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June 7, 2023
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7 things you would have learned

7 Things You Would Have Learned if you read “Message to the People” by Marcus Garvey

“In your desire to accomplish greatness, you must first decide in your mind in what direction you desire to seek that greatness, and when you have so decided in your own mind, work unceasingly towards it.” ~Marcus Garvey

May I tell you a story? Yes?

Marcus Garvey was my first hero.

I have two beautiful memories of my primary education, at Holy Family Primary school, in Kingston, Jamaica. I loved it when we use to line up in the mornings and do our pledge, which went: “Labor for learning before you grow old because learning is better than silver and gold. Silver and gold may vanish away, but a good education would never decay.” This pledge made such an impression on me that you will never find any silver or gold jewelry in my home. My books are my jewelry.

My other memory was the day I learned of the National Heroes of Jamaica. I was around 8 years old. I could not wait to get home, after school, to tell my mother all about what I had learned. I ran all the way home, about 2 1/2 miles, without waiting for the bus. But for my little legs, it felt like 10 miles. I was so excited. When I got home, my mother was in the kitchen. I screamed, “Mummy, Mummy, guess what they taught us today at school?” I did not wait for her to ask. “Mummy, they taught us about the national heroes of Jamaica, about Marcus Garvey, Nanny of the Maroons, Paul Bogle, Sam Sharpe, Bustamante, George William Gordon and Norman Manley. And Mummy, Mummy, do you know who I love the most, Mummy? I LOVE MARCUS GARVEY!My mother looked at me and dryly replied, “Him! Him was my grandmother’s cousin. Him was a thief. Him tek weh the people dem money bout him a make ship, fi him back to Africa foolishness!” My little heart shattered into a million shards of glass!

In my family we had cousins who were legendary for their slippery fingers, so I believed what my mother said about Garvey being a thief. I had a cousin who was so good at stealing that it was said of him, that he could steal the milk out of coffee. As a child, I use to “sit down and consider” for days on end, trying to figure out how someone could steal milk out of coffee. Eventually, after busting my childhood brains, and finding it difficult to know how someone could steal the milk out of the coffee, I decided that it meant the person was a very good thief.

It was not until I came to London and came across the books written by Tony Martin, that I truly understood the corrosive nature of racism. The destroyers were so good at destroying us, that they could destroy a man so completely that even in his own family they believed the worst about him. I read every book written by Tony Martin and went to listen to him speak when he came to London in July 2000. He signed The Jewish Onslaught and Race First for me. Over the years, I lost that copy of Race First, and had to purchase a new one. I then went on to read every book I could find on Marcus Garvey (apart from the stupidly titled book, Negro with a Hat). After satisfying myself that Marcus Garvey was one of the greatest men that ever lived. After knowing that my mother was completely and utterly wrong about him. After healing my 8-year old heart, I phoned my great-aunt and asked if it was true that her mother, was Marcus Garvey’s cousin. She told me, Yes. My great-grandmother came from St. Anns. She was Garvey’s cousin. The thrill and joy of that day when I was 8-years old, and first learned of Marcus Garvey, came rushing back into my life.

My mother believed that this revolutionary blood within our bloodline went fully flushed to me. My love of blackness frightened her. She believed that a painful life would be mine because of putting Afrika at the center of my being. She was right to worry.

Recently, a friend asked who should she read of all the people posted on my site, and I replied, Marcus Garvey. There was no hesitation. Apart from his Christian beliefs, Garvey was the most perfect Black man! (Probably some family bias here, but I loved him even before, I knew he was of my bloodline.) I wish I had known him. It is not very surprising to me that I ended up in London, the place of his death. The end of my story.

In 1937, Marcus Garvey introduced his Course of African Philosophy. The purpose of the course was to train UNIA leaders to be visionaries, who would carry on the great work of the organization after his death. “He sincerely felt that no one should be held responsible for his action unless he or she is educated or trained to perform those responsibilities, and since the UNIA had become the largest responsible movement in racial history, its leadership should be thoroughly informed so that the proper information would be dispensed,” wrote Charles L. James (one of the first eight students to take the course).

According to Tony Martin, who is recognised as the greatest Garveyite scholar, the course was the closest thing to a book that Marcus Garvey ever wrote. “It represents as it were, the last political will and testament of a man who stand without equal in the history of the worldwide mobilization of African peoples.”

The course covered 42 subjects, but much of it was unwritten. Therefore, only 22 lessons are available. It is clear from the lessons that Garvey’s overriding concern was to develop within his leadership a fierce Afrocentric view of the world. The course, reported the Boston Chronicle after an interview with Garvey, would instill “an independent outlook, a philosophy entirely [African], void of anything that will subjugate the mind of [Africa’s peoples].” According to Garvey, “a leader must strive to master his shortcomings. The greatest men and women in the world burn the midnight lamp.”

