By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Dr. Julius Garvey was 7 years old when his father — Jamaican-born, Black nationalist, and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement Marcus Garvey — passed away in London, England, on June 10, 1940.
Over the last 82 years, Dr. Garvey has spent his lifetime trying to clear his father’s name. The elder Garvey, who led the largest mass movement in Black history through the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), was imprisoned in 1925 for mail fraud and deported back to Jamaica three years later.
Dr. Garvey, 89, spoke of his quest to right history at the first-ever Oak Park Black Film Festival at the Guild Theater in Sacramento last week. A celebration of Black American stories and history, he appeared on the third day of the five-day event. The medical doctor told the audience that he has been “seeking exoneration” of his father since 1987.
“There was not a crime and it was an injustice,” Dr. Garvey told former Mayor Kevin Johnson during a question-and-answer session at the festival. “That’s what we’ve been trying to get certain since the (Barack) Obama Administration and we’ve done it again with (U.S. President) Joe Biden. We have gotten no response (from Biden). That’s where we are at the present time.”
Garvey was featured in two documentaries at the Black Film Festival — the seven-minute “Whirlwind: The Marcus Garvey Story,” and the 85-minute documentary, “African American Redemption: Life and Legacy of Marcus Garvey.”
“Whirlwind” was directed by Shaka Satori while “African American Redemption” was produced by Alison Anderson and her husband. Satori and Anderson attended the festival and discussed Garvey’s life from their perspectives.
A noted civil rights activist, Garvey founded the UNIA (a fraternal organization of Black nationalists) in Jamaica in 1914. He also launched the Negro World newspaper, and a shipping company called Black Star Line. He moved UNIA operations to Harlem, New York in 1916.
Garvey and the UNIA built 700 branches in 38 states by the early 1920s. The larger chapters existed in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The social organization would claim around a third of the nine million Black people who resided in the United States in the early 1920s.
“This man has inspired every great leader you can think of,” said Santori, the director of “Whirlwind.” “He had three million followers in this country. One out of three Black Americans were either Garveyites or supported Garvey. He did all of this 50 years after slavery.”
The federal government indicted Garvey in 1922 for mail fraud. He was convicted and began serving his sentence in 1925. When his sentence was commuted by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge two years later, he was immediately deported to Jamaica.
Garvey spent the last years of his life in London and died in 1940. Anderson said during her discussion with Johnson that there are many “false narratives” as to what happened to Garvey after deportation, including one widespread account that the Jamaican died destitute.
Garvey actually continued UNIA’s effort in his homeland and started the People’s Political Party before moving to London where he created the monthly journal Black Man. He passed away after a second stroke in 1940 at the age of 52.
Anderson admitted that Garvey was a controversial figure and he advocated for “separate but equal” status for persons of African ancestry. In her documentary, she highlighted the greatness of the man who had a positive message for Black people.
“We have to change that (negative) narrative of him,” Anderson said. “Yes, we danced around some things (in the documentary) but that was because this film is actually more than two hours and we had to condense it to 85 minutes. But we will tell his story the correct way.”
Born Sept. 17, 1933 in Kingston, Jamaica, Dr. Julius Garvey is a surgeon and medical professor. He is the youngest of two sons of Marcus Garvey and his journalist and mother Amy Jacques Garvey. His brother is Marcus Garvey Jr.
In 1962, Dr. Garvey began his first residency in surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital of New York, completing his residency in 1965. He completed residencies in surgery at the Harlem Hospital Center in 1968, and in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in 1970.
Dr. Garvey became an instructor in surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1971. He became the Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s acting program director for the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery from 1980 to 1982, and assistant professor of surgery at State University of New York at Stony Brook from 1978 to 1988.
Dr. Garvey also started his own private practice in 1983. He served as chief of thoracic and vascular surgery at Queens Hospital Center from 1993 to 2006. Dr. Garvey participated in speaking engagements and encouraged others to learn about his father while he seeks a pardon for his father.
“I suggest that you can do no better than reading about Marcus Garvey and certainly all his writings if you get a hold of them,” Dr. Garvey said. “It is so interesting that Garveyism is on the rise because people are looking for that ideology that represents them, who they want to be, and who they see themselves as. I think we are at that moment again.”