Marcus Garvey visited St. Kitts.
Yesterday (2nd November) Mr. Marcus Garvey, International Negro leader, landed here from the S/s “Lady Nelson” and keeping with arrangements which preceded him, he delivered an address at the hall of the Mutual Improvement Society. He was accompanied by his secretary, Miss White both of whom were returning from around trip as far as British Guiana. A large crowd of people was present at the waterfront to get a glimpse of the world renowned Mr. Garvey and at the hall the accommodation was fully taxed. Mr. W.A.H Seaton was chairman of the meeting and on the platform were Messengers. Ruthland Clapham, well know in the musical circles of London, W.J.E. Butler and V.E.John, druggist.
Mr. Garvey was heartily applauded when he rose to speak. The following is the text of his address:
Mr. Chairman, Citizens of St. Kitts, “It is with an abundance of pleasure that I am with you this morning to meet you and talk to you. The Chairman struck the keynote when he said the purpose of my visit, but the purpose of my life-to help my fellowman. I am doubly glad to see the make-up of the audience. At a glance I can see it represents all classes of the community. But there is a special class that I am especially interested in and that is the more unfortunate class. I feel I have a message for them, a message of Hope and self-confidence. When men are doing well, it is logical to conclude that they have mastered the philosophy of life. When they are not doing well, it is usually because they are ignorant, but we have to sympathize with those who are not succeeding.
It is God purpose for man in the creation plan, that he should be happy. I don’t like to see misery. It is hellish, devilish and ungodly. God never made misery. It is the result of the mistakes of man. But if you can get men to go right, they will lesson their own misery. I want to set man right, so I am going to talk to you in that strain. I will show you how men solve their problems, how men rise above the things they call difficulties, and live the life of happiness, peace, love and thanksgiving.
You will agree with me when you think a little God never made inequalities; never made classes. He made man, and in the making he equalized the character of man through man’s spiritual self and soul. He did not equalized the looks of man, that is accidental. Race is also accidental. Scientists tell us today that “Race” is climatic. When God equalized men’s soul, he gave them a free will and free expression.
When we suffer in this life it is because we are not using this free will expression. And we suffer not because of what we are doing ourselves.
No man can keep another man down without being kept down himself. If a man is in possession of his mind and is using it, he cannot be kept down. I would look to see the man who could keep him down. I would hold on to him somewhere and keep him down too. But if he is thinking and I am not thinking, then I will be down and he will be up. Those who are up think upward and those who down, think downward. God has nothing to do with it. As our thoughts are so do we appear, whether clean or ragged, God made your soul equal with that of the prince or the peasant. It is up to you how you go through the world. No man can rise higher in this world than his mind. It is by the mind that you rise or descend. Everything we do or say is from the mind, because man thinks out everything before he acts it. Whatever you see a man is in this community, he is that because of his mind. If he is a rogue and a vagabond, he is that because of his mind. Man is a product of his mind. If you do not train and protect your mind, men with trained minds will subjugate you. People only liberate themselves through their state of mind. The poor of this world do not worry about their minds but about their stomachs.
The poorest people you find in any town or country are those who pay more attention to their stomachs than their brains. The more the people eat, the more ignorant they become and they die ten years before time. There is not a man who gorges himself with food who live the full span of his life. He usually dies with a pain in his back, or rheumatism or something else. Now these are the secrets of life.
I like people who look like me. Everywhere you turn you find them. They seem to live in spite of the hell that surrounds them. But it is not always going to be so, for we are approaching the scientific age when oranges that were once sour are now made sweet and sour oranges have no market. So it is that “sour” people will die out to accommodate super people whom God intend to have and keep and bless.
God is a very peculiar being. Most of us go through life blundering because we do not understand Him. We think we can change Him as we change a man. If you study a man’s weakness you can get him to change his mind. That is man.
You can twist man, but you cannot twist God. He does things once, not twice. He made man and placed him in the Garden of Eden and has not done anything to him since. It is useless for man to approach God as though it was possible to change him. God in making the Earth, made it with laws more rigid than those of the Medes and Persians. The stars and sun and rain, etc, never change. Everything remains the same irrespective of our desires, for God is a fixed God. He is eternal. When he made man he said, “By the sweat of your brow ye shall eat”. From that time man has been on his own responsibility –on his own legs. If he does not think out his own way of life, he will fail, and who do think is going to shed a tear for him, when by his ignorance he has reduced himself to disgrace? Have you ever seen the stars stop twinkling because of your sorrow? Or the sun stop shining because you sad? This may be a strange philosophy for a small town, but it is true… The earth on which you live is God’s, but the material accomplishments of the earth is man’s work.
God is universal intelligence. He creates universes-all things, visible and invisible, while man is only a unit-an infinitesimal unit of the universe and he creates cities such as London, New York, Paris etc., and the social and other
systems that go with them. These are the results of man’s unitary creation. So God creates the universe and then man changes the earth to suit himself,
building cities civilizations.
