Jamaicans are upset that Kanye West, the controversial rapper and personality known for his remarks that whitewash slavery and its effects, is set to receive the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Award.
The move comes on the final day of Reggae Month, celebrated in recognition of Jamaica’s musical heritage developed mainly by African descendants in the island, and Black History Month, which celebrates black excellence in the United States. For the most part, many feel that the move to reward Kanye West is an insult to the ideals of Marcus Garvey, who was pro-Black and Pan African and would probably not approve of West’s ramblings about slavery.
In 2018, the rapper received flack for his comments about slavery shifted the blame on those enslaved rather than those who were the slave masters. He said, “when you hear about slavery for 400 years…for 400 years that sounds like a choice.” He also made comparisons between slavery and the holocaust, which is quite an unusual and unequal comparison.
Ye was also dragged for his decision to throw support behind Donald Trump, who was accused of racist policies against African Americans and minorities in the United States.
Kanye West, however, has defended himself to say that he was misinterpreted. However, West’s comments irked fans and people on the internet who feel that slavery was so gruesome that many years of it are undocumented. Also, various efforts at liberation was quashed with deadly consequences. In Jamaica, some examples that remain real are incidents like the Morant Bay rebellion.
Jamaicans think that the award to Kanye is disrespectful as they raised questions about the award aligning with Garvey’s ideology.
West has been pegged to receive the Marcus Garvey Award for Global Contributions to Humanity by the 39th Annual Chicago Music Awards. The President of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Steven Golding, says the award “doesn’t portray the Pan-Africanist that Marcus Garvey was.” The UNIA, which was founded by Garvey, is dedicated to African pride, economic independence, and African unity worldwide.
The Founder and Chairman of the Chicago Music Awards say he was taken aback by the choice in Kanye but says he can do nothing about it. The awards ceremony recognizes outstanding contributions to various music genres across the spectrum.
“Kanye getting this award is kind of a surprise to me. But he has been making contributions to different countries, and he came out on top of all [the other persons] nominees in that category,” Martin told the Gleaner.
Meanwhile, Steven Golding says that the organization does not have a copyright on Garvey’s name, and this has been a sore issue where the name is used for their own self-serving interests. “Garvey’s name has been used on so many things. I even saw a pizza shop run by Italians in New York named after him, but it was on Marcus Garvey Bolevard. The truth is that a lot of civic groups in the US, other Pan-African groups around the world, the OAS and even us, the UNIA have Marcus Garvey awards and unfortunately, aot of times, recipients are chosen for their celebrity status and the attention that they can bring to the event,” Golding said.
Martin, on the other hand, says Kanye West was chosen for his various acts of Charity to the Buju Banton foundation via a donation to the Sunbeam Children’s Home, donations to the families of George Floyd, Armad Arbery, and Breonna Taylor – all victims of police brutality in the U.S. His donations cover legal fees to fight for the victims, including scholarships for Floyd’s daughter, among a few other acts done in Chicago to assist black businesses.
Meanwhile, Jamaican sentiment was intensely angry as persons reacted to the news. “I do believe I’m missing something here!!! Kanye (slavery was a choice) West is being awarded in honour of our Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey????? How Kanye drop een? I’m livid, furious, Jamaican badwud bex so till…” One Jamaican tweeted.