Monrovia – Michael R. Duncan, who is the 11th President General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA/ACL), has reawakened the ‘Back to Africa’ vision of the late civil rights leader, Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
UNIA-ACL is a Black Nationalist fraternal organization founded by Garvey.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Garvey travelled to Central and South America and then moved to England to continue his education.
In 1914, he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association and began speaking out publicly in favor of worldwide black unity and an end to colonialism.
The Pan-African organization enjoyed its greatest strength in the 1920s, and was influential in the United States prior to Garvey’s deportation to Jamaica in 1927.
UNIA was “unquestionably” the most influential anti-colonial organization in Jamaica prior to 1938. The organization was founded to work for the advancement of people of African ancestry around the world.
The broad mission of the UNIA/ACL led to the establishment of numerous auxiliary components, amongst them the African Legion – a paramilitary group, the African Black Cross Nurses, plus businesses such as the Black Star Steamship Line and the Negro Factories Corporation.
For almost a century, after UNIA/ACL delegation was denied from coming to Liberia by former President Charles D.B. King in 1926.
But the UNIA/ACL under the leadership of its 11th President General Michael R. Duncan for the first time held the 62nd International Convention in Liberia at the Monrovia City Hall over the weekend.
Mr. Duncan is the 10th successor to the late Garvey. He leads UNIA/ACL members from the Caribbean, Jamaica, Haiti, USA, Ghana, and Sierra Leone.
The convention was held on the 132nd birth anniversary and was in fulfillment of the long awaited dream of the late Garvey.
UNIA/ACL members – both local and foreign – paraded the principal streets of Monrovia and later attended a formal indoor program at the Monrovia City Hall, a place where one of the Garveyist Gabriel Johnson, a Potentate, once served as the City Mayor.
In the UNIA/ACL, Potentate is the highest position given to an individual born on the African continent.
The hall was full of people wearing green, red and black – colors that represent “Pan Africanism”. Also, fewer ladies being named as the Black Cross Nurses wore white suit with green, red and black sash crossing on their chest.
Speaking at the event, Duncan praised members of the James R. Stewart Division 435 of the UNIA/ACL (Liberia chapter) for their commitment to upholding the doctrines and philosophy of Garvey.
“Liberia is the right place, and we are here at the right time,” said Duncan, who is also brother of Liberia’s first lady Clar Weah.
“Moreover, Mr. Garvey intended for the base to be here (Liberia). There is no other division in the UNIA/ACL where we see these young faces.”
Duncan appealed to his members in US and other developed countries who earned more money to make some sacrifices to the struggling masses in Liberia.
He added: “We got to be our brothers’ keepers. When they are lacking we have to back them up. For me, I cannot speak for everyone but Liberia is going to be my home. Our objective now moving forward is how we are going to build this super city that Marcus Garvey dreams about. How are we going to build our Liberty Hall here in Liberia?
“Africa is for all Africans, whether home or aboard. When I walked in the street of Monrovia, I do not see a supermarket owned by a black man. I also see a construction site and I see a 100 black men and one man who do not look like us (Blackman). Is this how we are going to contribute to our continent?”
Free to Spread Garvey’ Message in Liberia
A.B. Shaifa Kromah, commonly called King Buju, the chief butler to President George Weah recalled how the UNIA/ACL had been denied from coming to Liberia by previous regimes.
“Today, we can sit on the mountain top and shout about Marcus Garvey loud because we have the greatest opportunity to go to the length and berth of this country and preach the message about Marcus Garvey. This is something that we have never done,” Kromah said.
“We must tap on this dream to make it a reality. At the next UNIA/ACL gathering in Liberia; we will mobilize our forces, and we will have more than 10,000 people in attendance because the consciousness at that time will cut across the entire country”.
Also, another Garveyist, Sammitta B. Entsua, who is the president of the James R. Stewart Division 435 (Liberia chapter), called on Africans to come together and rise up against “oppression of black people” adding that “a united force is a conquering force”.
“Our forefathers’ bloods were shared because of this cause. So, what is our own contribution? It may not happen in our lifetime that Africa will be united but what foundation we are going to set for our children to stand on and champion this very cause and that our bones will one day say Africa is now liberated,” Entsua said.