by Louis – Emerson
One hundred twenty-two years ago, thousands of delegates of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) gathered in Harlem, New York. The UNIA was founded by Marcus Garvey in 1914 and was dedicated to the advancement and “racial uplift” of Black people globally. InAugust 1920, delegates in New York drafted a fifty-four point “Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World”, which was also meant to serve as the association’s statement of principles for its African Redemption exercise and programs.
The UNIA’s Declaration, signed by delegates on 13th August 1920, insisted “That nowhere in the world, with few exceptions, are black men accorded equal treatment with white men.” The Declaration then elaborated fifty-four points of action and contention covering issues from voting rights to the treatment of prisoners to the abolishment of the League of Nations for malfeasance. Reading the Declaration in the context of COLONIALISM/IMPERIALISM’S international political/economic agenda we find that the language of the UNIA declaration overflows with thoughts and ideas of self-governance, of that time. Today in the twenty first century we must reflect and redeem this freedom of expression which is an inalienable human right and the foundation for self- government. Freedom of expression encompasses the freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and association, and the corollary right to receive information without interference and without compromising personal privacy.
I will ask that the members of the UNIA-ACL, Black Cross Nurses, National Kriol Council, National Garifuna Council, ADDI, all grassroots community leaders revisit and read the UNIA’s Declaration of Rights of The Negro Peoples of the World. It can and will help us to coherently frame some questions about the way conventional rights frameworks are being simultaneously rejected and reinvented in the current moment, demonstrating and continuing the profit before people. Why is the call for love, truth, peace, freedom, and justice the battle cry for current protests in Belize and the region? Is human rights delayed in Belize and the region? If this is so, who is steering this delay process??
Dr. Vince Hines, the VOICE OF THE VOICELESS FROM SELF HELP NEWS, has elaborated that this shift is particularly important, because the scholarship of human rights has long rested on an ideology relating to the doctrine of design and purpose in the material world. “a teleological view of nature.”
Our human rights discourses today are formed on the basis of Natural Law. We can find the revolutionary language of the late 18th century and see how documents such as the Rights of Man and the American Declaration of Independence, are consolidated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Dr. Vince Hines points to scholars such as Dominique Marshall, who have traced important precedents to the League of Nations era; and two conventions on the rights of the child, earlier ideas of rights, and especially rights discourses born of resistance, have not been generally
incorporated in conventional histories of human rights.
With that said, historian Wendell Adjetey insists that the UNIA’s “self-determination manifesto rivaled the U.S. Declaration of Independence and French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.”
The absence of the UNIA Declaration in general histories of human rights is revealing an incredible bias. Why is this so? I would venture to say this historical silence is because of precedent already set, and how we understand causality.
In Belize, we have this inherently problematic nature of dividing culture, Identity and history into tidy, compartmentalized cells, and so we have not been able to focus concentrated attention on how ideas of human rights and justice have been framed in historic documents such as the DECLARATION OF RIGHTS OF THE NEGRO PEOPLES OF THE WORLD. The absence of these ideas from our current discourse is damaging.
The Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of The World is an important primary source; its context of creation offers important lessons for historians of human rights and scholars of classism, racism and resistance to the proactive violence in POVERTY. The declaration of rights of the Negro Peoples of the World is a timely read for anyone concerned about issues of equality and justice for all:
Be It resolved, that the Negro people of the world, through their chosen representatives in a convention assembled in Liberty Hall, in the City of New York and United States of America, from August 1 to August 31, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty, protest against the wrongs and injustices they are suffering at the hands of their white brethren, and state what they deem their fair and just rights, as well as the treatment they propose to demand of all men in the future.
1. Be it known to all men that whereas all men are created equal and entitled to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and because of this we, the duly elected representatives of the Negro peoples of the world, invoking the aid of the just and Almighty God, do declare all men, women and children of our blood throughout the world free denizens, and do claim them as free citizens of Africa, the Motherland of all Negroes.
2. That we believe in the supreme authority of our race in all things racial; that all things are created and given to man as a common possession; that there should be an equitable distribution and apportionment of all such things, and in consideration of the fact that as a race we are now deprived of those things that are morally and legally ours, we believe it right that all such things should be acquired and held by whatsoever means possible.
3. That we believe the Negro, like any other race, should be governed by the ethics of civilization, and therefore should not be deprived of any of those rights or privileges common to other human beings.
4. We declare that Negroes, wheresoever they form a community among themselves, should be given the right to elect their own representatives to represent them in Legislatures, courts of law, or such institutions as may exercise control over that particular community.
5. We assert that the Negro is entitled to even-handed justice before all courts of law and equity in whatever country he may be found, and when this is denied him on account of his race or color, such denial is an insult to the race as a whole and should be resented by the entire body of Negroes.
6. We declare it unfair and prejudicial to the rights of Negroes in communities where they exist in considerable numbers to be tried by a judge and jury composed entirely of an alien race, but in all such cases members of our race are entitled to representation on the jury.
7. We believe that any law or practice that tends to deprive any African of his land or the privileges of free citizenship within his country is unjust and immoral, and no native should respect any such law or practice.
8. We declare taxation without representation unjust and tyran[n]ous, and there should be no obligation on the part of the Negro to obey the levy of a tax by any law-making body from which he is excluded and denied representation on account of his race and color.
9. We believe that any law especially directed against the Negro to his detriment and singling him out because of his race or color is unfair and immoral, and should not be respected.
10. We believe all men entitled to common human respect and that our race should in no way tolerate any insults that may be interpreted to mean disrespect to our race or color.
11. We deprecate the use of the term “n*****” as applied to Negroes, and demand that the word “Negro” be written with a capital “N.” [Edited by author]
12. We believe that the Negro should adopt every means to protect himself against barbarous practices inflicted upon him because of color.
13. We believe in the freedom of Africa for the Negro people of the world, and by the principle of Europe for the Europeans and Asia for the Asiatics, we also demand Africa for the Africans at home and abroad.
14. We believe in the inherent right of the Negro to possess himself of Africa and that his possession of same shall not be regarded as an infringement of any claim or purchase made by any race or nation.
15. We strongly condemn the cupidity of those nations of the world who, by open aggression or secret schemes, have seized the territories and inexhaustible natural wealth of Africa, and we place on record our most solemn determination to reclaim the treasures and possession of the vast continent of our forefathers.
Declaration 16 to 54 can be found at : http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5122/ ?fbclid=IwAR0V9WsVcEj-0vZYD_tH- TOa-jrQvSbyUiKRS7MhsPlSLtODE j1XU-I2lY0