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Marcus Garvey's Dream Fulfilled

Marcus Garvey had a dream, Martin Luther King had a dream and each of us has a dream. The Rt. Hon Marcus Garvey set out to economically empower the African people in the diaspora. He therefore established the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which was dedicated to promoting African-Americans and resettlement in Africa. Garvey’s dream was to establish enterprises that would provide gainful employment for African Americans and also facilitate their return to Africa. His focus was racial unity, pride in the African cultural heritage, and complete autonomy for the African race.

To assert this position, Garvey set out to create the awareness that Africans descended from a mighty race and need to maintain that dignity of race. “We must canonize our own saints, create our own martyrs and elevate to positions of fame and honor, black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history”. He established the African Legion and the Black Cross Nurses who were all well attired during their parades in New York City. He understood the essence of branding long before it became a catchphrase. Long before it became a popular phrase, Garvey had proclaimed ‘Black is Beautiful’. Garvey was elected Provisional President of Africa in 1920 by the U.N.I.A to the chagrin of many Africans and African Americans who felt he was overstepping his bounds.

In 1918 Garvey established the Negro World to propagate his message and reports indicate that by 1920, the U.N.I.A had over six million members and the Negro World had a global circulation of up to 200,000. His organizational acumen led to U.N.I.A investments in the laundry business, buildings, groceries, restaurants, a printing press and transportation in New York. He capped it all off in 1919 he establishing the Black Star Line Shipping Company, his most ambitious project. Garvey was an avowed capitalist who believed that economic success was the sure route to true freedom. The Black Star Line was to be the shipping company to return Africans in the diaspora to Africa. However a cocktail of inexperienced management, sabotage and corruption affected the enterprise resulting in the conviction of Garvey in the U.S; a conviction that has since been overturned. Garvey said “If you want liberty, you yourselves must strike the blow. If you must be free, you must become so through your own effort.”

SECOND ADVENT OF THE BLACK STAR LINE

As a student in the United States of America, the first President of the Republic of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said of all the books he had studied, none had as significant an impact on him like the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey. As a scholar in the United States, Dr. Nkrumah had acquired two masters’ degrees in Education and Theology. For him to be so impressed by Garvey’s book meant a lot. Indeed he had become imbued with Garvey’s dream. From then on, his quest was to elevate the status of the African. So after a brief sojourn in the United Kingdom, Nkrumah returned home to Ghana to answer one of Garvey’s most strident questions, ‘Where are the Black man’s big men of affairs’. Along with his compatriots in Ghana, Nkrumah initiated the independence movement in the country, winning independence for the nation in 1957, exactly twelve years after his return to the then Gold Coast in 1947. One of the first missions of Dr. Nkrumah was the establishment of the Black Star Line Shipping Company Ltd and Ghana Airways to break the monopoly of Western companies on international transportation to and from Ghana as he put it. Unfortunately, both shipping line and airline were allowed to fall apart as a result of poor management, corruption and sabotage after his overthrow in 1966 once again just like in the case of Garvey’s Black Star Line Shipping Company earlier on.

THIRD ADVENT OF THE BLACK STAR LINE

On March 2, 2009 the Black Star Line Cooperative Credit Union (BSLCCU) was born in Accra, Ghana. This for me marks the third advent of the Black Star Line with the objective of Garvey which was the economic emancipation of the African which was echoed by Kwame Nkrumah when he established the Black Star Line Shipping Company in Ghana. On the occasion of the launch of the BSLCCU at the Ghana International Press Centre, speaking as the President of the Rastafari Council of Ghana I noted, “Action they say, speaks louder than words so the Rastafari Council will work diligently for the achievement of Garvey’s dream of the economic emancipation of the African people. In that regard, Rastafari Council, Ghana will among other economic ventures, set up a Credit Union for member houses and sympathizers of the cause. This Credit Union will form the basis of an economic regeneration of Rastafari in Ghana…. Just spend a few moments and do the calculations. For a union of 300 members with minimum savings of GHC 2 each, (now GHC 10 or $ 3) every month as suggested by the Credit Union of Ghana, how much would that be?” Those figures are from 2009, now imagine the possibilities at even a minimum saving of $ 20 per month for 500 members or more. The economic muscle that can be created would be awesome.

