Wil­liams wants to carry on Mar­cus’ work


Paul Wil­liams re­mem­bers stand­ing in front of the No. 18 cell at the St Cather­ine Dis­trict Prison try­ing to con­nect with the great man that peo­ple have of­ten told him he looks like, Mar­cus Gar­vey. He had been re­sist­ing an in­vi­ta­tion from Roy T. An­der­son, the pro­ducer of Queen Nanny, to play the role of Gar­vey in the doc­u­men­tary film, Mar­cus Gar­vey: The Un­told Story. The film is to be pre­miered at the United Na­tions next year. On that fate­ful day at the prison, Wil­liams said Dr Julius Gar­vey, Mar­cus’ son, and Miguel Lorne, a pan-African­ist, were stand­ing be­side him. Julius re­port­edly took a good look at Wil­liams, turned to Lorne and said, “Look at my fa­ther.” Wil­liams was dumb­founded. It wasn’t the first time he was hear­ing that he was the spit­ting im­age of Gar­vey, but it com­ing from his son made it sur­real. He ac­cepted his fate and de­cided he would def­i­nitely play Gar­vey. “The son of Gar­vey was en­dors­ing me,” said Wil­liams, who re­mains un­con­vinced that he looks like the first na­tional hero. “I look in the mir­ror and un­til this day I can­not see any re­sem­blance to Mar­cus,” he said. Wil­liams said that he has de­lib­er­ately failed the screen test for the film be­cause he did not want to be a star in An­der­son’s movie. He, how­ever, read the script and watched tapes that were given to him be­cause he was fear­ful that he could be pun­ished. “I went and I spoke with my an­ces­tors and my an­ces­tors said, ‘if you don’t do it, you are go­ing to get a beat­ing ... As a mat­ter of fact, you are go­ing to be taken away’,” Wil­liams said. Wil­liams, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions prac­ti­tioner and lec­turer at The Univer­sity of the West Indies Western Cam­pus, has never been ashamed of his black­ness.

He said that he was teased about his melanin-rich skin when he was grow­ing up in Mon­tego Bay, and was of­ten os­tracised be­cause of it.

“The very first time I was told that I looked like Mar­cus Gar­vey was as a stu­dent at MoBay Com­mu­nity Col­lege. I was pissed off, be­cause I was brought up to be­lieve that Mar­cus Gar­vey was a thief. And me seh me nuh look like nuh thief,” he re­called.

But Wil­liams im­mersed him­self in the teach­ings and phi­los­o­phy of Gar­vey. This strength­ened his be­lief in self and his de­sire to see black peo­ple pull them­selves up by the boot­straps, which has fu­elled his pas­sion to fol­low Gar­vey’s foot­steps.

“I like Gar­vey’s fire. He was in your face. Gar­vey was mil­i­tant. Gar­vey was a go-get­ter. Gar­vey did not roll over and play dead. Gar­vey had some­thing burn­ing deep, deep in­side, and if only that fire had burnt us, emo­tion­ally, psy­cho­log­i­cally and men­tally, we would have been a dif­fer­ent set of peo­ple. So that fire that Gar­vey had, I per­son­ally have a lot of it in­side of me,” he said.

Wil­liams dressed as Gar­vey.

Wil­liams is dressed for a scene in the doc­u­men­tary.


Paul Wil­liams says he still does not be­lieve he looks like Mar­cus Gar­vey.

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