When the word religion is brought up, many people have different perceptions on what that really is. Some view it as guidelines or commandments to follow for meeting paradise in the afterlife while others see it as a journey into exploring who they really are and why they were put on this earth. As for Rastafarians, they don’t like to title their following as a religion, but more so as a lifestyle instead.
The Rastafari movement was said be to founded in the early 1930’s around the slums of Kingston, Jamaica. In this time, many of the people in Kingston were suffering from poverty, depression, racism and class discrimination along with many other people across the world. The people were in desperate need of hope for freedom from oppression and a return to the African homeland.
The Rastafarians followed the teachings of Marcus Garvey, a prominent Jamaican man who felt strongly about leading the Jamaicans back to Africa. He believed that Africans were the true Israelites and that they had been exiled to Jamaica and other parts of the world as punishment. Therefore, he wanted to lead as many people as possible to “redemption” by returning to African.
Garvey was an incredibly influential figure who felt passionately about black pride and restoring the integrity he felt was taken from the black race in the days of slavery. Garvey was even considered prophetic. In 1927, he encouraged the people to look towards Africa because a king would soon be crowned there. Like clockwork, in November of 1930, a man named Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned emperor of Ethiopia. He took the name Haile Selassie at his coronation, which meant "Might of the Trinity." Selassie also took the titles, "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Elect of God and King of the Kings of Ethiopia." These were traditional titles given to Ethiopian kings that reflected the Old Testament emphasis of Ethiopian Christianity. This coronation astounded many and it became clear to them that this was a fulfillment of scriptures in Revelation and Ezekiel, which discussed the triumph of the Lion of the tribe of Judah as well as the gathering of the people of Israel that were spread across the nations. This was also, more importantly, seen as a fulfillment of Garvey's prophecy. People who had listened to Garvey’s teachings began to believe that Selassie was the messiah that had been predicated to free the people from oppression. They believed that this was the end of the punishment and that the movement back to Africa would then begin. Most importantly, they believed that Selassie was indeed the physical presence of God (Jah) on earth and proceeded to name the movement, Ras Tafari, after him. Although Selassie was highly regarded among Garvey’s followers, Garvey himself was not a fan. He felt Selassie was an incompetent leader because of his defeat by the Italians and his acceptance of British assistance in order to regain his throne. Garvey even published an editorial about his disdain entitled, “The Failure of Haile Selassie as Emperor.” Meanwhile, Selassie defined himself as an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian and overtly denied any idea that he was a divine being, which came as a shock and disappointment to many. In a radio interview with Canada's CBC news in 1967, Selassie said, "I have heard of that idea [that I am divine]. I also met certain Rastafarians. I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I will be replaced by the oncoming generation, and that they should never make a mistake in assuming or pretending that a human being is emanated from a deity." Shockingly, even this denial did not dissuade Rastafarians from believing the emperor was, indeed, divine. The Rastafari movement first became recognizable in Jamaica in the 1930s, when peaceful communities were established in the Kingston slums. The movement was identifiable by a distinctive style of language, hairstyle, art and music. In addition to speaking their own language, Lyaric,...
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