Some people are born into a system and never enquire about it. Sometimes they dragged in the mud and mire, but those who understand the system boss it. It is not necessary to envy, steal and kill and commit other crimes, breaking the civil law and the law of nature and everything. But that is not the way to get things. You must work and get things for yourselves. The police only cracks up the skull of a man who owns nothing but torn up cap, such a man has nothing to lose but his blood. Try to own something. You can get out of life as much as any other man and if you don’t get your share you have no one to blame but
I am introducing you to a new philosophy of life, although I may be able to touch the fringe only. Life is real, life is earnest, life is not an empty dream. It is sweet and dear from birth to the grave and any man who does not appreciate it is a darned fool… Some of us live it in misery and expect to enjoy more after awhile – when you are dead. But if you cannot appreciate Johnny Cakes now how will you be able to appreciate butter bread later on?
Here God has given you probationary life and some of us stray around and run amuck most of the time in rags, stealing and making yourself a nuisance. Even God himself must say to us “we don’t want you up here”. You will not be allowed to leave this and mess up heaven.
My friends, the thoughts of God are clear and clean. In them is no clogging, no dirt. All that is clean and clear, so man if he is to approach God must do so with a clear, clean, crystal Life and Soul and Thought.
Nothing that is dirty can be part of Heaven. Your thoughts are the things that make you look like God, not your physical bodies or features. Look at us in this hall. Some of us have large noses, some small, some straight hair, some kinky hair, and so on. If God were to look like everyman, He would be a hideous monster. It is our soul, our intelligence, that is in His likeness.
When we cringe and commit crimes, we bring down God. We must live up to the dignity and honour of His intelligence by possessing our souls and using our minds. It is no excuse to say you are too poor and down trodden. I am determined to be a man among men. I was born 50 years ago in a West Indian country town in Jamaica where black men have no special advantages buy disadvantages; where you are stated to be coward or labourer, a blacksmith or shoemaker, etc. I looked at the system that man fixed up for me and I said it did not suit me. If you have not the ability to fix yourself up- and some of you are darned well fixed up right now.
And you will stay fixed up until you clear your minds. God has given every man a mind with possibilities for development. It does not matter what your father and mother were before you. You can retrieve yourself and be a man although your parents may have been criminals. God has not made you with a criminal mind. I do not mean by that, that you must not have leaders. But when it comes to your individual lives “fix up yourselves,” or somebody may want to make monkeys out of you… Even two sisters in the same house try to outdo each other… Whatever you want in the world go after getting it yourself. No man will get something for you that he wants for himself. Any man who tells you he loves you better than he loves himself, watch him. Get a club and give him a crack, for he means no good. A lot of people today are suffering from their own faults. If you know the world you would know that the greatest men had humble beginnings.
But before they started life they found out what use they could be. You have men like Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Lipton, etc. Starting from the lowliest walks of life, and gradually growing. When they died they left the world thinking wealth is not all. It is the intelligence of man that counts. An intelligent man can always find the way out. But I have never seen a successful fool. Somebody always takes it away from him. It is a fool who always in rags; a fool is always complaining; always telling you somebody is against him; always going to the obeah man to give him luck. But let me tell you that there is nothing outside of you as strong as what is inside of you, that power inside of you is the strongest. If you don’t understand it, then you are only a bit of flesh and other men will trample on you.
It is your thoughts that make you beautiful or otherwise; they are reflected in your life. If you think beautiful things, God and the angels adore you.
But if you live in the gutter here, you will live in hell later on… Some men are of more use dead than alive because they do not produce anything at all… When such men are buried they produce manure, so that nothing is lost.
Have you never a mother say: “He is my own picknie, but after all I am glad he is dead?” There are many such men alive… Look at George Washington, Caesar, etc. God has given you the potentiality to be like any one of them. One of the greatest men the world has ever seen was born in Nevis. That shows that genius has no special spot.
As I came off the ship I could see your condition on the waterfront. Man views you from without, which is an indication of what you are within. Make your life so beautiful within that it will reflect. Make St. Kitts your Garden of Eden. If you don’t do it then other men will do it for you. The North American Indian lived on top of goodness and did not know it.
While he was riding around with his scalping knife there was oil underneath his feet.
Englishmen came across the sea and knocked him down. Then Henry Ford and others inherited the wealth the wealth. Watch your steps. If there is natural wealth around, some- body is coming after it. Mussolini was searching for oil, and coal and copper, and when he found it in Abyssinia, Haile Selassie had run. Your country can be no greater than yourselves. It isnot God that makes the cities and towns. God gives you the land, but you build the cities.
Your St. Kitts will be no greater than your minds. If I comeback here in ten years and you have made no progress it will be because of your minds If you make progress it will be because of your minds. When Rome ruled the world she was not the greatest or biggest city, but the greatest thinkers were in Rome. A scientific mind can bring the world to its feet.
