By Victor Ochieng
Julius Garvey, the son of early 20th century civil rights activist Marcus Garvey, is pushing for presidential pardon on the mail fraud conviction that saw his father deported from the U.S.
The 82-year-old doctor spent his father’s 129th birthday openly seeking for a posthumous pardon from the first African American president, Barack Obama.
“I see him really as a very special person who, quite frankly, I have yet to understand his genius fully,” Garvey said of his father.
At a time that African Americans were subjected to the inhumane Jim Crow laws, the senior Garvey started lobbying for a united African nation through his Pan-African movement outfit. His intention was to have all Africans return home and establish one African nation. Through the Pan-African movement, the Black Star Line was launched. This was a fleet of steamships whose foundation was to help take African Americans back to their ancestral lands.
Marcus’ ideology influenced other civil rights movement leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Sadly, many people have forgotten the works done by Marcus Garvey. This is more so because during the tenure of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI launched an investigation in a case in which Marcus was accused of lobbying for funds to take Africans back to Africa. This led to his 1922 conviction that saw him slapped with a prison sentence of five years. Although he only spent about two and a half years behind bars because President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence, he was immediately deported to Jamaica, his home country. This move killed his civil rights works in America.
“Everyone stands on the shoulders of everyone who comes before. There would be no black president if it wasn’t for the Civil Rights movement,” Julius Garvey said during a press conference on Wednesday at the National Press Club. “The Civil Rights movement started with Marcus Garvey, as acknowledged by Brother Malcolm, as acknowledged by Martin Luther King, and acknowledged by anyone who knows history. The president stands on that foundation.”
Julius laments that he’s lived a life in which people view his father as a convicted criminal and he believes that’s the reason why his father isn’t well known within the spheres of mainstream America.
Speaking at the National Press Club, the younger Garvey said that because of his father’s conviction, “there is still a whiff of subversion about the idea of being” a believer in his father’s teachings.
Many of Marcus Garvey’s supporters believe the conviction was just a devised way to have the civil rights movement leader deported so as to thrash his ideology.
Garvey’s family and his supporters are hoping that President Obama will consider their plea and issue the pardon before he leaves office.
Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who attended the National Press Club news conference, said “legally, there’s not much more to be done,” noting that the issue “is now in the court of public opinion.”