The idea behind the BSLCCU is the pooling of resources to create wealth collectively for members. Therefore currently one member who is a driver has taken a loan to buy his own taxi. Other members have also taken business and personal development loans. The BSLCCU is based on the universal principle of Credit Unions being formed based on a common bond for its members; and the credit union belonging to members through their shares. In the case of the BSLCCU, the common bond is Pan Africanism. This means all Africans and people of African descent who would like to can be a part of the Black Star Line Cooperative Credit Union. Based on Marcus Garvey’s suggestion of pooling our resources for enterprises, members buy minimum shares of approximately $ 30 and save at least $3 a month. Members are however free to save as much as they desire since their access to credit from the Union is based on their financial solvency or in other words their cash balances.

It should not be too difficult to grasp the BSLCCU idea. If you are in the diaspora, there is a good reason for you to be interested in the Credit Union. If you are interested in either resettling to Africa or making some form of investment in Ghana and you are of a Pan African or Rastafari orientation, then this is one of the best vehicles you can employ. The Union has investment products that attract competitive rates. The BSLCCU will also roll out its Real Estate Investment Product by December 2016. This product will enable members to own land or houses even while they are still in the West. The product will allow members to either purchase their land or buildings outright or buy an investment package that will result in ownership of the property over a period of time.

The BSLCCU has a five member Board that took office after an interim period of administration by the Rastafari Council of Ghana in 2013. The board is running its second two year term which ends in October 2017. The Board is Chaired by Naomi Palmer-Buchanan a Personal Development Training Consultant with a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise from over forty years providing training for corporate businesses, governmental establishments and NGOs in the United Kingdom and managing her own business in Ghana. The Treasurer Jude Maison who is a professional banker in his notes to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in October 2015 notes that, “Assets ended 2014 with an increase of 67.20% from 2013 and total member deposits also an increased by 90.08%. BSLCCU membership in 2014 grew by 33.3% to 420. As a shareholder your contributions are invaluable to the success of the union. And so I join the Chairperson and the entire Board and management to thank you for your continued support. The team remains committed to helping you achieve your financial goals. As we work hand in hand, I believe we have a much more successful year ahead.” Other members of the Board are Dennis Danville aka Jawara a New York based member who attended Bronx Community College majoring in Electronic Technology and runs his own business and Edwin Baffour who is Vice Chairman.  Edwin has been a tireless contributor to the cause of food sovereignty in Ghana. 

To ensure the effective governance of the Union, a Supervisory Committee is in place which vets the work of both the Board and the Management; a Loans Committee that handles loan requests and an Education Committee to educate both members and prospective members. All this would not have been possible without the enormous sacrifices of some brothers and sisters like Ras Kofi Collins, Khex Pongo and Andrew Nii Lante the first three managers. Sister Black Madonna of blessed memory, as Jah Bud and Empress Imara who played the roles of internal auditors, Obeng Karikari and soccer coach and administrator Nana Opoku Agyemang who gave us the name Black Star Line after much brainstorming .

It has not been all smooth sailing for the Credit Union. There have been challenges such as member apathy, lack of interest from the community and a host of other challenges. However, the organization can be said to have gone through all four stages of organizational development from forming, storming through norming and is now performing. The current manager of the BSLCCU Donovan Cover aka Deecee a retired restaurant operator who was based in New York says “the Credit Union is one of the best things to ever happen within Rastafari and our community and it has a huge potential and a bright future. The organization is set to roll out an outreach programme to educate both members and potential members on the reason why the Credit should be their financial institution of choice among their many options. The BSLCCU has been described by many as historic and a game changer for repatriation which can result in a coordinated movement of people from the diaspora.

In its own unique way, the Black Star Line Cooperative Credit Union is walking a trail blazed by Marcus Garvey and pursued by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah which is the economic elevation of Africans and the African diaspora coupled with the return of Africans in the diaspora to the motherland. You have a role to play in this if you reading this article.

For more information on the BSLCCU please check out the website at www.bslccu.org. You can also access our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ Black Star Line Cooperative Credit Union.

The writer Ahuma Bosco Ocansey is the Secretary of the Board and a Chartered Marketer. He is available on twitter @africandaddy, on Facebook as Ahuma Bosco Ocansey and ahumab@yahoo.com via email and cellphone +233243382474.