Marcus and Joan

by Vince Rogers

The story of Jeanne d' Arc, the young French maiden who would come to be best known by the blasphemously anglicized moniker “Joan of Arc”, is the most compelling leadership story of the old millennium. Her sublime example represents the power of piety, physical courage and moral leadership. It is not significant solely because of its ecclesiastical aspects, but because she was also able to convince her people that they had a God given right to political, economic and cultural sovereignty. She made them realize that they should be a free people and were not destined to be ruled or oppressed by anyone. She inspired her people to realize that the only thing preventing them from building their nation was their own strength of purpose, devotion to the cause of freedom and their faith in God.

Jeanne was merely a simple teenaged girl, not a noblewoman, a priest or a general, yet she spent almost her entire short life in service to God and in defense of her nation. It is debatable whether she was possessed by evil spirits, deranged by mental defect, afflicted by physical illness or truly touched by God. Yet it is indisputable that she was able to inspire her people to take up the cause to defeat their enemy and fight for the cause of freedom where many others had failed. She succeeded in unifying a nation, where the efforts of Kings, Clerics, Soldiers and Scribes before her had failed. The “Maid of Orleans” is the epitome of the idea that anyone can make a difference.

For almost 600 years her story has stood as a testament to the power of faith, hope, strength and courage. The historical accounts of her story are all well documented and most have been proven true. The only thing that is still a mystery is whether her visions came from God or from her own desire to see her people live free and her willingness to sacrifice her life for that cause. Saint Jeanne d' Arc was a little girl who was not borne of wealth or nobility of title, yet she possessed the courage to lead armies, the wisdom to convince Kings and the strength to resist an empire.

In the most recent century, only one world figure even approaches the same level of ecclesiastical vision, humanistic optimism and inspired leadership as Jeanne D’Arc. Marcus Mosiah Garvey launched the most ambitious and holistic program for liberation of an oppressed people that has ever been formulated in modern history. Words scarcely do justice to describe the boldness of his vision or his deep love for his people.

Garvey's vision was built upon a forward thinking strategy of combining political organization, business formation, cultural unity and nation building to unify and liberate an oppressed people. However, while “the Maid of Orleans” was eventually elevated to sainthood and is now worshipped by enemies and devotees alike, Garvey’s legacy has been dragged through the mud by his enemies and has become the punch line to cruel jokes told by the very people he loved and sought to liberate.

Much of his legacy has been purposely maligned and shamefully misinterpreted, yet the fact remains that the organization Marcus Garvey founded, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, represents the largest membership of any mass movement in Afro-American history. Garvey is possibly the first Black businessman to organize a large enterprise through the public sale of stock shares, for his Black Star Line shipping corporation. He also published an internationally distributed newspaper, the Negro World, which boasted an unprecedented circulation of over 500,000 readers worldwide.

Since the days of his eventual unjust incarceration in the Atlanta Federal Prison for mail fraud in 1925, until his ultimate demise in 1940, Garvey's legacy has been mocked, scandalized and defamed. The fact of the matter though, is that Garvey's organizational model has been copied by every Black organization that has existed since. The only difference is that these later organizations have lacked Garvey’s same boldness, ambition, scope and vision. While Malcolm may have been a magnificent speaker, Martin was a beautiful dreamer and Mandela was a courageous fighter, Marcus Mosiah Garvey was all of those things, but most importantly he was a prolific builder.

Garvey organized the UNIA and the African Communities League, he founded the Black Star Line shipping company, the Negro World newspaper, created the red, black and green Black Liberation Flag, founded the Negro Factories Corporation, the Universal African Paramilitary Legion, the Black Cross Nurses, the Black Eagles Flying Corps and is responsible for many other well known and sadly forgotten enterprises and accomplishments.

Like an All-Star athlete who did not realize the goal of winning one single championship game, Garvey's legacy is usually defined by his "failure" to repatriate millions of Black people back to their African homeland. The fact of the matter though, is that many Black people did return to Africa under the Garvey program. More importantly though, Marcus Mosiah Garvey put the entire world on notice that Black people around the world would one day step forward to reclaim their proud heritage, their dignity, the ir humanity and their place in history. Marcus Mosiah Garvey planted the seeds of pride that first made Black people believe we could overcome any adversities placed in our path and inspired us to continuously seek to reclaim our place in history. Marcus Mosiah Garvey is the greatest world leader of the 20th century.

Marcus and Joan by Vince Rogers

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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