Garvey was able to conduct the first course from start to finish. It was the UNIA’s last educational endeavor in Garvey’s lifetime. He said to the people of Detroit in 1937, “I have given them all I know. I am trying to make everyone a Marcus Garvey personified.”

I have shared below excerpts from seven of the twenty-two lessons featured in the book, Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy edited by Tony Martin.

Intelligence, Education, Universal Knowledge and How to Get It

You must never stop learning. The world’s greatest men and women were people who educated themselves outside of the university with all the knowledge that the university gives, and you have the opportunity of doing the same thing the university student does—read and study.

One must never stop reading. Read everything that you can read that is of standard knowledge. Don’t waste time reading trashy literature…and cheap sentimental books, but where there is a good plot and a good story in the form of a novel, read it. It is necessary to read it for the purpose of getting information on human nature. The idea is that personal experience is not enough for a human to get all the useful knowledge of life, because individual life is too short, so we must feed on the experience of others. The literature we read should include the biography and autobiography of men and women who have accomplished greatness in their particular line. 

You should also read the best poetry for inspiration. From a good line of poetry, you may get the inspiration for the career of a life time.

Read history incessantly until you master it. This means your own national history, the history of the world, social history, industrial history and the history of the different sciences, primarily the history of man. If you do not know what went on before you came here and what is happening at the time you live, you will not know the world. You can only make the best out of life by knowing and understanding it. To know, you must fall back on the intelligence of others who came before you and have left their records behind. A leader who is to teach men and present any fact of truth must first be learned in his subject.

Never write or speak on a subject you know nothing about. Never keep the constant company of anybody who doesn’t know as much as you or is as educated as you. Always associate with people from whom you can learn something. Contact with cultured persons and with books is the best companionship you can have and keep. Always have a well equipped shelf of books.

Knowledge is power. When you know a thing and can hold your ground on that thing and win over your opponents on that thing, those who hear you learn to have confidence in you and will trust your ability.

All the knowledge you want is in the world, and all that your have to do is to go seeking it and never stop until you have found it.


To lead suggest that you must have followers. For others to follow you, you must be superior to them in the thing that they must follow you for. You must always be ahead by way of knowledge of all those you lead. Therefore, you must be ever vigilant in keeping ahead of those you lead by getting the latest and most correct information for which they are searching because for it they are following you. People only respect leaders and follow the when there is something superior in them.

A leader must have personality; he must be clean cut in his appearance so as not to be criticized. An untidy leader is always a failure.

Never show your personal poverty to those you lead. They will never trust you. This does not mean that you should not reveal the poverty of the cause you represent because that cause is your cause and the people’s cause in which you are both interested.

Never tell lies to those you lead; sooner or later they will find out and then your career will come to an abrupt end. NO MAN EVER TRUSTS A PERSON A SECOND TIME whom he disbelieves once and has proof for his disbelief.

A leader, under all circumstances must carry himself with dignity. He must not be a snob, but he must maintain his pride. A leader cannot well afford to mix himself up with anything that is not dignified or self-respecting. If you have to do something that you know you will be morally and socially ashamed of if some one else knows, never do it, but if you have to do it, see to it that you are careful that no one else knows.

Don’t carry your weakness on your face or in your eyes; somebody will detect it and you will be ruined. If you have personal weaknesses, try to conquer them. Every man can conquer his vices by bringing his subconscious will to play upon and against such vices.

Leaders must be self-possessed, confident, feeling self-reliant.

Aims and Objects of the UNIA

Love yourself better than anybody else. All beauty is in you and not outside of you. God made you beautiful. Confine your affection to your own race and God will bless you and men will honor you.

Never be unkind to your race. Never curse your race. If anything is being done that is wrong by a member of your race, try to put him right.  It is the African who must help the African. The culmination of all the efforts of the UNIA must end in African independent nationalism on the continent of Africa. Everything must contribute to the final objective of having a powerful nation for the African race. African nationalism is necessary. It is political power and control.

No race is free until it has a strong nation of its own; its own system of government and its own order of society. Never give up this idea. Let no one persuade you against it. It is the only protection of your generation and your race. Never be satisfied to live under the government of other people because you will always be at their mercy. Visualize for yourself and your children and genereations unborn, your own king, emperor, president, your own government officials, and administrators, who look like you.

God never could have intended to make you look as you look and as you are and make your king, president, emperor or ruler of a different race than you are. While you are under alien governments get the best out of them as the rights of citizenship; but always have in view doing something to make possible for your race to have a nation and a government of its own. Speak of this, dream of this, work unceasingly for this and never forget this, for this is the great task of the UNIA.


Men and women who want to be of use to themselves and humanity must have a good character. Good character means the demonstration of the kind of behaviour that meets the moral precepts of a civilization. The standard that is laid down by the society of time in which you live and which forms a part of and guides that very character. If you do not live up to those standards, in the highest sense, you will not be respected by that society.

