Mar­cus Gar­vey and the per­form­ing arts

Jamaica Gleaner - - 24.7 - Michael Reck­ord Gleaner Writer

– Pt 1

(This is the first of a two-part ar­ti­cle based on an in­ter­view with Ru­pert Lewis, the Univer­sity of the West Indies (UWI) pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus in po­lit­i­cal thought, who has pro­duced three books and nu­mer­ous ar­ti­cles on Na­tional Hero Mar­cus Gar­vey and is now writ­ing “a short bi­og­ra­phy” on him.)

RE­GARD Gar­vey as a per­form­ing artist him­self,” Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus, Ru­pert Lewis said a week ago when I asked him about Gar­vey’s re­la­tion­ship with the per­form­ing arts.

Now Ja­maica’s first Na­tional Hero is gen­er­ally thought of in more som­bre terms – as a vi­sion­ary, philoso­pher, po­lit­i­cal leader, writer, pub­lisher and founder of the pi­o­neer­ing Uni­ver­sal Ne­gro Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (UNIA). How­ever, Lewis of­fered loads of evidence for his as­ser­tion, be­gin­ning with Gar­vey’s in­ter­est in pub­lic speak­ing.

“He was very much into the art of pub­lic or­a­tory, and there were parish com­pe­ti­tions at the start of the 20th cen­tury, which he par­tic­i­pated in and won some prizes. Some of his best friends in West Kingston, where he lived when he first came to the city, were also elo­cu­tion­ists and singers,” Lewis said.

They in­cluded the McCor­mack fam­ily. Two McCor­mack brothers, one a bass and the other one a tenor singer, were among the founding mem­bers of the UNIA. Lewis stressed that peo­ple who were in the per­form­ing arts were in the or­gan­i­sa­tion at the out­set.

He added: “The or­gan­i­sa­tion func­tioned from the start and through­out Gar­vey’s life in a cul­tural pro­gramme, one deeply rooted in Ja­maican tra­di­tions – church tra­di­tions, tea party tra­di­tions, ed­u­ca­tional and school tra­di­tions. The learn­ing of po­ems and the ar­tic­u­la­tion of the English lan­guage through po­etry was the art form that he and oth­ers, like his first wife, Amy Ash­wood Gar­vey, also a founding UNIA mem­ber, were very good at.”


Lewis also men­tioned Amer­i­can Shake­spearean or­a­tor Hen­ri­etta Vin­ton Davis (former sec­re­tary to the renowned abo­li­tion­ist Fred­er­ick Dou­glass), who later be­came the in­ter­na­tional or­gan­iser of Gar­vey’s move­ment. Gar­vey met her when she came to Ja­maica around 1912 to per­form at the Ward Theatre and else­where in the is­land.

When Gar­vey went to the USA in 1916, he drew di­verse mu­si­cians around him, in­clud­ing singers of clas­si­cal and jazz mu­sic and in­stru­men­tal­ists. Gar­vey’s pub­lic talks were “al­ways pre­ceded or fol­lowed by per­for­mances”, Lewis said. “His very speech was a per­for­mance.”

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the elo­cu­tion ses­sions were de­bate com­pe­ti­tions on all kinds of top­ics. Amy Ash­wood de­feated Gar­vey in a de­bate at East Queen Street Bap­tist Church, Kingston. “She was quite good,” Lewis chuck­led.

He said Gar­vey wrote what were called “po­etic med­i­ta­tions”, com­pos­ing them, for the most part, while im­pris­oned in At­lanta from 1925 -1927. They were per­formed both in the US and later when he re­turned to Ja­maica.

Dye Dye Girls present Wait Yuh Turn at Badda Badda Place, Hen­nessy Pub, Gayle. Mu­sic by Exxtacy Sound, Trip­ple C, DJ U and Juff, and Pan a Knock.

Spot Light is at Sprat­ters Cor­ner, Ninth Street, Ar­nett Gar­dens. Mu­sic by Stone Love. Also fea­tur­ing Tuff-ALie, and DHQ Sherene.

To­day and ev­ery Fri­day Jack­pot Sports Bar presents Come Drink With Me at 42 Gil­tress St, Rolling­ton Town, Kgn 2. Ev­ery Fri and Sat, re­duced prices on all drinks, lots of give­aways and free to­kens to play slots.

This and ev­ery Fri­day, NK Deli and Salsa So­ci­ety of Ja­maica present Pre-Game Fri­days, 2-4-1 Happy Hour, at New Kingston Con­fer­ence Cen­tre (up­stairs New Kingston Busi­ness Cen­tre). Free salsa classes at 6 p.m. Latin danc­ing con­tin­ues un­til 10 p.m. Mu­sic by DJ Drizzy Dre and DJ Chan. Tel: 7548714.

Beer Links Fam­ily An­nual Oc­to­ber Party is at BeerLinks, Bosco­bel, St.Mary. Food & re­fresh­ments on sale. Ad­mis­sion free.

Al­pha Academy Sports Depart­ment presents Fish Fry and Af­ter-Work Lyme at the school grounds, Al­pha Academy. Serv­ing starts at noon. Cost $1,200. Re­fresh­ments on sale

Si­monese, in as­so­ci­a­tion with HW Wishart Fam­ily, present Seav­iew In­va­sion at Seav­iew, across from the pri­mary school. Mu­sic by Black Cham­pion In­ter­na­tional, Ratty Bones, and Slim­matic. Spe­cial guest artiste Dalia Lloyd.

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