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Are Jamaican Rastas Different?

Posted on the Rastafari Speaks Board
By: Makeda Blake Hannah
Date: Monday, 16 June 2003, at 5:14 a.m.

'All religions have been given to mankind by the Recording Angels, who know the spiritual requirements of each class, nation, and race, and have the intelligence to give each a form of worship perfectly suited to its particular need.' This message perfectly describes the origin of I&I Rastafari faith.

Reading the messages on this Board often shows me a huge difference between Rastafari as practiced in Jamaica and the Rastafari practiced by American-based Rastas. The main difference between the two varieties of Rastafari is that Black Americans on the Board are preoccupied with several issues that do not concern Jamaican Rastas.

First and foremost is the matter of race, or racism. Black American Rastas on this Board are continually discussing racial issues, especially cussing non-Black Rastafari. Indeed, most Black American Rastas on this Board are violently opposed to the fact that the Rastafari philosophy has been embraced by people of non-Black races. I assume this arises from the fact that Black Americans live daily among racism that causes them to have an aggressive attitude to non-Black people.

Jamaican Rastafari have no such problem. The vestiges of white Racism that remain in Jamaica do not affect our daily lives in a similar manner. In fact, leaving aside the rapidly disappearing 'renta-dread' phenomenon, Jamaican Rastafari and non-Blacks have an excellent relationship. Rastafari culture is the magnet that draws most people to Jamaica and most visitors of all races and nations seek out encounters with Rastafari as a major objective of their visit. Equally, these encounters are welcomed by Rastafari with dignity and pride because I&I are confident of who we are and what our culture and faith represents to others.

In Jamaica we have Rastas of all races, mixed and pure. There are Jamaican Rastas who are Chinese/African, Euro/African, Indo/African, Arab/African, as well as those Rastas who are near-white AND white. Twelve Tribes was originally the Jamaican mansion for 'uptown brownings'. In Jamaica, Rasta is about PEACE AND LOVE especially. Whites drawn to Rastafari because of the LOVE are welcomed by the Jamaican Rasta community on the basis of the strength of their faith and the Love in their hearts. Look at Bob and Cindy! Look at their son, Damion Jr. Gong!

Another difference between Jamaican Rastas and Black American Rastas is that our self-knowledge as Africans does not require us to be experts on Egyptian history or the cultural practices of African tribes. In fact, most Jamaican Rastas would be both surprised and ignorant of most of the Afrocentric information posted on this Board. In Jamaica, Africa is discussed as modern political history and current affairs, not only a Repatriation objective.

In Jamaica, Rastafari is practiced as a pathway to God and a higher order of CHRIST-ianity. Unlike Rastas in the USA, Jamaicans become Rasta from being in and around Rastafari expressions in all aspects of daily life. Jamaican Rastafari –from the youngest ghetto youth just sprouting his dreads, to the older Rases gathered around a Kutchie – are mostly to be found discussing the spiritual pathway to Higher Heights, aspects of the Bible, the true Godhood of Selassie I or the righteous lyrics of the latest reggae psalm. Rastafari in Jamaica is practiced as a RELIGION for those seeking Eternal Life.

Rastafari in Jamaica are expected to act as religious people, holy people, people with a divine mission founded in CHRIST-ian principles. Most Jamaicans have had a strictly Christian upbringing in a country which is said to have the most churches per capita, making it easier for I&I to live Rasta as a personal effort to be as Christ-like as Selassie I, I&I example. As the Emperor has said: "Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simple a way of life, pure and original as was given by the most high."

From the messages on this Board, I get the idea that most Black American Rastas have developed their Black consciousness in other AfroCentric faiths such as Black Muslims, Five Percenters, Pan Africanists, etc., and therefore bring to Rasta new ideas of Black expression that they feel should be included in Rastafari philosophy and practice because they are 'Black' or 'African'. However, if some of the topics discussed on this Board were to be presented to Jamaican Rastas, such as acceptance of polygamy, there would be a howl of protest because being Rasta in Jamaica is about being CHRISTly, not merely African.

For most Jamaican Rastas, the possibility of emigrating to Africa is remote, especially without the concept of moving in a large group to establish an effective community. For all its problems, Jamaica is still the best place on earth, so the reggae artists who regularly tour Africa still head 'home' to Jamaica when their tour is over, rather than using the opportunity to settle in Africa. For Jamaicans, while Repatriation is I&I physical objective, spiritual Repatriation to I&I Heavenly Home is the overmastering desire that motivates I&I daily.

These basic differences between Black American and Jamaican Rastas make it difficult for me to overstand a lot of what goes on in this Message Board. I'd expect to see more discussion about the fundamental reason I&I are Rastas, namely the desire to live the New Christ Life revealed to I&I by Emperor Haile Selassie I. This revelation was emphasized by the Emperor's gift to the West of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith as a new overstanding of the Christ Life and a new way of worshipping. Blended with the Nyabinghi Tabernacle devotions, this is RASTAFARI as Jamaicans overstand it.


