August 1, 2007

Point of Contact:  Baye Kes-Ba-Me-Ra, Kichwa, 619-582-7149,

PAAA 11th Annual Birthday Observance of Ancestor Marcus Garvey

  The Pan-African Associations of America will hold its 11th annual Marcus Garvey program at the Malcolm X Library on Sunday, August 19th from 1:30 pm to 4:30pm in the Multipurpose room.  This year’s program will begin with the traditional reading of the importance of Ancestor Garvey to the ideal of global Black Nationalism and economic independence.  Following the traditional reading, the program will feature Professor Rich Gibson who will lead a discussion group on what has happened to the Grenada 17 and what actually happened in the overthrow of the Maurice Bishop government in Grenada by U.S. forces under president Ronald Reagon.  Rich Gibson, a professor at San Diego State University, published an article in Counterpunch June5/6 2004 entitled The Grenada 17, The Last Prisoners of the Cold War are Black.  The article provides important facts of what happened in Grenada that, in some ways, parallel the policies used to justify the invasion of Iraq and even the events surrounding issues pertaining to Guantanomo Bay, Cuba.  The following is a segment of the article:

   The invasion of Grenada (popular among most Grenadian people sickened by the long collapse of the NJM)* was complete in a week. It was, however, denounced as illegal by the U.N. Security Council, by Margaret Thatcher and the British government, and by a myriad of US congress_people.

   The international press, including US reporters, was cordoned off from Grenada during the invasion. US ships intercepted reporters who rented boats trying to get to the island, arresting them and detaining them until after the invasion was complete.

   The US, however, quickly recaptured its post-Lebanon image as a military super-power.

   Seventeen NJM leaders were charged with the murder of Bishop, Jacqueline Creft, and others, though most of them were nowhere near the incident, could not have participated, like the commander of the fort who was locked in a basement Fort Rupert cell.

   The NJM leaders were tortured and signed transparently bogus confessions. According to affidavits filed by former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, and Amnesty International, the NJM leaders were denied attorneys. They were tried by jurors who chanted "guilty" at them during jury selection, in trails led by judges hand_picked and paid by the U.S. They were unable to make a defense in the kangaroo atmosphere. Their lawyers were subjected to death threats and some fled. Key witnesses, like a bodyguard who was present when Bishop created and ordered the death threat rumor, were denied the right to testify. Fourteen of the NJM members were sentenced to death. In 1991, after an international outcry, the sentences were commuted to life. Typically in the Caribbean, a life sentence amounts to around 15 years.

   The three remaining prisoners, low-ranking soldiers, were sentenced on several counts of manslaughter. On appeal, their sentences were reduced to fifteen years. With their time now served, the Grenadian government still refuses to release them, the prime minister saying that the judiciary has no right to override the government-or a possible vote of the people.

In prison, the Grenada 17 were systematically abused by guards and others for eight years, according to statements made to me be a former prison warden and several guards. Abuse was especially horrible for the lone woman, Phyllis Coard, who was held in near total isolation for years simply because few women are jailed in Grenada. In 1991, after their children had been introduced to the fellow who was to hang them from a prison courtyard gallows, the Grenada 17 sentences were commuted to life.

*The New Jewel Movement

  This presentation by Prof. Rich will provide those in attendance the opportunity to learn or to review a critical time in Caribbean history where the balance of power that may have been moving Caribbean nations towards more socialist oriented societies in the early 1980s was crushed by a U.S. government that was determined to set an example for other islands of what could happen to them if they crossed the line of challenging U.S. hegemony in the region. For more information about Prof. Gibson, his website can be visited at page .  To further quote Rich Gibson:

  The crux of the issue, for the moment, is that ten of the Grenada 17 (the surviving leaders of the Grenadian government of 1979-83) remain in a prison on Richmond Hill in Grenada, a jail built in the 17th century. The last prisoners of the Cold War are black, which is a double outrage compounded by what I think is the fact that they are innocent as charged. They made many errors during the period but they did not commit the murders (of Maurice Bishop and others) for which they were convicted in a court system that anyone can see was rigged.

  This presentation continues to mark the PAAA as the local organization recognized as offering the most serious celebration of Ancestor Garvey’s birthday with programs that challenge views about the Black world and the issues it faces in its various efforts to become self-determined.  The public is invited to come out and celebrate Ancestor Garvey’s birthday through learning and discussion.  The Malcolm X Library is located at 5148 Market St.  This program is free and open to the public.