The greatest prop to character is honesty. Honesty is the best policy. Let no one believe that you are dishonest. You will never be able to rise to a position of respect and trust except by some mere accident. You must live so clean that everybody can see the cleanliness of your life.

Never let people believe that you are a liar, but that contrary. Let them believe that you always speak the truth and live up to it.

Never borrow money, unless you intend to pay it back. Pay it back quickly as you can. If you give excuses when you should be paying, those you are obligated to will think you are a trickster. Even though you pay them back they will loath to trust you a second time. Even if you have to make sacrifices, pay your debt because when you don’t pay your debts, people talk about it, and sooner or later everybody in the community knows about it.

It is a good policy to keep a good and honorable name. It is good credit. People will trust you on a good name. Let your good character shine so that men will see it and talk about it.


Every man is his own responsibility in life. The purpose of life is to live fully. Hence the single life must be complete and in fact, it is so with every man. Therefore, it is the duty of every man to fall back on himself for what he wants. It is necessary for a man to use all of his faculties for his own protection. He must rely upon himself first for initiating all those things that may contribute to his well-being. Whatever he wants to do should first come from himself, as he should know what is best for himself. Advice may be helpful, but only to the extent that you have reason and judgment enough to see the value of the advice, otherwise, it may be harmful.

The person who fails to be true to himself in taking the initiative to do things for himself will ultimately find out that he or she has been a “sucker” for others. Always surround yourself with the talent of being able to do by yourself, so as not to be dependent. A person that has to depend on others is not himself or herself, but the subject of others. A subject is apt to break under the influence of the controlling factor. Therefore, never be the subject mentally of a factor; because a factor may destroy your opportunity for self-reliance and self-initiative.

Always maintain a strong will. Always try to help yourself. Only when you are completely satisfied that you do not have the ability, knowledge, character, and strength to do for yourself; should you call anyone to help you. When you ask others to help you with anything, be sure that they are your very, very, very good friends or relatives, because if the thing you ask them to help you with, maybe valuable to you and would be of value to others; they may take the value for themselves, and all that you will get for calling in someone else to do something for you that you should do for yourself is disappointment.

Anything on earth that is of value to you, is of interest to the other person. If you have a good idea, develop it yourself and master it yourself, before you ask for help.


A thing to impress the world with is your own personality. Let your individuality stand out clearly. Every man has an individuality. He is known by his individuality. The background of that individuality should be his clean-cut personality.

Don’t be lazy in whatever you have to do because that laziness will grow on you and people will observe you and mark you as being lazy. If you find a thing to do as a job or occupation, do it well and show interest in it until you have decided to do something else. But while you are doing it, do it to the best of your ability, and put your personality and individuality behind it. Your reputation is at stake.

If you can choose your employment or occupation, then choose only that employment or occupation that would give you complete satisfaction in its practice, so that you may put your whole heart and soul in it, and achieve the greatest good or the greatest result. To carelessly choose your occupation or employment and find afterward that it does not suit your nature, is a waste of time because you will always be thinking of something else while mechanically doing what you are occupied with. Hence, to be your true self, always be sure to properly select the right occupation before you go into it.

To maintain a good personality and robust individuality, be sure to keep your body in proper physical condition.

Living for Something

Life was given for the purpose of expression. The flower expresses itself through the beauty of the bloom. The vine expresses itself through its rambling search in settling its own peculiar nature. The tree expresses itself in its smiling green leaves, shaking branches and sometimes hanging fruit. The lark expresses itself in its laughter and song. The river expresses itself in its gentle meandering unto the sea and man expresses himself according to the idealistic visions of his nature.

There is scope for each life. Let yours find its scope and fully express itself.

Man should have a purpose and that purpose he should always keep in view with the hope of achieving it in the fullest satisfaction to himself. Be not aimless, drifting, and floating with the tide that doesn’t go your way.

To find your purpose you must search yourself and with the knowledge of what is good and what is bad, select your course, steering towards the particular object of your dream or desire. Never enter upon life’s journey without a program. No ship ever reached port without a positive destination beforehand, otherwise, it will drift on the mighty ocean to be overtaken by the storm or the ill wind that blows. The sensible captain goes to sea with a chart to map out his course so as to reach his harbor of safety. Your program is your chart through life. Everything you do, do it by method. Nothing succeeds continuously or repeatedly by chance.

To live for something doesn’t only mean something for yourself, but something for your kith and kin and something for your race. Every man should live for something to hand down to a son or a grandson so that they may have life a little easier than their fathers before them. This is the way successful and great families have come into the world and great races too.

It is better to be dead than having no purpose in life.

Featured image: Marcus Garvey by Alan Sayers

Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy edited by Tony Martin

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