Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Marcus Garvey 1924-08-05
Marcus Garvey in 1924

Pioneering Pens - celebrating the early Black journalists and roots reggae songwriters


 We think of Jamaica as the home of Reggae, the early hearth of the Ras Tafari faith. But it has also been the birthplace and nurturing ground, for some of the pioneering figures of Black journalism.

 For example, the Negro World newspaper, the official organ of the UNIA – Universal Negro Improvement Association - was at one time (1920s) the best selling newspaper in African-America. Sold also in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Central America, at its height, it had a global readership of two hundred thousand: with Spanish and French versions too. This newspaper was founded in 1918, by Marcus Garvey, born in St. Anne's – as was Bob Marley and Burning Spear. Garvey must have the record for international editing, having fulfilled this role on five different newspapers, in Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica, America and England.

 From Marcus Garvey to a fan of his, Una Marson. In Kingston, in 1928, Marson, who worked as a secretary, social worker and editor, founded the Cosmopolitan, the first Jamaican magazine for women: becoming the first female editor in the country.Through her later work in England, she met Ras Tafari: becoming secretary to the Ethiopian legation. She accompanied him, when he went to speak for his occupied homeland, in Vienna, in 1936. It was this multi-talented woman – poet and playwright, as well as journalist and editor – who during the Second World War, became the first black female broadcaster at the BBC: initially as a link between Black combatants and their respective homelands.

 Born in Negril, on Jamaica's west coast, Joel Augustus Rogers, became a widely respected journalist, historian and  writer; a regular contributor to African-America's best selling newspapers, such as The Pittsburgh Courier and the New York Amsterdam News. At one point, he worked on the Daily Negro Times, a newspaper of his compatriot, Marcus Garvey: who he later interviewed during his American imprisonment. On two occassions, he visited Ethiopia. In 1930, to cover the enthronement of Ras Tafari as Emperor Haile Selassie I; then five years later, becoming the first Black war journalist of the 20th century, when he covered the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. Like Marcus Garvey, also resident in New York during the first decades of the 20th century, Rogers became an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance.

 Before the coming of those with voice and drum, such as Bob Andy and Count Ossie, others, with pen and paper, such as Amy Bailey and Harold Moody, went before them to the frontline, carrying a different type of weaponry: word and the warrior.
Written by 
© Natty Mark Samuels, 2016. The Dub. 
The Negro World - PBS
Marcus Garvey's Photo
From George Grantham Bain Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Natty Mark Samuels

Natty Mark Samuels
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Email: bantudub06@gmail.com
Blog: www.africanschool-africa.blogspot.com
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Celebrating the early Black journalists and roots reggae songwriters
written by Natty Mark on Reggaediscography

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