Garvey’s ‘Up! Up, You Mighty Race’ Art Exhibit in Harlem

Visual artist Mira Gandy displays her spiraling hair braids on a Harlem lamp post.
Irene Gandy

Mira Gandy, a visual artist who lives in Harlem has physically elevated the words of Jamaican immigrant Marcus Mosiah Garvey by displaying a colorful weave of his “Up You Mighty Race,” speech high above the heads of ordinary citizens — on a lamp pole for all to admire and ponder.

Prominently placed high off the ground during the 100-year anniversary of Garvey’s arrival to America, the artistic display hails the diversity and mosaic of his message using 1,1916 colorfully, braided plaits of hair.

Installed on a light post on the basketball court at Madison Avenue and 121st Street, strands of braided, synthetic hair bolsters the pole that provides light to the community Garvey first resided in 1916.

According to the artist, “I was inspired by the many African braiders in my community. I bought every color hair I could find. At all hours of the morning, while on the subway, listening to music or just meditating quietly while I had a moment of free time, I braided… and braided…and braided.”

Eventually, what came to me was a collage of colors representing all races, all colors and the visual interpretation of Garvey’s message.”

In fact, Marcus Mosiah Garvey personifies the excellence of African people. He was a leader, propagandist, organizer and activist, and ranked among the greatest of the great.

Regarded as a visionary, Garvey’s motto motivated African-Americans to be limitless.

“Up! You mighty race. You can accomplish what you will” are words that continue to resonate with achievers and ambitious people he influenced.

Gandy’s tribute to the Jamaican, visually punctuates his exhortation to African people residing throughout the world and became his signature motto as a call to rise up in the 1920s.

This year marks 100 years since the founding of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League and that the lamp-post Gandy’s work now decorates stands in a recreation park named for the Pan-African advocate is no co-incidence.

Sponsored in part by the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance Public Art Initiative with funding provided by the Harlem Community Development Corporation, the exhibit features a total of 15 artists participating in this month’s Flux Art Fair.

Some artists received awards and were selected based on their interpretation of the curatorial theme “Changing Landscapes.”

Gandy received the 2016 Marcus Garvey Park Alliance award for her “Up, Up, Up You Mighty Race” public art installation.

The exhibit ends on May 31. However, anyone willing to find information on this exhibition should contact www.upupupyoumightyrace.com.

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