FORT LAUDERDALE — As President Barack Obama prepared to welcome some 50 African heads of state to the White House this week, the son of the man who dedicated his life to bridging the continent and the Diaspora was bringing a message of his own to South Florida.

“African people must organize among themselves,” Dr. Julius Garvey said at an opening reception for a Marcus Garvey exhibition. “We are one billion strong. We need to use our intelligence to improve our lives.”

Remembering who they are, Garvey said, is essential for Africans the world over.

“We come from a people who believed in our divinity,” he said. “We come from a people who were never thrown out of the Garden of Eden. We come from a people who did not believe in original sin. We’re God’s creation; we’re made in the image of the Creator.”

About 100 people attended the reception Friday at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center on Sistrunk Boulevard.

They toured the exhibition which feature a large collection of public and private Garvey family photographs, vintage photographs of members of the elder Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association marching and attending various events, posters and handbills promoting the 1920s Black Star Line shipping company that he founded and press clippings, books and magazines related to the Garvey movement.

The month-long exhibition, which is curated by Ras I. Jabulani Tafari and Priest Douglas Smith, members of the Pembroke Park-based Rootz Foundation, also includes quotes by and about the elder Garvey, historical data and timelines and looped audio-visual displays.

The foundation seeks to maintain the essence of Garvey’s movement while modernizing it for a people who face a different set of challenges than their forebears did in 1914, when he founded the UNIA and the African Communities League (ACL). For more than two decades, the Jamaica-born Garvey rallied hundreds of thousands of blacks across the country in his quest to reclaim Africa for Africans and build black economic power.

The foundation will also host its annual Marcus Garvey Rootz Extravaganza, a daylong event with live entertainment, food and door prizes, on Aug. 17 at the Lauderdale Lakes Educational and Cultural Center, 3580 W. Oakland Blvd., Lauderdale Lakes.

The younger Garvey was the guest of honor at the exhibit’s opening reception. The vascular surgeon, who was 7 when his father died, said his dad’s message of self-discovery, self-empowerment and self-determination are still relevant and especially important today.

Garvey, 80, who lives in New York, said he speaks throughout the year at events honoring his father but that his primary involvement in his legacy is his medical profession, which he uses to “save lives. I make people’s lives better.”

Blacks, he said, can carry on his father’s legacy by finding and fulfilling their individual purpose. “What is it that intrigues you? What is it that moves you?” he said.

Garvey said his father had been a loving parent with a voracious appetite for knowledge.

“He observed everything, he read everything. His library was enormous. He was like a sponge in terms of soaking up information,” he said.