On December 12, 2010, the First Annual Marcus Garvey Legacy Cruise (MGLC) launched its maiden voyage. The endeavor was led by the African People’s Socialist Party USA (APSP USA) Office of the Chairman (OOTC) and inspired by the legacy of Marcus Garvey to create resources for the African Socialist International (ASI).
This historic voyage and fundraiser was a tremendous success for the Uhuru Movement. Members and non-members alike boarded the Carnival Freedom for an exciting six-day cruise on the Caribbean Sea.
The excitement among the Uhuru travelers was palpable as the embarkation process began. For most in our group, taking a vacation was a rare experience and taking a cruise wasn’t even a consideration.
But following the leadership of the OOTC and embracing an opportunity to support the African Socialist International, people got on board for the experience of a lifetime.
"Many were thinking the Marcus Garvey Legacy Cruise was a petty bourgeois idea, but it was for us to travel to the home of the great Marcus Garvey, to relax, have fun, raise resources for the ASI, meet new people and ‘win’ them to our organization," said APSP USA Deputy Chairwoman Ona Zené Yeshitela about the First Annual MGLC.
Among all who participated, there is absolutely no doubt that the MGLC accomplished everything it set out to do!
Day 1: Embarkation and our first dinner together
Many of us had no idea what to expect as this was our very first cruise. So we thought what we heard about all the food was just a rumor or at the very least, overstated.
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But as soon as we boarded the ship (around 12:30pm), we were led to the Lido Deck for lunch before being released to our cabins.
The ship set sail at 4:30pm and we had already eaten at least twice from the multiple buffets, grills and restaurants available.
By 6pm we convened in the Posh Dining Room for a formal dinner. Our group was assigned the same servers every night who memorized our names and preferences.
The menu changed nightly, but offered us a variety of dishes for three courses (and those feeling especially hungry or curious could have more than one dish in any course).
Dinners were at the same time and table for the MGLC group every night. It offered us a wonderful opportunity to break bread and converse with African Socialist International Chairman Omali Yeshitela and all of our comrades at the end of each day.
Even though some of us found we were just too full from eating all day long, we still made it to dinner because the camaraderie and conversation was an experience of its own. Eating was definitely the main theme of the entire trip, but sharing meals with our comrades was a most special treat.
“I decided I was going to try everything and experience as much as I possibly could. This was an opportunity for me to try things I’ve always heard about, but never tried,” said Tammy Harris, Administrative Assistant in the Office of the Chairman.
Many of us shared Tammy’s sentiments and we collectively tried new things to eat and had new experiences both onboard the ship and during our shore excursions.
For a couple of members of our MGLC group, the cruise experience offered an opportunity to overcome lifelong trepidations of water and boats in general.
Gaida Kambon, Secretary General of the APSP USA said, “Along with the many successes we shared collectively, there were personal successes for me as well. Thanks to the trip I overcame another hurdle in this journey called life. I now know that I can get on the ocean without the compounded fears that have plagued me throughout my life. The trip overcame it all! I am looking forward to the next time!”
It was this shared spirit of adventure that spurred us forward on the first day aboard the cruise ship and throughout the entire trip.
Day 2: “Who’s afraid of a little storm?” A rocky day at sea and getting glitzy for dinner
Our second day aboard the ship didn’t go as anyone planned. There were storms and weather anomalies worldwide that prevented us from reaching our first destination, Key West, Florida.
But all was not lost. We had a quick thinking captain who, to the delight of the entire ship, changed course to the west — we were headed to the calm, beautiful waters of the western Caribbean and Cozumel, Mexico!
This detour meant that we would spend the entire day, and the first of two formal-dress dining nights, at sea.
The MGLC crew spent the day at sea exploring the boat and all it had to offer.
Some of us chilled in the spa sauna and steam room, some checked out the onboard activities such as: the Master (cocktail) Mixologist competition, bingo, the casino, the dance clubs and Mystery Theater. But most of us ate, talked for hours and waited to eat again.
But African liberation is the Uhuru Movement’s main goal. In the spirit of maintaining our ever vigilant, revolutionary postures, we utilized a portion of our free time for political education with the Chairman.
He gave an in depth analysis of the difference between the concepts of the nation and the State. His study on the open seas was so invaluable that we requested another study for the following day.
