Black ExperienceBlack History

Walking in the Footsteps of Marcus Garvey

In the 1920s, the United States, Britain, and France pressured the Liberian government to renege on a deal that would’ve allocated several acres of land to the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Black repatriates returning to the Motherland. Not long after, Garvey would be convicted of mail fraud and deported to his native Jamaica.

Nearly a century later, Garvey’s legacy has even more relevance to those who call themselves Garveyites, including this American-born Liberian who reconciled the complexity of his Black African identity not too long ago.

That journey continued last summer when I learned that Garvey had his eye on Cape Palmas, my father’s birthplace, as the ideal base for his Back-to-Africa movement. That discovery, made during a conference, further confirmed my calling as a grassroots journalist to represent the Black African nation — the millions of working-class Black people of African descent around the world who lack direct control over their land and political, economic, and social affairs.

While I had Pan-African leanings, my life fully transformed in 2015 when I read “The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey” during daily morning commutes to a left-leaning media organization where I worked as a health reporter. In October of that year, I quit that job to focus on my budding grassroots news organization The AllEyesOnDC Show, having accepted that Black journalists cannot tell the whole truth about the Black African experience under the auspices of white editors.

Fifteen months prior, I left The Informer, where I learned the basics of grassroots journalism from the late, great Denise W. Barnes, to pursue this new opportunity. In my naiveté, I sought a full-time journalism job, my first out of graduate school, that would take me outside of Black news industry circles. However, just as had been the case in graduate school and at internships at major media organizations, navigating non-Black media spaces became an exercise in repressing my passion for Black people and culture.

As hard as I tried to coexist with white liberal coworkers and colleagues of color with similar sentiments, I just couldn’t ignore the lack of intimacy with which editors tackled my news pitches. Despite those hurdles, the final products, oftentimes about police-involved shootings, food deserts, the trauma of neighborhood violence, lead exposure, apprehensions about vaccines, and other racially relevant topics I tackled as a health reporter, had a Pan-African flair and included the voices of everyday people.

But as Garvey wisely articulated in “Philosophy and Opinions,” the good fight couldn’t continue on the enemy’s court, even if those white colleagues had come to respect my unique perspective.

Since leaving that job, I’ve carried on the legacy of Garvey and the Negro World newspaper with live news events at We Act Radio in Southeast, and Sankofa Video Books & Cafe in Northwest. Last year, I returned to The Informer as a politics and education reporter. As we quickly approach the four-year anniversary of The AllEyesOnDC Show in April, I can’t think of a situation that would make me any happier.

While other influences pushed me in this direction, Mr. Garvey’s timeless words definitely inspired a sudden, but well-thought-out, career move that allowed me to truly embody my spirit as an African living in the Babylon system. For that, I am eternally grateful. Race first!

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