Ebony Speaker Series concludes with lecture on legendary figure

Alexia Harris

Marcus Garvey is regarded as the father of modern black nationalism, said Mark Christian, an associate professor at Miami University-Hamilton.

“Although Garvey was of dark complexion, he rose to become a brilliant speaker and became the leader of the first worldwide black movement,” Christian said.

About 20 students and faculty gathered to hear Christian lecture on the topic, “The Black Atlantic, Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association: With Special Reference to the ‘Lost’ Parade in Columbus, Ohio, September 23, 1923.”

The Center of Pan-African Culture ended the observance of Black History Month with its monthly Ebony Speaker Series last night in Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor and director of the CPAC, said the center asked Christian, who teaches black world studies and sociology, to speak on Garvey because Garvey is an icon in black history.

Christian said he had a keen interest in black history, and began studying Garveyism, the study of Garvey and black nationalism, once he learned his grandfather was a secretary to Garvey.

Christian, whose mother was of Spanish and British descent and whose father was black, said he does not like when people think someone can’t lead or be something because of how he or she looks.

“You can be of a different complexion and be in the same family,” he said. “You just come to experience the Willie Lynch syndrome.”

Lynch was a slave owner in the West Indies who wrote a letter explaining how to pit slaves against each other based on their skin tone.

“It’s like the lighter you are, the more social privilege you get,” Christian said.

Garvey was an advocate for self-reliance and self-dignity for blacks and argued against the system of white supremacy.

“Garvey learned that wherever he traveled, blacks faced racial discrimination and were disempowered,” Christian said.

In 1914, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association to improve and promote the spirit of race.

Freshman nursing major Sarah Stalter came to the program because she was invited by a teacher.

“I knew about Martin Luther King (Jr.) and Malcolm X, but I wanted to learn more about Garvey,” she said.

Stalter said she thought King led the largest black movement, but when she found out it was Garvey, it surprised her.

“It was very surprising because I had never heard of him,” she said.

She said she enjoyed the program because she learned something new.

“After taking those classes and coming to this program, with me being white, it was helpful to see things from someone else’s shoes,” Stalter said.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Alexia Harris at [email protected].