Guyanese-Born “Garvey” Unsure Of Exoneration

NEW YORK, August 29, 2006 – In Caribbean and African circles he’s known as ‘Marcus Mosiah Garvey.’ Now Guyanese actor Ron Bobb-Semple, who continues to keep Garvey alive, says while he welcomes the Jamaican prime minister’s push to exonerate the black rights leader from mail fraud, he feels the effort should be expanded.

Bobb-Semple, whose one-man portrayal of Garvey continues to play to wide acclaim, told HBN last night that while he applauds PM Portia Simpson Miller for her stand amidst sagging polls, he believes that not too many Jamaicans are behind the venture.

The Tampa resident says in the past, several concerted efforts have been made to exonerate Garvey. Bobb-Semple was apart of a group who traveled to Washington, DC over 15 years ago, he said, to meet with Congressman Charles Rangel.

He said a hearing took place but little else and a bill introduced last year continues to languish in the House. So the actor and radio presenter is now far from optimistic that the current lobbying effort will make a difference.

But he feels what the PM should do is also make August 17th, Garvey’s birthday, a national holiday.
Simpson-Miller recently commissioned a legal study of U.S. court documents from Garvey’s trial in the hopes that evidence will be found that would prove the Jamaican hero was unfairly convicted. While New York City Council member, Charles Barron, (42nd CD, Brooklyn), on August 16th, also called a full pardon for Garvey from the US government.

Speaking from the floor of the New York City Council in Manhattan, Barron called on his colleagues to join Congressman Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), in his effort to have the President of the United States grant a posthumous pardon to Garvey.

Barron said that the time had come for Garvey’s name to be cleared from a politically and racially motivated charge of one single count of mail fraud in l923. In February 2005, Congressman Rangel introduced House Concurrent Resolution 57, calling on the President of the US to grant a posthumous pardon to Garvey.

Jamaica’s Consul General to Miami, Ricardo Allicock, has also endorsed the move by his government to spearhead dialogue with the United States Congressional Black Caucus, aimed at exonerating Garvey’s name in the United States.

Garvey, born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica, on August 17, 1887, founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 before moving to the U.S. in 1916. And as his popularity rose in the United States, he launched the Black Star Shipping Line. But a host of legal entanglements led to charges that he had used the U.S. mail to defraud prospective investors in the line. He was eventually sentenced for a five-year term in 1925 in Atlanta. In 1927 his half-served sentence was commuted and he was deported to Jamaica by order of President Calvin Coolidge. In 1935 Garvey traveled to England where he died on June 10, 1940, in West Kensington.

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