Most of us have learned about African American culture in terms of black experience from Africa to slavery and the civil right movement in the United States. While it is commonly known that the civil right movement began in the United States around the 1950's. In reality, the movement actually began hundreds of years ago, not in the U.S, but in Jamaica. Starting with a small group of rebellious slaves, a strong black resistance movement developed and continues to exist today in the culture of Rastafarianism. You might recognize this religion from the famous singer "Bob Marley" who became a symbol of this religion. If you are anything like me, you probably have an image of Rastafarians as wild looking people who constantly smoke marijuana while partying to reggae music. But as the Caribbean Club President Tamara Darroux said: "Rastafarianism is not a hairstyle, it's a lifestyle". After doing an extensive research on this speech, I can tell you that Rastafarianism is indeed a lifestyle. Today I would like to introduce to you this rich piece of African cultural development by explaining Rastafarianism in terms of origins as political movements and some common practices. i. Rastafari religion history begins with the colonization of Jamaica. Around the 16th century, Spain brought around 700 thousand slaves to Jamaica, and in 1655 England have invaded Jamaica. After the invasion and after the slavery, exploitation of blacks in Jamaica continued in the form of social and economic oppression. Blacks were 90% of the population with less than 5% of wealth. In the 1900's, resistance became more organized political activity led by a man named Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was the one who began the Rastafarian movement. His main goal was to empower and organize blacks to recapture their cultural identity. In the 1930's, Marcus Garvey have preached and said "Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be your redeemer" this statement became the foundation of the Rastafarian religion. The religion took its name from the original name of the last emperor of Ethiopia "Haile Selassie" Ras means prince and tafari was his name. Haile Selassie became the Messiah and there living God of the Rastafari people. After crowning Haile Selassie in the 1930's, Rastafarianism began evolving into a more defined religion that was based on the political rebellion to white culture. Transition: To Rastafarians, spirituality is about how they live their lives on this earth and all aspects of their lifestyle must demonstrate rebellion against whites while celebrating their own belief system. ii. Rastafarian practices are based on their rebellion against white establishment. Rastafarians meet weekly just like in other religions like in islam they meet every Friday, in Judaism they meet every Saturday, and in Christianity they meet every Sunday. Rastafarians meet in either a believer's house or in a community center. In these meetings, they usually provide time for chants, prayers, and they sing reggae music as well. Moreover, in these meetings they usually smoke marijuana to produce high spiritual states. They consider marijuana as an herb of religious significance. However, they don’t like to refer to the substance as marijuana; they usually describe it as the wisdom weed, the holy herb, or ganja. Marijuana's use is very sacred, because it's following Rastafarian's biblical texts justifying its use. Rastafarian people also like to grow their hair and twist it into dreadlocks. Dreadlocks symbolize the black identity, since they are the only group who can naturally grow dreads. Moreover, Rastafarians are forbidden to cut their hair. Rastafarians are the ones who established reggae music, where it reflects their group identity. Reggae music inspires them to rise above the oppressors. The patterns of the reggae music actually have meanings. The downbeats translate into the death of oppressions and the upbeats translate into the resurrection. In conclusion:
Reggae, dreadlocks, and ganja all reflects the Rastafarianism ideals of resisting white nation and the idea of getting back to their original heritage and their homeland. It all began with the resistance of the black people and was later on organized by Marcus Garvey who prophesized the coming of their Messiah "Ras Tafari". Today Rastafarians are around one million people and their culture continues to grow and change throughout the world. But the universal goal remains the same, and was expressed simply by one of the Rastafarians who said that "the hope and faith of all believers is that the movement will one day carry Rastafarians home.