Today In Fact, 17 August

Marcus Garvey and David Koresh share a birthday today.

Garvey was a Jamaican born in 1887 and in his youth he was a bookworm. He was very charismatic and during his career as a journalist, he would give speeches that roused people to action. Garvey was an early proponent of Pan-Africanism and inspired the formation of the Universal negro Improvement Association in which Africans from the diaspora were encouraged to see their world as Africans and not through European eyes.

A media savvy and public relations genius, Garvey mobilized many thousands of African Americans to shift their self consciousness and identity towards an Afro-centric vision.

Garveyism was a popular philosophy, understood from the least to the most sophisticated person in his audience. His sweeping images captivated his followers. They were taken with the eloquence of his symbols and the substance of his messages. Garvey emphasized his belief in the One God, the God of Africa, who should be visualized through black eyes.

He preached that black people needed to become familiar with their ancient history and their rich cultural heritage. He called for pride in the black race—for example; he made black dolls for black children. His was the first voice to clearly demand black power. It was he who said, “A race without authority and power is a race without respect.” The Garvey movement was the greatest international movement of African peoples in modern times.

At its peak, from 1922 to 1924, the movement counted more than eight million followers. The youngest members of the movement were taken in at five years of age and, as they grew older, they graduated to the sections for older children. Garvey was imprisoned for mail fraud after a concerted campaign by the FBI. He blamed a Jewish conspiracy against him. He died in 1940 in London.

David Koresh on the other hand died in very different circumstances. Koresh was born Vernon Howel in 1959 and became the leader of the Branch Davidian sect, an offshoot of an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists.

Koresh claimed to be a prophet and inveigled his way to control of a small settlement of religious wacko’s in Waco Texas. These people were odd by any standards. The Branch Dravidians also kept arms.

The authorities eventually acted against them and they were resisted. After 51 days of siege and the death of at least four ATF agents, the FBI moved in to arrest the nutters. Barricaded inside the building, 76 Branch Davidians, including David Koresh, did not survive the fire; seventeen of these victims were children under the age of 17. According to the FBI, Steve Schneider, Koresh’s right-hand man who “probably realized he was dealing with a fraud”, shot and killed Koresh and then committed suicide with the same gun.

Surviving members of the Branch Davidians have been squabbling with each other since the Waco disaster, mostly over who owns the properties of this sect and who is the head honcho.

– Posted by Douglas Racionzer ( )