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Garvey in sight, sound at multimedia museum

Published: Sunday | September 26, 2010 1 Comment

Dr Wykeham McNeill, opposition spokesman on tourism, unveils a bust of Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey with the help of Senator Warren Newby, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, at Liberty Hall in Kingston. McNeill donated the bust. Liberty Hall was the centre of activities for the Kingston division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and is now maintained as a national monument by the Institute of Jamaica. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Staff

Donna McFarlane, curator of Liberty Hall, is extremely proud of the museum there. She explains that it is "the only fully multimedia museum in the Caribbean and is the only library dedicated to Garvey in the world".

While there were 1,056 divisions of the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association) between 1921 and the early 1930s, McFarlane pointed out that the only other Liberty Hall in Jamaica now is in Retreat, Westmoreland. "He wanted every division to have a Liberty Hall for black people to come and read about their history; they would read newspapers from around the world," McFarlane said. The Liberty Hall at 76 King Street was Garvey's personal headquarters, where he had offices, making it the ideal place to house a museum dedicated to him.

McFarlane said that Garvey called the headquarters Liberty Hall because of his respect for the Irish, who called their headquarters in Dublin Liberty Hall. The stone was laid on March 22, 1933.

Garvey timeline

A large section of an entire wall is dedicated to a timeline of Garvey, including relevant events before and after his life and work. So there are the influences on Garvey, including Edward Blyden, Joseph Love and Booker T. Washington. (Garvey was hoping to set up an institution like the Tuskegee Institute.) There is Garvey's United States Years, from 1916-1927, the Jamaica Years of 1927-1935, The National Hero of 1964, and Those Who Garvey Influenced, among them Martin Luther King Jr, Walter Rodney, Jomo Kenyatta, Burning Spear, and Bob Marley.

Movies are shown in the museum and McFarlane said when visitors see the films "it really opens up their eyes. They never see positive images of Africa". McFarlane said that normally, only crises in Africa are shown and pointed out that in the shots, "the camera is always down, showing hungry faces. They never show the vista of the cities".

The multimedia aspect comes into full effect with eight interactive touch screens, which take visitors through Garvey's Early Years, the US Years and The Final Years of His Life.

Garvey's sayings proliferate the museum, one arresting statement summarising leadership: "Leadership means everything - pain, blood, death." Then there is the more well known "education is the medium by which a people are prepared for their own particular civilisation and the advancement and glory of their race".

An unforgettable voice does the narrations - Trevor Rhone - while Ron Bobsemple does Garvey.
The museum, which was designed by McFarlane, celebrates its seventh anniversary in October. For those who would take a bit of Garvey with them, the gift shop has mugs, T-Shirts, and keyrings, plus artwork for sale

Peace be upon you

Jamaica Gleaner News - Garvey in sight, sound at multimedia museum - News - Sunday | September 26, 2010