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Black Star Liner

This week, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) celebrates 100 years since Marcus Garvey incorporated his ambitious Black Star Line Enterprise, a fleet of ships that would transport thousands of blacks to Africa.

Singer Fred Locks, whose 1975 hit song Black Star Liner saluted that initiative, will be part of June 28-29 activities to mark its centenary. He is scheduled to perform Saturday at the Marcus Garvey Black Star Line Centennial Fair on the Kingston waterfront.

The singer, who turned 69 this month, was inspired by Garvey’s teachings as a youth. He said that is no longer the case in Jamaica, where the pan-African giant’s work is unknown to many young people.

“Garvey was instrumental in the first ‘Rases’ saying that Garvey’s teachings led them in seeing (Ethiopian emperor) Haile Selassie as a redeemer, and that made me a Ras. Without a doubt, [he should be studied in schools], after all, he’s the most international Jamaican and most deserving to be named a national hero,” said Fred Locks.

Last week Valerie Dixon, president of the UNIA, announced events to mark the milestone. It is a joint effort between the UNIA, Marcus Garvey Fair Steering Committee, Social Development Commission and Hamilton Knight Associates Limited.

The Black Star Line Enterprise was among a cast of empowerment plans St Ann-born Garvey outlined while living in Harlem, New York, in the early 20th century. Founder of the pan-African movement, he was pivotal in the Harlem Renaissance during that period; his ideas made him, arguably, the most influential black man in the United States.

Though Africa was its main destination, the Black Star Line never reached that continent. After Garvey was convicted, then imprisoned, for mail fraud in 1925, the company effectively folded. He was released from prison in 1927 and deported to Jamaica.

Garvey died in London in 1940 at age 52. In 1964 his body was taken to Jamaica and interred at National Heroes’ Park in Kingston; he was also named the country’s first national hero.

Co-produced by Twelve Tribes of Israel members Michael “Jah Mix” Mowatt and Hugh “Boothie” Boothe, Black Star Liner is Fred Locks’ signature.

“I am honoured to know I sang and wrote one of the top three best songs about the Black Star Line; I was told this by many people. I never get tired of singing my song,” he said.