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CrazyFruits » African/Caribbean/UK/GeneralDiscussions » The UNIA-ACL celebrates 100 years

The UNIA-ACL celebrates 100 years

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1OH The UNIA-ACL celebrates 100 years on Sun 9 Feb 2014 - 17:13



SS Yarmouth being inspected by UNIA members. - Contributed

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Universal Negro Improvement Association-African Communities League (UNIA).

Formed in July 1914, the UNIA is an international organisation conceptualised by The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica's first National Hero, dedicated to promoting racial pride, econo-mic self-sufficiency, and the establishment of a united and independent Africa.
During his travels to Central and South America, as well as Europe, between 1911 and 1914, Garvey recognised that the experiences of black people across the world were very similar - they were poorly treated. Therefore, his decision to form the UNIA on his return to Jamaica was his way of opposing the colonial system that was responsible for this treatment, and offer a viable alternative path.
The UNIA was officially launched on August 1, 1914. Its headquarters was originally located on Charles Street, Kingston. It was later moved to West Street and then to 76 King Street. Garvey went to the United States in 1916 and eventually relocated the UNIA headquarters to Harlem, New York City.
The organisation adopted a motto, 'One God! One Aim! One Destiny'. Later, in 1920, a flag was raised bearing the red, black, and green which were accepted as the official colours of the UNIA at the 1920 convention of delegates. The red symbolises the blood that unites all people of African descent and the sacrifice made for liberation. Black symbolises pride in African people, their history and culture; and green symbolises the abundant natural wealth of Africa.
In order to learn about how black people of African descent lived in the United States, and to promote the UNIA, Garvey toured 38 states in his first year there, delivering lectures to various audiences. His efforts also saw him raising funds to support the organisational activities of the UNIA. The movement expanded quickly; so much so that it grew into the largest black organisation in the history of pan-African liberation movements and the African diaspora.
Between the 1920s and the 1930s, there were 1,056 divisions of the UNIA in 38 countries around the world. The UNIA constitution required each division to establish a headquarters called Liberty Hall. These headquarters served as venues for meetings, ceremonial events, cultural performances, and commercial activities.
The UNIA launched several enterprises in its promotion of economic self-reliance among black people. These included the Negro World (1918), the Black Star Line (1919), and the Negro Factories Corporation (1920). The weekly newspaper, The Negro World, was Garvey's most successful publication. It took only a few years for it to become the most widely distributed black newspaper in the world.
The Black Star Line Steamship Corporation was established to provide an efficient mode of transportation, communication, and trade among black people worldwide. It was financed with money from its shareholders, all of whom were black and most of whom were UNIA members. The corporation purchased three ships - the SS Yarmouth, renamed the Frederick Douglas after African-American abolitionist; the SS Shadyside and the SS Kanawha, renamed the Antonio Maceo after the Cuban freedom fighter. Despite the early success of the fleet, several factors led to the demise of the Black Star Line and it ceased operations in April 1922.
The Negro Factories Corporation operated a chain of businesses in Harlem. These included restaurants, grocery stores, a laundromat, a factory making black dolls for children, a hat factory, printing press, tailoring establishment, a trucking business and a hotel.
UNIA conventions provided opportunities for delegates to meet in a collective international forum. Eight conventions were held in Garvey's lifetime; in 1920, 1921, 1922, 1924 and 1926 in New York, in 1929 and 1934 in Kingston and, in 1938 in Toronto. At these monthlong conventions, delegates from around the world exchanged experiences and initiatives were developed and organised.
Though all the conventions were well attended, the first convention in 1920 was the most significant as it allowed for the first real look at the magnitude of the UNIA in its peak, and the massive impact of Garvey on the black political landscape. All the auxiliary groups within the UNIA, including the Black Cross Nurses, The African Legion, African Motor Corps and the Juveniles paraded through the streets of Harlem during the convention. These groups reflected the various skills, ages and interests of UNIA members.
After Garvey's conviction and subsequent imprisonment in the US between 1923 and 1927, the activities of the UNIA were curtailed. Nevertheless, following his deportation to Jamaica in 1927, Garvey continued to work for the advancement of the UNIA. This he did until his death in England in 1940.
- Article courtesy of the Institute of Jamaica

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