My friends, I do not claim to be a genius, but today men are looking at me; men will know that I have registered here in St. Kitts.
It is a jelly fish that comes into the world and passes off without anybody knowing it was here. Why come here like jack fish or a sprat that nobody remembers it after it is fried? Some of you cannot even remember who your grandfather was? Because he never did anything. Alexander Hamilton’s grand, grand, grand, grand, grand children will know him, because the man did something. What are you going to do? I am going to advise you in closing.
First of all find out who you are. Then ask yourself, “what can I do”? Most of you never investigate yourself. You know all about your neighbour but you do not know a thing about yourself. You know what your neighbour has in the pot, what he or she wears, and what they do, but nothing about yourselves. It is your neighbour who has to tell you that (laughter). And how does your neighbour know? By your behaviour reflects your mind. You cannot do anything until you first think it out.
The first duty of man or a woman is to find out about himself. You will find out that you are wasting time – that you are too lazy. The world was waiting on Edison and he came, on Marconi and he came, on Henry Ford, and he came, on Mussolini and he came, on Hitler and he came. The world is waiting on you – when will you come?
My friends answer that for yourselves and let us hear about you. Men who are born in St. Kitts, God has endowed you. I cannot talk to you more emphatically. It is for you to understand what I am driving at. It is for me to know that I have struck the keynote.
This is my job, to set men right. I have dedicated myself to this work – helping people who look like me.
Three hundred years ago we were brought from Africa to these parts. We have suffered because we knew no better. We must make it right, I refuse to swallow any theory that does not agree with the system of social life in which I find myself. We must do something to get out of it.
That system was inclined to sew me up in a bag, but I ripped the bag, and got out and no man shall sew me up again. It is a question of mind over matter. Men can do things to my body, but never to my mind. I shall leave the influence of my mind after I am dead. You can read the mind like any book – like Shakespeare’s Othello or the Gospel of St John.
You must postulate a philosophy of your own, if you want to find a way out. God blesses those who help themselves. Once on the field of battle Napoleon was asked by a soldier on which side was God, and he replied: “God was on the side of the strongest battalion.” What Napoleon meant was that God was on the side of intelligence. When Mussolini went to Ethiopia with aeroplane and mustard gas and guns, the Emperor was in a Coptic Church with a prayer book in his hand. On whose side was God in the Abyssinian War? The answer is, the answer of Napoleon.
There are four hundred million men and women of my race in the world today.
I want to change them so they can hold their own. But you cannot do it foolishly. Don’t think you are somebody when you are blind as a bat. Never keep the company of fool. Try to find out all you can about life. The average West Indian spends all of his days of learning in the elementary school. After that, he is finished except in bad words. He coins his language and that completes his education. But they do not use that language in the University. In the world today, if you have no knowledge, then you are a misfit. Why should a man confine himself to his backyard where his bad words are law? The energy that most of you put behind your bad words if used in the proper channel would make you Alexander Hamilton. But if you don’t read, how can you know? In an island like this with some 20,000 persons, all you have is a little 4 page newspaper. You go among the civilized people and they have new edition every five minutes.
Why? Because the people want to know what is going on and to find out. My friends, you have to buck up and make your civilization what it ought to be. Read, read, read and never stop until you discover the knowledge of the universe. If you don’t understand the compass of your own world, how can you navigate properly? Christ himself paid tribute to intelligence. He made it clear in the parable of the talents… A fool never has anything. Fortune comes his way and he finds 2/-. He goes into a store and pays the whole of it for a 4d cap. Everybody is looking for a fool to send him a little further.
A fool pays the price and everything goes right on. For God’s sake don’t be anybody’s fool.
Spend a little less on food and a little more on your brain. Eat less and think more. Read more literature… Today it is a struggle of wit against wit, brains against brains.
And now I must close.
I know how nervous you were, getting this meeting arranged. This is a small place and things of importance do not happen here very often. So anyone coming in from outside is regarded with suspicion. But you need not afraid.
Your island is a Garden of Eden – viewed from the Waterfront it looks like Paradise. I have not come here to steal away anything, what I would like to steal away is ignorance, so that when I cross the Caribbean I can dump it into the deep Atlantic.
I have lots of friends who know where to look for me if I don’t turn up, and my shoulders are broad to bear up anything.
I like the country very much, and people too. You are very hospitable here. Everywhere I went I was received with open arms… Try to make little country the best spot in the world. Get hold of the land and don’t let it get away from you. The men who own the land make the laws. Own your own house and own your own land, then you will be a respectable citizen and God will approve of you and the blessing of God Almighty will be upon you.
(Re-published from “Mutual Improvement Society’ magazine of January 1993 which re-published from “THE UNION MESSENGER” of Wednesday, 3rd November 1937)