Today the Untied States celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. day. With America’s current leadership issues honoring a man’s struggle for civility seems ironic. But many US citizens want an escape from the cynicism and division. And it is often from turbulent times that young leaders, inspired by freedom fighters before them, speak out against injustice. Martin and Malcom X were inspired by Jamaican’s National Hero Marcus Garvey and moved to action by the injustices they faced. Martin said this about Marcus Garvey – “Marcus Garvey was the first man of color in the history of the United States to lead and develop a mass movement. He was the first man on a mass scale, and level, to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny, and make the Negro feel that he was somebody.” Leaders like Marcus, Malcom and Martin inspire us all to do better and speak up. One musician listened and gave us a voice that travelled far and till sings to us today, Bob Marley.
In the late 60’s Reggae music was being born from ska and the lyrics had a rebellious voice. The civil rights movement in the US had kindred spirits all over the world like Jamaica’s Rastafarians, also inspired by Marcus Garvey. They taught economic independence, unity, respect and black pride. Bob Marley’s rise to stardom popularized Rastafarianism and his musical message became a soundtrack for freedom fighters all over the world while still promoting love and unity much like Dr. King, whose “I Have A Dream” speech spoke to the heart of unity. To this day much of Reggae music holds true to this message of unity and love while maintaining it’s rebellious voice.
Some of the greatest freedom fighters of the 20th century.
In June 1965 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and his wife visited Jamaica for the first time, just three years after Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom. He delivered addresses at the University of the West Indies Mona and to the public at the National Stadium after receiving the key to the city of Kingston. Dr. King said this about Jamaica – “Here you have people from many national backgrounds: Chinese, Indians, so-called Negroes, and you can just go down the line, Europeans, European and people from many, many nations. Do you know they all live there and they have a motto in Jamaica, “Out of many people, one people.” And they say, “Here in Jamaica we are not Chinese, (Make it plain) we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are not Negroes, we are not Englishmen, we are not Canadians. But we are all one big family of Jamaicans.” One day, here in America, I hope that we will see this and we will become one big family of Americans.”- From the book “A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Here are excerpts from Dr. Kings speech in Jamaica at UWI Mona.
This was not his last visit. He must have been fond of the newly independent black nation because he returned in 1967 one year before his assassination. Dr. King rented a house in Jamaica and completed his final manuscript, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”. This was a very critical time in the civil rights movement. Malcom X had been assassinated shortly after returning from Mecca. Was it coincidence that they were both assassinated after they began working with others overseas? They understood as Marcus Garvey did that the political fight for freedom and civil rights would be just the beginning, the economic struggle would continue. They would have to align themselves with others sharing the same struggle. We hope these great men and their sacrifices will continue to inspire us and see that inspiration continue to be paid forward through all our expressions. Reggae music especially, as it has been the voice of many.