Response: Posted on the Rastafari Speaks Board
By: Empress Chantee
Date: Thursday, 19 June 2003, at 12:48 p.m.


I initially was not going to reply to this message but after a few days of pondering over the message and replies presented I could not hold back from responding.

Empress Makeda brought up some points that really stood out in my mind. I feel as a writer the I chose some words that are very broad when speaking as an ambassador for "Jamaican Rasta". She said the main difference between the two varieties of Rastafari is that Black Americans on the Board are preoccupied with several issues that DO NOT CONCERN JAMAICAN RASTAS. Wow!

You are kind of bold to speak for the whole of Jamaican Rastas when you declared these issues do not concern Jamaican Rastas. First and foremost is the matter of race, or racism. Why wouldn't race or racism concern the Jamaican Rasta? You continued by saying most Black American Rastas on this board are VIOLENTLY opposed to the fact that Rastafari philosophy has been embraced by people of non-black races. Wow!

Violently opposed? Can you please cite references to this. I have only read Blacks on this board declaring to non-blacks that they are not going to allow them to dictate to InI on what needs to be done or how things are done. I have read commentary of non rastas and rasta cussing at each other concerning different issues. There are deterents on this board such as J23 and Hylima and their crew. This has really been the only time I read cussing and arguing violently. Besides a young bredren who claims to be a "Jamaican Rasta" who started cussing everyone, one of the names he went by was Kebra.

Are you sure you are not speaking of YOUR excellent relationship with non black folks. Most Jamaican Rastas I know do not even have any dealings with non blacks on a daily basis. They try and deal with their immediate family and their concerns, they don't interact with non-blacks until it involves money.

I am not even going to say anything further about the Bob and Cindy comment, I think that was reasoned upon already. "Another difference between Jamaican Rasta and Black American Rasta is that our self-knowledge does not require us to be experts on Egyptian history or the cultural practices of African tribes. Africa is discussed as modern political history and current affairs, not only a Repatriation objective." Sister when I come on this board I see all of these things and how they interrelate with each other. What is wrong with learning about African tribes. That does not mean you have to agree with everything or embrace it in such a way, but to know a little about them is not going harm you.

I for one am certainly not an expert on Egyptian history, but I read some of the information that ones on this board provide. I have learned a lot from this board. So you are saying the information provided on this board only is a Repatriation objective? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. How can we not talk about all of these things. Repatriation is a priority to the RASTAMAN AND THE RASTAWOMAN. It is of paramount importance, which leads me to your next comment about Jamaica still is the best place on earth. So you let InI know how you feel about Africa (with all of its problems as you so conveniently stated about Jamaica) Don't get me wrong sister I LOVE JAMAICA.

I have been all over Jamaica and I have never gone dere as a tourist, but lived in the ghettos of Flanker PA, Glendevon, Kingston, Ochie, Lucea and so on. How can you give up a continent for an Island? Okay now I just thought about how this discussion became a rivalry of whose ghetto is worse. Kamau are you boasting about the death tolls of Africans killing each other in Jamaica. We were first discussing the "Jamaican Rasta" and then somehow got on the subject of the ghetto youths. I suppose you fly the Jamaican Britain flag. The Jamaican Rasta do not get caught up in that cause when the police pull you over to get some money when you don't have none they send you to jail and when you go to court they still hail the Queen of England. I know exactly who and how things are run in JA.

I read all the Jamaican newspapers as if I was dere right now. The ghettos of America, Jamaica, Trini, Barbados, and I can go on and on are not to be braggin on about whose the toughest or whatever. It is a shame because youths are still fighting over wearing name brand clothes and shoes and playing American music while the youth are singing every word and trying to buy calling cards (minutes) from the digicel for their cell phones when there granny's house (captured land) had not been worked on since the 1960's and they got to catch water and no pressure in the shower and so on and so on. Burger King and KFC is open late night and has all the business while the little Rastaman ital store is run down. I am fully aware of what goes on in Jamaica because I have family- bredren and sisters dere. I talk to ones dere almost every week when I buy a calling card, and I know ones who are in my city who rarely even call them mother to see how they are maintaining because they know they are gonna ask for money or some kind of assistance. If Jamaica is still the best why are there so many Jamaicas all over the world and have not gone 'home' in over 10-20 years.

Okay the issue of pologamy. Most Black Americans are violently...lol opposed to pologamy, but I see it most prevalent in Jamaica, what are you talking about?

The church topic is certainly not one to brag over either. It seems as if that's the case all over the bredren in South Africa say its equivalent to the amount of bars, well here in America the same thing, every corner is an Arab or Chinese owned liquor store, beauty and barber shop and church along side it. Wow! That looks pretty organized to me.

