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Discussione: Rastafari

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    Predefinito Rastafari


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    When, in 1930, Ras Tafari Makonnen, great-grandson of King Saheka Selassie of Shoa, was made Emperor of Ethiopia and proclaimed Negusa Negast (King of Kings), Jamaica's slum-dwellers and rural poor, for whom Garvey had been something of a gallant oracle, regarded this event as the fulfillment of a prophecy of deliverance. Indeed, Ethiopia had symbolized all of Africa for the slave-descended Jamaicans since as far back as 1784, when American Baptist minister George Liele founded the Ethiopian Baptist Church on the island. These "Garveyites" were awed by newspaper and newsreel accounts of the pomp of Selassie's coronation in Addis Ababa and took note of the sybolism in the choice of his formal title, Haile Selassie being an honorific meaning "Power of the Holy Trinity." Selassie, they knew, claimed to be directly descended from King Solomon, so they reasoned that he must be the long-awaited savior of the planet's far-flung African peoples.

    In Africa, Selassie was hailed as the greatest of modern monarchs and a symbol of the continent's vast potential. In the United States, residents of Harlem jammed movie houses to watch the newsreel footage of his coronation. And in the Caribbean, as elsewhere in the West, the advent of Selassie's reign was taken as shining proof for all downtrodden people of color that, as the back-to-Africa Garveyites and the firebrands of the syncretistic Rastafarian cult had foretold, the day of Deliverance was at hand.

    To the Garveyites, Haile Selassie I was a hero without peer. To the Rastafarians he was the Living God of Abraham and Isaac, He Whose Name Should Not Be Spoken.

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    In Jamaica, as elsewhere in the world, the 1930s were years of social upheaval. Labour unrest on the island culminated in the vicious suppression of striking sugar-cane workers in Westmoreland: four strikers were shot dead, and dozens rounded up and jailed, including Alexander Bustamente, the leader of the new Jamaican labour movement.

    It was a perfect context for the rise of a band of islanders who divorced themselves mentally from an oppressive social system. This cult, Rastafarianism, thus became cast as a religion of the dispossessed among those who failed to acknowledge the intellectual rigor of many practitioners (the depth of Biblical and historical knowledge displayed at a Rastafarian reasoning is intense).

    In the hills of eastern Jamaica, Rastafarian encampments sprang up; a life of asceticism and artistry became the armour of the religion's followers against Babylon. Leonard Howell, one of the island's chief propagators of the religion, founded the Pinnacle encampment in an abandoned estate between Kingston and Spanish Town. Howell eventually decided that it was not Haile Selassie who was Jah but himself. In 1954 he was thrown into a mental home, and Pinnacle was closed down.

    The dreads, as Rastafarians became known colloquially, spilled out into the ghettoes of west Kingston. Around the time of independence in 1962, there were a number of violent incidents involving fire-arms between Rastas and the police, making headlines in the Daily Gleaner. The movement was now traveling with the speed of a bush-fire into the popular psyche of Jamaica.

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    In 1939, as an early convert to Rastafari, Planner had moved to Trench Town. Born in Kingston in 1920, he was one of the founder members of Kingston's first Rastafarian encampment in the Dungle. His devout studies of all matters connected with the faith, combined with his brilliant intellect, established Planner, or 'Planno', as he simply became known, as one of the elders of Rastafari.

    Marley and Planno met up in Trench Town, the Rastafarian elder instructing Bob on the arcane truths of the religion. Later, Planno would be Bob's manager, coordinating their careers, arranging studio sessions, etc.

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    On 21 April 1966, an event of extraordinary significance was to occur for all followers of Rastafari. His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, was due to arrive at Kingston airport. Away in Delaware at the time, Bob Marley had written to his wife Rita: 'If possible, go and see for yourself.'

    From her vantage point on Winward Road, which leads in from Palisadoes airport, Rita Marley had what was perhaps the most profound of many remarkable, God-given experiences she would enjoy in her life.

    Seated in Governor-General Clifford Campbell's purring official limousine, Haile Selassie was driven into Kingston. Rita eased her way to the front of the crowd on this section of the Winward Road and stood in the warm, light rain, waiting for the car to come nearer. Rita was anxious. She had made a secret pact: if, somehow, she saw the sign she was looking for, she would accept the divine status of Haile Selassie.

    As the Daimler limousine drew parallel with her, Rita's thoughts were not positive. "How is it they are saying that this man is so great," she wondered, "when he looks so short, with his army hat over his head in such a way I can't even see his eyes."

    "Then I said to myself, 'What am I even thinking about? Jesus is a spirit.'" At that exact moment Haile Selassie raised his face: he looked directly into Rita's eyes and waved. "And I looked into his hand and there was the nail-print. It was a mark, and I could only identify that mark with the scriptures of history, saying, 'When you see him, you will know him by the nail-print in his hands.'"

    "So when I saw this, I said to myself that this could be true, this could be the man of whom it was said: 'before the year 2,000 Christ will be a man walking on this earth.'"

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    Greetings in the Name of His Imperial Majesty
    Haile Selassie I
    King of Kings, Lord of Lords,
    Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah
    Blessed is the name of the Lord God Jah Ras Tafari,
    and blessed is he who comes in the name of Jah,
    His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I
    and let the name of His glory be blessed.

    His Imperial Majesty

    HAILE SELASSIE I

    Emperor of Ethiopia, says:

    "We in Ethiopia have one of the oldest versions of the Bible, but however old the version may be, in whatever language it might be written, the Word remains the same, It transcends all boundaries of empires and all conceptions of race. It is eternal.

    "No doubt you all remember reading in the Acts of the Apostles how Philip baptized the Ethiopian official. He is the first Ethiopian on record to have followed Christ, and from that day onwards the Word of God has continued to grow in the hearts of Ethiopians. And I might say for myself that from early childhood I was taught to appreciate the Bible, and my love for it increases with the passage of time.......

    "Because of this personal experience in the goodness of the Bible, I was resolved that all my countrymen should also share its great blessing, and that by reading the Bible they should find truth for themselves. Therefore I caused a new translation to be made form our ancient language into the language which the old and the young understood and spoke.

    "Today man sees all his hopes and aspirations crumbling before him. He is perplexed and knows not whither he is drifting. But he must realize that the Bible is his refuge and the rallying point for all humanity. In it man will find the solution to his present difficulties and guidance for this future action, and unless he accepts with clear conscience the Bible and its great message, he cannot hope for salvation. For my part I glory in the Bible."

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