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Dinner with the Chairman
That night we put on our best threads and came to dinner shimmering and shining for the most formal of our formal dinners.
Lobster was on the menu and the dinner entertainment was provided by the entire waitstaff (mostly from the Philippines). They performed a rehearsed dance routine to T- Pain’s song, “Apple Bottom Jean (Low).” The performance reminded us that the era of shucking and jiving in its original form is still alive and kicking (or in this case getting “low, low, low, low, low, low, low”).
Day 3: “Cozumel? Are you serious?!?! Ron Bobb-Semple? Wow!”
When the captain announced that Cozumel, Mexico would take the place of the previously planned stop in Key West, we enthusiastically agreed that the Mayan Ruins were a must see! And we were not disappointed.
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After the previous day of clouds and choppy waves, the sunshine, blue sky, jewel colored water and white sand beaches of Cozumel were exhilarating!
The Mayan excursion took us from the ship to Playa del Carmen via ferry and then by bus to Tulum, the site of the ancient ruins and the most beautiful beaches on the planet.
We were accompanied on the comfortable 40-minute bus ride by our tour guide and amateur historian, Angel de Jesus.
The MGLC crew and about 50 other passengers listened as Angel shared an exhaustive, though not comprehensive, history of the Mayans, and of the culture and politics of the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Chairman gave aid to Angel by filling in the holes of his historical recitation. He requested that the guide acknowledge and inform the tour group of the Olmec, whose African faces were present all over the peninsula, but whose history was conveniently overlooked.
After the Chairman’s guidance, Angel’s confident claims that the Mayan’s were the source of civilization on the Peninsula were quickly corrected to acknowledge that the African Olmec civilization was the mother civilization for region. And once again, the global impact of the Uhuru Movement was made manifest right before us.
Walking the grounds of the ancient ruins was a thrill. The breathtaking white sand beach and blue/green waters were awe inspiring! Tulum was the best combination of history and picturesque beaches that any of us could ever imagine.
And this incredible day did not end in Cozumel.
After dinner, we all convened in the beautiful Dynasty Room for Ron Bobb-Semple’s, “The Spirit of Marcus Garvey” presentation.
The YouTube videos of Bobb-Semple’s performances do not begin to capture the full experience of this presentation. From the moment he stepped onto the stage, the room became electric with the spirit of Garvey.
Brother Bobb-Semple does not just portray Garvey, he becomes Garvey. We were all grateful to have experienced his presentation live and look forward to revisiting the experience on next year’s cruise.
Day 4: The Cayman’s — “We came, we saw, we left a little befuddled”
The weather in the eastern Caribbean was still not in its usual form. When we got to Grand Cayman, it was a little too overcast and cool to enjoy the beaches.
Some of us stayed on the boat, some of us braved the choppy waters to snorkel, but most of us decided to take a cab downtown to look around and eat.
Most of us were aware of the history of the Cayman Islands as a safe haven for pirates (those of the past and present). But I don’t think any of us were aware of what to expect when we got there.
We caught a ride from a local taxi operator and asked him to take us where the locals shop and eat. He took us to what looked like a large scale “Disneyesque” outlet mall that spread for blocks throughout the city.
This was Grand Cayman’s downtown. We were a little surprised, but began exploring.
Grand Cayman was a pretty island, but completely designed for shopping enthusiasts looking to save money on designer items in the duty-free shops and fine jewelry establishments that littered the place.
As a group, we quickly realized this may not be one of our favorite experiences of the cruise as we were not in the market for designer watches, bags, gold or diamonds.
But at the very least, WE COULD EAT! We found a little local spot that sold conch fritters, turtle soup, curried chicken and other island favorites. We had a pleasant lunch there and completed our excursion with a walk around downtown, enjoying the sights.
Day 5: Ocho Rios — The Marcus Garvey Legacy Cruise meets the legacy!
As we disembarked the ship that rainy morning in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, we could not have imagined what the day had in store for us.
Because the weather was less than favorable, none of us wanted to brave the slippery rocks of Dunn’s River Falls or the beach. We all wanted to get to St. Ann’s Bay to see the Garvey statue.
