Liberia: UNIA/ACL Breaks Ground in Grand Bassa County to Build Marcus Garvey’s Liberty City
Grand Bassa County – Sammitta Entsua, president of the James R. Stewart Division 435 of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA/ACL), has praised President George Weah and his government for opening arms to their organization – something she said has enabled the group to reawaken the ‘Back to Africa’ vision of their late civil rights leader, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, 100 years after such plan was disallowed by the government of former President Charles D.B. King.
President Entsua made the commendation over the weekend at Farmington when James R. Stewart Division 435 broke grounds to build Marcus Garvey’s Liberty City. James R. Stewart Division 435 is the Liberia Division of the UNIA-ACL named in honor of James Robert Stewart who succeeded Marcus Garvey as President-General of the UNIA-ACL, and successfully relocated its headquarters to Liberia.
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.
On August 1, 1920, Gabriel Johnson, the son of Liberia’s eleventh President Hilary R.W. Johnson, and grandson of Elijah Johnson, one of the country’s founders was elected Supreme Potentate of the UNIA, a rank second only to Provisional President-General Marcus Garvey himself.
Johnson returned to Liberia to negotiate for land to build a Liberty City for the return of Africans from all around the world. In 1924 the then Chief Justice J.J. Dossen wrote a letter to the UNIA reiterating the government’s promise to cooperate fully with the UNIA’s plan.
However, two months later, former President King unexpectedly ordered all ports to refuse entry to any member of “The Garvey Movement.”
According to some experts on Liberian history, former President King’s action came right after his government signed the Firestone concession agreement. The land set aside for the UNIA became part of the million acres leased to Firestone at six cents an acre for a hundred years, compared to the dollar an acre lease agreement with the UNIA.
It is a century after the UNIA was denied entry to Liberia. However, the UNIA now has land and the group has disclosed that it is going to build Liberty City to fulfill Garvey’s legacy.
Speaking over the weekend in Grand Bassa County, the president of the James R. Stewart Division 435 of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League expressed joys that at long-last the dream of Garvey will become a reality.
All of these, Entsua says could not have been possible without the intervention of the current Liberian government through President Weah and other senior officials of government including his Chief Butler AB Shaifa Kromah who happens to be Africa’s Rastafarian Ambassador of the UNIA/ACL. Mr. Kromah is a holder of the prestigious UNIA-ACL award, “Africa Redemption Award”, in recognition of his numerous contributions mainly in cash and land to the James R. Stewart Division.
President Entsua also acknowledged the personal contributions of the Liberian president to the promotion and actualization of Garveyism.
“To our Chief Patron, there is a quote that says there is a man that destiny will produce that will show up for the people and the person who has been shown up for the black people in this part of the earth is no one else but President George Weah,” Entsua said.
According to the James R. Stewart Division 435 president, President Weah represents every black man around the globe especially during his time of his sporting career.
“Even during his days as a soccer player, he has always represented the black man. He sang for the black people. He spoke for the black, he made peace for the black people and the list goes on,” she said.
Entsau added: “Marcus Garvey said he will come back in a wheel ring. He may not exactly come back as Marcus Garvey but we will look for him in those individuals that are progressive in supporting our revolution and not reactionary. I want to say to you today that we see Marcus Garvey in President Weah.”
She also praised the Ambassador of the UNIA/ACL for purchasing the land for the UNIA and added that such a gesture will leave an indelible mark in the history of the organization.
“King Buchu (Kormah) standing in that space of black people has done nothing less but to ensure that black people have a home in Liberia.”
Giving a brief history about the UNIA, Entsua accused what she terms as imperial master of intervening in the selling of land after the negotiation in the 1920s. This, she said, is the cause of the rejection from former President King’s government.
“They thought that they can bury us but not knowing that we are seeds. In 1921 Liberia was rejected. The black people could not have their say without being televised by their imperial master.”
However, here we are today, standing right opposite the same place that we were denied in 1922. The place Firestone holds now was negotiated by the UNIA to have a base and the UNIA was rejected to the core but we are standing across the Farmington River with our flag being hung ensuring that black people have a space. I want to say that it is the point of realization that the motherland is here for the African people.
“So, to the reactionary, we are here, this is where we cannot be deported from as Garvey was deported from your country back to Jamaica. We are saying that we will not go to your space to advocate, we are here, and we will speak for our people.”
“Liberia is a space of repatriation. The place that never refuses a black man, a place that hosts every man that crosses the earth with a black skin,” Entsua said.