Pardon Marcus Garvey! Leave John Conyers Alone!

I reserve a healthy amount of respect for Cindy Sheehan and members of Code Pink, women against the war. But I think they went a little bit over the top when they staged a sit-in at the offices of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

They and many anti-war activists are angry the Chairman Conyers has gone along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and taken impeachment of Pres. George W. (For worst in history) Bush officially “off the table.”

With 17 months and four days until Jan. 20, 2009, when I will be able to finally exhale, I am counting the days until the next President is inaugurated, whoever that might be. In the meantime I don’t put the possibility of martial law and a suspension of the entire Constitution and a postponement of the 2008 election, off the table. I don’t put any dirty trick past these scoundrels now in office.

But there are millions in this country who think just like Pres. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (if retiring adviser Karl Rove was the man’s “brain” then Mr. Cheney must be his “backbone” or some other body part related to manhood and determination, but I digress…). Whites in the so-called “progressive movement” should go home and work on changing the minds of the parents and brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles, and leave John Conyers to do the peoples’ business, like winning a pardon of innocence for Marcus Garvey. And they should end the slander of Mr. Conyers with statements such as the one by Ms. Sheehan that Mr. Conyers “is no Martin Luther King Jr.”

Spare me, Ms. Sheehan. I would much rather see the demonstrators get on the Conyers Marcus Garvey Bandwagon, and help win the exoneration of a truly innocent man.

August 17th of this year marks the 120th anniversary of the birth, on the Island of Jamaica, of the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). August 1st marked the 93rd anniversary of the UNIA founding. Long live the UNIA!

Sadly, on June 18, 1923, Mr. Garvey—without a doubt an innocent man—was found guilty in federal court on a trumped-up charge of mail fraud and conspiracy. He was given the maximum sentence: a five-year term in the U.S. penitentiary in Atlanta, a $1,000 fine and court costs. Mr. Garvey died during the month of June in London without ever having personally set foot on the African continent. The continent he—more than anyone before or since—taught the Black Man and Woman all over the planet, to love.

He was an innocent man, wrongfully convicted. Although his trial produced a 2,816 page transcript, his appeals hearing 18 months later lasted only one day and failed. In 1939, Mr. Garvey applied for a pardon to restore his civil rights so he could gain temporary readmission to the United States. On June 10, 1940, before his application could be acted on, he died in London.

Now, 68 years after Mr. Garvey was deported, a movement continues in Harlem, and in Washington to pardon Marcus Garvey. Led by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), it takes the form of a resolution introduced in the House every year, “expressing the sense of the Congress that the mail fraud charges brought against Marcus Garvey by the Federal Government were not substantiated and that his conviction on those charges was unjust and unwarranted.”

A House Judiciary subcommittee chaired by Rep. Conyers even held hearings 20 years ago, in 1987 to examine Mr. Garvey’s conviction, and to document for future decision-makers, its findings.

“My race is mine and I belong to it. It climbs with me and I shall climb with it,” Mr. Garvey wrote. “My pride is mine and I shall honor it. It is the height on which I daily sit.”

The UNIA attracted Black talent from the U.S. and the Caribbean. He founded the Universal Black Legion; the Negro Factories Corp.; the Black Cross Nurses; the Black Star Shipping Line; and the Negro World newspaper. At one time his movement boasted as many as six million members in 38 states and 41 other countries.

His organizing also attracted the attention of the 24-year-old director of the Justice Department’s General Intelligence Division, a cross-dressing lawyer named J. Edgar Hoover. Complaining in 1919 that Garvey had “not yet violated any federal law” to justify his deportation, Mr. Hoover suggested going after Garvey for fraud in connection with the sale of Black Star Line stock through the mails.

Mr. Garvey was innocent. He should receive a pardon of innocence from the government which framed him, in order to keep Black people divided and at the mercy of White Americans.

“When I am dead wrap the mantle–the red, black and green around me,” Mr. Garvey wrote from Atlanta Prison… “For in the new life I shall rise with God’s grace and blessing to lead the millions up the heights of triumph with the colors that you well know.

“Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm. Look for me all around you, for, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions of Black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom and life.”

Free Marcus Garvey! Leave John Conyers Alone!

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