Sifelani Tsiko Senior Writer
“No one remembers old Marcus Garvey, no one remembers old Marcus Garvey”, sings Burning Spear – one of reggae’s most iconic figures with an unwavering belief in the Rastafari faith and a dedication to preserving the memory of Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican hero of black self-determination who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
He has been the most revered and consistent reggae artiste who has delivered powerful and meaningful messages on black heroes and black history.
His cry for the memory of Garvey was answered recently when Namibia renamed one of its streets after Jamaica’s first national hero – Marcus Moziah Garvey.
The event to honour Garvey’s legacy was witnessed by Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and high-ranking Namibian officials.
All this came after Namibia voted to rename Babs Street after Garvey in January this year.
“Naming a street in this capital city of Windhoek in honour of Marcus Garvey represents a demonstration of posterity of the value of the contribution of one who has played a lead role in countering negative appellations forced on black people in Africa and the Diaspora,” Holness was quoted as saying.
The move in many ways represented a giant leap in strengthening ties between Africans at home and abroad.
We have to walk with our history and do everything we can as Africans to preserve the legacy of our black heroes who struggled to offer Africans direction, hope and vision.
Garvey, who is one of the most documented pan-African heroes of our times, ranks highly among our black heroes who dedicated their lives to inspire black people to set high goals for themselves and be proud of who they are.
Zimbabwe and most African countries are littered with streets, buildings and places named after their oppressors.
The list includes white settler colonialists and European heroes who engaged in black genocide and slavery on the continent and the Diaspora.
And, when Africans at home and abroad come together to rename streets, buildings and other places in honour of black heroes, it rekindles black pride and dignity.
It makes us stand tall of our achievements as blacks. Apart from this, it raises the profile of our black heroes who fought gallantly against our erstwhile oppressors.
Zimbabwe, too, has honoured numerous pan-African heroes by naming streets and buildings in their memory.
One such ceremony conducted in recent years was the renaming of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), established some 30 years ago, to Julius K. Nyerere House.
The centre was named in honour of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the founding president of Tanzania and one of Africa’s foremost pan-African visionaries, who recognised the key role of knowledge as a strategic resource for freedom and development.
Across Africa and in some parts of the Diaspora, streets, buildings and places have been named after African heroes that include Samora Machel, Walter Rodney, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Kwame Nkrumah, Joshua Nkomo, Sam Nujoma, Martin Luther King Jnr and Amilcar Cabral.
It is important for Africans both at home and abroad to value and be guided by the ideals and principles of these visionary men who believed that unity, integrity and knowledge are critical for the advancement of the black race.
Our young dot.com generation needs to be educated, not only about our oppressors and their allies but also about our own people in order to make them understand our past, present and future.
We must make them understand that the decision to name streets, buildings and places in honour of their contribution to freedom and pan-Africanism some decades ago is much about keeping their ideals and principles alive and steering them to face the future with determination and hope.
In life today, there are so many distractions and plots to permanently erase the legacy of Garvey and other black heroes from our shared and collective memory.
Our towering black heroes fought against the poor working and living conditions of black people.
They were vocal and brave in speaking about the injustices and discrimination experienced by blacks.
They appealed for the colonial governments to improve their plight.
Their lives and works should hold a special place in the hearts of Africans who care about social justice and black liberation today.
In many ways, they embodied the transnational dimensions of the black struggle and wielded a sharp critique of white dominance.
We should continue to explore the major milestones of black heroes and see their relevance to the lives of Africans at home and abroad.
For the younger generations, I hope the inscription of Marcus Garvey Street will arouse their interest in learning more about the life of this extraordinary Jamaican.
It is a heartwarming experience to listen to the children reading about “Marcus Garvey Street”.
Of course, we cannot repeat or just reclaim the past – we can learn from it and people want to know where we are coming from.
The renaming of a street in Garvey’s honour may appear simplistic but it reminds us that we need to pay attention to our history and recognise the connection to those in the Diaspora.
We laud the move to keep Garvey’s legacy alive. It is a call for us to confront our fears and collectively participate in struggles for justice at home and abroad.
Hopefully, it will inspire the younger generations to carry the torch.