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Garvey birth home
The “spirit of Marcus Garvey” must have been looking out for us because we were ushered to a driver whom, after a brief introduction and discussion about what we wanted to do, informed us that he could do better than take us to the Garvey statue. He could take us to Garvey’s house!
Our driver wound us through the streets of St. Ann’s Bay and took us right to the doorsteps of the birth home of the legendary Marcus Mosiah Garvey. We were greeted by Garvey’s first cousin Oswald and his daughter Tootsie who bounded down the steps to greet us with hugs and a buoyant enthusiasm for our desire to see the Garvey home.
As we stood in front of the house talking to the family and taking pictures, we collectively agreed that was the most memorable and awesome moment of the entire trip.
We spoke briefly with the family about who we are, the state of the Garvey home and the government’s involvement in restoring the property.
We also discussed the significance of the Garvey legacy and what strides are being taken to ensure that as the torch is passed, the vision of Africa for Africans is fulfilled.
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Library in St. Ann's Bay
We left the Garvey home and our driver took us to every significant Garvey site in St. Ann’s Bay.
We made our way back to Ocho Rios for lunch and then navigated our way through the straw market where we bought souvenirs and trinkets from the local shop owners.
On our way back to the ship, it was evident that we had experienced something that would impact the MGLC going forward.
Kitty Reilly of the African People’s Solidarity Committee said, “One of the most significant days of my life was being with the Chairman and the Party at the home of Marcus Garvey and meeting his family members! The torch was passed!”
On Thursday, December 16, 2010, history was indeed made.
Day 6: A beautiful day at sea
On our last full day onboard, the skies opened up, the sun shined brightly, and the waters were a beautiful brilliant blue.
We continued to eat, but spent a lot of time outside enjoying many of the ship’s outdoor features and activities: the track, the waterslide and pool, the outdoor movies, and games.
We weren’t the only one’s enjoying the weather that day. The ocean wildlife came out to play as well. We saw flying fish, dolphins at play and birds diving for food.
We also enjoyed the state-of-the-art gym, sauna and steam room one last time.
After lunch, we convened in our favorite spot on the ship and had another study session with the Chairman.
We then headed off to the ‘70s disco for happy hour.
Our day ended with dinner in the Posh Dining Room where the waitstaff performed for us, yet again. And then it was off to the International Lounge for the last Karaoke night of the cruise (a favorite spectator activity for the MGLC crew).
Thoughts and reflections
The overall success of this maiden voyage was beyond expectation.
The Office of the Chairman would like to thank all who participated in the cruise and we look forward to more comrades participating in 2011. Actor Ron Bobb-Semple will be participate again and will celebrate his 60th birthday onboard.
We understand that taking a cruise with the Party was unprecedented and was met with mixed opinions and emotions.
But hear what your comrades have to say below, pull your resources together and join us in December 2011 as we make another historic voyage on behalf of the ASI.
“Thank you to the Office of the Chairman for such a wonderful idea and for carrying it out to the max! We had a great time in one of the most memorable trips ever! It was such an honor and really fun to be with the Party members and others in a relaxed setting!” – Penny Hess, Chairwoman, African People’s Solidarity Committee
“I loved a vacation interspersed with political education from the Chairman, being able to go to a gym and steam room and sauna anytime, walking the track on top of a ship in the middle of the ocean and having the dinners together every night! What laughter!!!! Also, another big highlight was swimming in the beautiful green/blue Caribbean Sea at the Tulum site of the Mayans! I hope many more comrades can go next year!”- Kitty Reilly, Director of Reparations and Economic Development, African People’s Solidarity Committee
"Ten years ago, when I was first moved by the words of Chairman Omali via the ‘Let's Get Free’ album, I would have never imagined that I would have the opportunity to interact with him, as well as other esteemed African People’s Socialist Party and African People’s Solidarity Committee comrades and supporters during a Carnival cruise ten years down the road. Absolutely amazing! The 2010 MGLC was an experience that I will not soon forget. More specifically, it was an experience that I'm sure I will cherish for the remainder of my earthly life. Thank you all for making such an experience possible." – Richard Smith
This year, the Office of the Chairman has planned another great cruise with a new itinerary and cruise line.
On December 5, 2011, the Marcus Garvey Legacy Cruise will set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas on an exciting five night cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Labadee, Haiti and Falmouth, Jamaica.