Celebrating Heroes: 'I like Garvey's fire - Williams wants to carry on Marcus' work
Paul Williams remembers standing in front of the No. 18 cell at the St Catherine District Prison trying to connect with the great man that people have often told him he looks like, Marcus Garvey.
He had been resisting an invitation from Roy T. Anderson, the producer of Queen Nanny, to play the role of Garvey in the documentary film, Marcus Garvey: The Untold Story.
The film is to be premiered at the United Nations next year.
On that fateful day at the prison, Williams said Dr Julius Garvey, Marcus' son, and Miguel Lorne, a pan-Africanist, were standing beside him.
Julius reportedly took a good look at Williams, turned to Lorne and said, "Look at my father."
Williams was dumbfounded. It wasn't the first time he was hearing that he was the spitting image of Garvey, but it coming from his son made it surreal.
He accepted his fate and decided he would definitely play Garvey.
"The son of Garvey was endorsing me," said Williams, who remains unconvinced that he looks like the first national hero.
"I look in the mirror and until this day I cannot see any resemblance to Marcus," he said.
Williams said that he has deliberately failed the screen test for the film because he did not want to be a star in Anderson's movie.
He, however, read the script and watched tapes that were given to him because he was fearful that he could be punished.
"I went and I spoke with my ancestors and my ancestors said, 'if you don't do it, you are going to get a beating ... As a matter of fact, you are going to be taken away'," Williams said.
Williams, a communications practitioner and lecturer at The University of the West Indies Western Campus, has never been ashamed of his blackness.
He said that he was teased about his melanin-rich skin when he was growing up in Montego Bay, and was often ostracised because of it.
"The very first time I was told that I looked like Marcus Garvey was as a student at MoBay Community College. I was pissed off, because I was brought up to believe that Marcus Garvey was a thief. And me seh me nuh look like nuh thief," he recalled.
But Williams immersed himself in the teachings and philosophy of Garvey. This strengthened his belief in self and his desire to see black people pull themselves up by the bootstraps, which has fuelled his passion to follow Garvey's footsteps.
"I like Garvey's fire. He was in your face. Garvey was militant. Garvey was a go-getter. Garvey did not roll over and play dead. Garvey had something burning deep, deep inside, and if only that fire had burnt us, emotionally, psychologically and mentally, we would have been a different set of people. So that fire that Garvey had, I personally have a lot of it inside of me," he said.