I can agree that some of the discussions on this board are set up to stray away from His Majesty's glory, but then again they are mostly messages posted by non rasta.

But what about what Gman said why don't we examine other Rasta from other Islands too and their take on the race issues. There are Rasta all over the world besided Jamaica and America. What about those in Cuba, Brazil, South America, England etc.

I have some of my thoughts scattered about because as I type I am thinking. I am currently washing a load of clothes and I have to get ready for work, so hopefully I can continue later.

With that said InI bobo shanti EABIC focus is primarily FREEDOM, REDEMPTION, and INTERNATIONAL REPATRIATION. Jamaica no Africa yes! If you NON BLACK and you want to work with InI on these matters you are more than welcome cuz SALVATION is free to all who hear this BLACK SUPREMACY CALL! HOLY EMMANUEL I KING SELASSIE I JAH RASTAFARI!!!

Blessed heart of love,
Empress Charity Chantee
-original bobo roots dawta

Response: Posted on the Rastafari Speaks Board
By: Sivuyile
Date: Monday, 16 June 2003, at 7:13 p.m.

Greetings Elder Sister

It was irie reading your post and gave I the sistren perception of what is taking place here. This livity of RasTafari has taught us the value of dialogue through respectful reasoning. I as a Rasta man in south Africa is disappointed with the points the i raised and the manner in which that has been done appears as if its an outsider talking.

Sister Roots has written somewhere that Haile Selassie is like a diamond which when struck by light at different angles reflects different aspects.

1. Racism can never be wished away it is a reality that black still face even today in this world. Rastafari man & Wombman are not racist; our indifferent attitude at times to others may be times at times due to the historical and sociological realities and that tension between affirming my self as a blackman and African and avoiding being classified as a racist will always exist.

Further I do not overstand your distinction between what you call American Rasta and Jamaican Rasta; Is it not the House of Nyabhingi with its head quarters in JA, which says no intimate links/ relations with whites in its guidelines? Don't you classify as a Bhingi Rasta (as you claim in one of the interviews here on the net? so how do explain that part of the guideline? Doesn't the Boboshanti order of Bulls Bay talk also about Black Supremacy? Don't you get those Rastas in JA? Rastafari will always be concerned about blackness, about Africaness!

We did not make the racist laws with all its flaws! Like Garvey taught us we want to uplift our people the black people! What does Ras SAM Brown say in his 10 point on the Rastafari movement (refer to point no 4) is he racist! No way! Is he not Jamaican?

2.Your view of " Egyptian history or cultural practice of African tribes " and the bible reveals person stuck to a certain epoch and stage of the development of our movement. It is not only " American Rastas " who are concerned about Egypt and African tribes- it is all conscious Rastas! The fact that elders were only exposed to the bible is not going to confine us to that only especially when we read that His Majesty as a youth read all those books of Egypt. Did you hear Mutabarukas song PEOPLES COURT 1 & 2? Is he not a " JA RASTA"?

Information leads to transformation!! Further we based here in SA were exposed to Christ - insanity which we had to liberate our selves from and the bible criticized and condemned most of the practices of our people - so to find a way of expressing our view yet not sound like the " settler colonizers was a great challenge and the ancient history of EGYPT AND ETHIOPIA HAS HELPED A LOT. It is essential for Rasta to overstand it so that one can appreciate the bible better. 3.You appear as someone who is really confused or under some illusion! You criticize views expressed here only polygamy but make example of race relation using Bob and Cindy .Was Bob not married to Rita? I think you have to be consistent! IT IS BEVAHOR LIKE Bob's THAT makes other people accept polygamy. For the record I DO NOT THINK IT IS A GOOD THING!

4.how can you glorify JA? ALL CONSCIOUS RASTAS know that Africa is their HOME. Ask any bob ask any Bhingi! WHAT IS IT THAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT, JA as home? ONLY THE CAPTURED AND THE CONQUERED ONES SEE JA as home!

5.Your view about the Christian churches makes me doubt your Rasta foundation! You even here in SA THERE MORE CHURCHES THAN SCHOOLS. The apartheid government made sure that they build as many churches as bars.The reasons for that are obvious! I don't Rasta view KRST the same as those of CHRIST- insanity! THAT IS MADNESS! For Rasta it is not only a question of acceptance and going to heaven! No way no god in skies!

6. The EOC does not accept the IVINITY OF HIM! IN FACT FOR THEM Ethiopian history seems to start with Makeda and Solomon! Kush history dates back even before Adam and Eve so in as much as some of us appreciate EOC role but we want the full story not half story which our glory!

Lastly I think you need to liberate yourself from the Christ-INSANITY infection and pollution!

All respect to you. You are an elder in this road but iron sharpens iron for goodness. Fire burn for unification no segregation and fragmentation dividing Rasta continentally.

Fire burn!

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