A few weeks ago I highlighted the establishment of a committee working for reparations for enslaved people of African descent in the Caribbean. Professor Beckles raised as part of the discussion:
“a tribute to the Rastafari movement whose voice of representation and protest, has been consistently and unapologetically loud and clear, in relation to issues related to oppression and injustice”*
I fully agree. The Caribbean community, especially those of African descent are very much indebted to the the Rastafarian community. They have truly kept many conversations going throughout the decades. Our governments and our people do owe The Rastafarian Community an apology for the discrimination, the disrespect and the belittling of a movement that has done so much for our region.
I have certainly been dismissive in passing. I often accuse people to engaging in “Rasta logic” where people repeat the same thing over and over again. As pieces2peace pointed out to me, just because something is repetitive doesn’t mean it’s redundant, it may be for emphasis. That’s one thing I can say for my experience of Rastafarians, their message over the years has been persistent. And for many of their messages I am thankful.
- “The white man is evil.” This message may seem simplistic, and growing up middle classed and brown skinned in the Caribbean I don’t think I was fully able to appreciate the intracieis and attrocities of our colonial history and/ or racism towards people of African descent worldwide. The message was actually about systems of whiteness, white privilege and white supremacy. White supremacy reigns and is truly evil.
- “Down with Babylon!” Now I had no idea what Babylon was growing up but I knew it was supposed to bad. Sometimes it seemed to refer to police, other times to people… it was all very confusing. Babylon, now feels a lot like capitalism and a state that tries to stifle the livelihood of a large percentage of people to the profit of a small few. Death to capitalism.
- “Natural hair is good hair.” I have locs, and have always had natural hair. There was a time when someone with my complexion and my hair would have been restricted from going to school, getting a job. Rastafarian men and women who maintained their right to be natural and wore their locks whether they were allowed to go to school or not made it possible for people like my to maintain my natural hair. Don’t mind people still ask me, why don’t you make it a little neater? The fact remains there were many more who walked this road before me. Who created language around loving that which is natural, privileging that which is natural. Natural hair is good hair.
- “Me nah nyam dead.” I’ve certainly veered from this one since I’ve re-welcomed seafood into my life. But long before people were talking about vegetarian, vegan, gluten free diets Rastafarians were processing the ills of eating the dead. They have preached and preached about the importance of growing your own food and being healthy. Vegetarian living is healthy living.
There are many other areas in which tribute can paid, music, reparations, community organising, the valuing of Africa. There are a few not so great areas, but this piece isn’t about throwing shade. My tribute to the Rastafarian movment.