenly Father" for "our common disposal", a "property of all mankind" (p 120). From here Garvey talks about the degradation of culture upon people that are enslaved  "We cannot sing, we cannot play on our harps, for our hearts are sad." (p121) This is a setup for him to introduce his project the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a "friendly co-operation with all honest movements seeking intelligently to solve the race problem." From here Garvey moves to the rhetoric behind moving to Africa by saying "it will be our only hope of permanent existence." He also believed that this would allow "white and black" to "learn to respect each other when they cease to be active competitors in the same country" creating an "atmosphere of our own". Garvey calls for "fair play" through this speech and finishes with a warning; that "colored intellectuals" can be use his training to be "A seeker after the easiest and best by following the line of least resistance."

RESPONSE: Garvey's speech reveals much about his rhetoric and about the cultural context of the time. When Garvey says those famous words of "cry of Africa for the Africans, those at home and abroad" some people did not understand what he meant, DuBois being one of them, who said "America stopped, America listened, and America laughed." (Marcus Garvey video) After his speech his views could not be clearer: Garvey was seeking an African nation for Africans because none exist. When considering the Berlin Conference and placing Africans in historical context I began to see more clearly; there are no modern African armies, governments or societies (that are not steeped in poverty). Besides this he had other progressive ideas that are revealed through his speech.
          Garvey believed not only in freedom of religion but freedom from religion when he says "all men should be free-free to work out their own salvation. Free to create their own destinies." (p118, Garvey Handout). Another example of religious progression is found in the Garvey video that shows transgressive ideas such as a black baby Jesus (which is also more historically accurate, even compared to the text of the Judea-Christian Bible), hinting at Garvey's acceptance of faith (or lack of it).
          Some of Garvey's more transgressive views stem from his reluctance to embrace multiculturalism which can be noted in his speech. There is a sense that he feels certain races belong to certain cultures and he believed in pan-Africanism and black nationalism, that cultures are different among races (Garvey Video). It's interesting to compare the actions of someone like Garvey and Anders Breivik, who killed almost 100 unarmed people in his fight against multiculturalism while Garvey setup newspapers and aid. It's clear that even when compared to modern figures that Garvey was not a violent threat, even though he wanted an army. The army, the business economy and the speech all attempt to bring a "permanent existence  for Africans. One thing feels for sure, that Garvey had the charisma to be a leader in such an existence.

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