The followers of Rastafarianism believe that Haile Selassie the former Emperor of Ethiopia, is the Black Messiah who appeared in the flesh for the redemption of all Blacks exiled in the White oppressors. The movement views Ethiopia as the Promise Land. The group has no individual leadership. Most of the members are men from thirty-five to fifty-five years old. Women play an important role in the Rastafarianism today, but the majority are followers of their husbands. In 1965 the membership was essentially lower class but this is o longer the case. The Rastafarians wee once considered “products of the slum” but Rastafarians now can be found among the middle class. They are found among the elite, some are students at the prestigious University of he West Indies and some are in the medical and legal professions and other upper-class occupations.
The Rastafarians have their roots teachings of Jamaican Black nationalist Marcus Garvey, who in 1930 preached a message of Black self-empowerment and initiated the “back to Africa” movement. This movement called for all Blacks to return to their ancestral home, specifically Ethiopia. Marcus Garvey taught self-reliance in Jamaica where he was born, as well as abroad and preached a “back to Africa Movement” consciousness. Marcus Garvey in 1920 said “look to Africa, when a Black king shall be crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia and proclaimed “king of Kings’, lord of lords” and conquering lion of Tribe of Judah”. Haile Selassie claimed to be the direct descendant of King David, the 225th ruler in an unbroken line of Ethiopian kings from the time of Solomon and Sheba. He and his followers took great pride in being black and wanted to regain black heritage that was lost by Europeans going to Africa and unfairly spreading the African population throughout the world as a result, blacks were not able to organize themselves politically or express themselves socially. Their intellect had been stunted by continuous European oppression.
In the Rastafarian religion there are six main fundamental principles which are 1) Hatred for the white race for their past doings 2) The complete superiority of the black race 3) Revenge on whites for their wickedness 4) The negation, persecution and humiliation of the government and legal bodies of Jamaica 5) Preparation to go back to Africa and 6) Acknowledging Emperor Haile Selassie I as the supreme being and only ruler of black people. “Babylon” is a Rastafarian term for white political power structure that has been holding the black race down for centuries. In the past Rastas claim that blacks were held down physically by shackles of slavery. In the present, Rastas feel that blacks are still held down through poverty, illiteracy, inequality and trickery by the white man. The efforts of Rastafarianism are to attempt to remind blacks of their heritage and have them stand up against this Babylon. “I and I” is also a term Rastafarian use which is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness of two persons. This is saying Jah (the Rastafarian name for god) s within all of us, so plain and simply jah is in all man.
A substance which is very controversial but is of significance to Rastafarians is ganja (marijuana). To popular belief, pious Rastas do not smoke ganja...