Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fly Yo Flag, North American African

Vantage Point | Articles and Essays by Dr. Ron Daniels
August 17 will mark the 128th birthday of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, 
the visionary Jamaican-born leader who built the Universal Negro Improvement 
Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) into the largest 
mass movement for liberation in the history of Africans in America and perhaps 
the world! As such, I have long advocated that August 17th, his birthday, be 
celebrated as Universal African Flag Day.

Black Arts Movement poet/organizer Marvin X at his Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway, downtown 
Oakland. Marvin has proclaimed 14th Street the Black Arts Movement District.  "The people are urgently awaiting 
to see the day when the Red, Black and Green will fly up and down 14th Street, i.e. BAM Way. Also, they  want 
me to write a play about Marcus Garvey and perform the role of Garvey. Now, I have to think about this latter 
request, but it is not difficult to write about someone I love, Marcus Garvey! For sure, I am an actor and, in the
words of ancestor Paul Robeson, an artistic freedom fighter."

An unapologetic Pan-Africanist, Garvey believed that Black people everywhere 
should unite and fight to liberate Africa, the motherland, from the brutal clutches 
of European colonialism – Africa should be the base for global Black Power! Hence 
he said, “I know no national boundary where the Negro is concerned. The whole 
world is my province until Africa is free.”

At a time when people of African descent were besieged, belittled , marginalized, 
exploited and oppressed everywhere, Garvey sought to instill a sense of pride 
in the history and heritage of a great people,noting that: “Apeople without the knowledge 
of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” He declared that “God 
and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make 
ourselves what we want to be… Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.”

Garvey was determined to rally a beleaguered people and mold them into a formidable 
force committed to self-reliance, self-determination and nationhood.   The UNIA was organized 
like a nation in-waiting with military, economic/commercial, educational, health, religious 
and administrative divisions.   He also created literature, music, images and symbols, 
designed to promote pride and unity. For example, theUniversal Ethiopian Anthem 
was adopted as the official song of the organization.

But, the most powerful and lasting symbol of unity that Garvey presented and bequeathed 
to African people was a Flag, the Red,Black and Green. Garvey was keenly aware of 
the psycho-cultural value of symbols to an oppressed/battered people. The impetus to put 
forth a flag became even more urgent because of the white supremacist song that 
became very popular in the early part of the 20th century – “Every Race Has a Flag but 
the Coon.” The Red, Black and Green was officially ratified as the Flag for African 
people at the 1920 UNIA Convention – which led Garvey to proclaim: “Show me the 
race or the nation without a flag, and I will show you a race of people without any pride. 
Aye! In song and mimicry they have said, ‘Every race has a flag but the coon.’ How 
true! Aye! But that was said of us four years ago. They can’t say it now….”

The colors of the Flag were meant to have significance for Black/African people 
globally. In the   ceremonies of IBW’s public events, the Flag is saluted by reciting 
words that embody the essence of what   we believe Garvey intended to be the meaning 
of the colors: Red, for the blood and suffering of African people; Black for the color 
and culture of our people; Green, for the land stolen from us which we will reclaim 
to build our nation. The Red, Black and Green Flag was meant to be a symbol of Pan 
African Unity! Indeed, the influence of Garvey was such that the colors appear 
in the Flags of Malawi, Kenya and Ghana in Africa and St. Kitts and Nevis in the 

In the era of the 60’s when Black Power, Black Nationalism and Pan Africanism 
reemerged as a dominant force in the Black Freedom Struggle in the U.S.,the  
Red,Black and Green was frequently in full flourish at rallies and demonstrations. 
And, it was common to see sisters and brothers with buttons, hats, scarves and 
 clothing with the colors of the Flag in the design. The colors of the Black 
Liberation Flag, as it came to be known, were in! It was a symbol of 
Black pride, unity, resistance and the struggle for self-determination and 
independence. I shall never forget the hundreds of Flags waving in the 
breeze on African Liberation Day in 1972 where some 25,000 gathered 
in Washington, D.C. to demand the liberation of the last colonies in Africa. 
It was a glorious site, one Marcus Garvey must have been pleased with from 
his ascendant perch with the ancestors!

It was to preserve and promote this spirit of unity, pride and resistance 
 and to keep the legacy of Marcus Garvey alive as an impeccable 
model of the struggle for Black/African self-determination that I wrote 
an article some years ago proposing that Garvey’s birthday be declared  
Universal African Flag Day. In the article I noted that in New York 
on the day of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Puerto Rican 
Flag is on prominent display through-out the City. The same applies 
for the Parades of Dominicans, Colombians and other Latino nationalities 
in New York. And, at some of the largest pro-immigration reform 
demonstrations a few years ago there was a sea of Mexican Flags — 
so much so that it provoked a backlash by opponents of reform, 
who labeled the demonstrators un-American.

I firmly believe that Africans in America, indeed, African people 
everywhere should embrace the Red, Black and Green as our Flag 
 and fly/display it during rallies, demonstrations, public events and 
 Black/African holidays as a unifying, Pan African symbol of 
 self-affirmation, resistance and self-determination. And, on the 
 birthday of Marcus Garvey, Universal African Flag Day, the  
Red, Black and Green should be proudly on display everywhere!

Frankly, my initial calls for Garvey’s birthday to be declared  
Universal African Flag Day, as an act of Kujichagulia/Self-determination,
 did not get much traction. But, sparked by the Black Lives Matter Movement
there is a new spirit of resistance in the air. I am noticing more and more  
Red, Black and Green Flags at rallies and demonstrations. Therefore, 
encouraged by these events,the forthcoming Millions Peoples March for 
Justice; the urging of Dr. Segun Shabaka of the New York Chapter of 
the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO); and, with 
the blessing of Dr. Julius Garvey, the son of Marcus Garvey, I am renewing 
the call for August 17th to be affirmed as Universal African Flag Day.

Moreover, in this season of heightened resistance, it is only appropriate that 
we request that President Obama exonerate the Honorable Marcus Garvey 
of the trumped up charges of which he was convicted as one of the first 
victims of the FBI. Marcus Garvey’s life and legacy matter to Black/African
 people. Therefore, we are obligated to fight to clear his name! So, sisters and 
brothers let’s do it. Fly the Flag and Fight for the Exoneration 
of Marcus Garvey! #FlytheRedBlackand Green August 17.

Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century 
and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. 
His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website 
 and To send a message, arrange media interviews 
or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at

 Marvin X and student at his Academy of da Corner. Will Marvin X perform the role of Marcus Garvey?

Marcus Garvey

The Red, Black and Green was officially ratified as the Flag for African 
people at the 1920 UNIA Convention – which led Garvey to proclaim: “Show me the 
race or the nation without a flag, and I will show you a race of people without any pride. 
Aye! In song and mimicry they have said, ‘Every race has a flag but the coon.’ How 
true! Aye! But that was said of us four years ago. They can’t say it now….”

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