omo araye o fe
Be fe be fe o
ma wi temi.
Truth is bitter
people don't want it
Like it or not
I will speak. -FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI
I am old enough to remember a time when (for some black people in the diaspora) there were two types of African. These were :
1) The Bad African - West African types (too black, too much lips, etc.)
2) The Good African - Abyssinian types (red skin, skinny lips, etc.)
This was back when some West Indians, like some do in Sudan today, would use the word 'african' as an insult; 'Chaka Zulu' was another way of saying 'ugly'.
I bring this up as a way of seeking to explore the differences between the Garvey Rasta and the Selassie Rasta. To my awareness, these two are different and the difference will only be resolved either when one capitulates or is forced to formally find another identity.
Put simply, the difference is based on this two foundation messages :
Garvey said : Africa FOR Africans
Selassie said : Come one and all to Ethiopia and build it up.
Birds of a feather flock together : I have noticed that throughout history, Africans who become mixed have always seperated themselves from other Africans. This was how identities like Fulani, Amhara, Creole (Dominican Republic, Martinique etc.) and the 'arabs' in Sudan came about. Where they have'nt completely seperated themselves from thier roots, they have done it economically and culturally within the larger African society. People who are mixed feel more comfortable around others like themselves. This preference is justified by it's potrayal as a natural impulse. They do this by reasoning that any person with good sense will always be drawn to what is good or better. So, since light skin and straight hair is good/better, then of course it makes sense that a person would prefer to be around people who have these qualities.
Then, because they realise that they need to go deeper, they now look beyond the social and cultural justifications. Note that I said deeper; there is another level but we will not go there yet. For now, lets just go deeper. Which is where we come to Garvey and Selassie. And the question : Why has the message of Marcus Garvey being co-opted by and subsumed within the message of Haile Sellasie?
For some, the crowning of Haile Selassie was a sign from above. But, consider this, there are hundreds of kingdoms in Africa and, in any one year, there must be at least two coronations. The crowning of Haile Selassie became known to Africans in the diaspora because the media of the west covered it. The media of the west covered the crowning of Haile Selassie because thier leaders attended it and these attended it because Ethiopia/Abysinnia was a member of the 'league of nations'.
For some, the fact that these foriegn 'potentates' paid homage to the newly crowned Emperor was sign that he was 'Earth's rightful ruler'. Yet, when elizabeth II was crowned in england, potentates, including Haile Selassie, were there to pay homage. Does this mean she is the queen of the world?
No. There were other Kings crowned in Africa the year Haile Selassie was crowned. So, the crowning of a King is not an extraordinary event. And, consider this : what if the King he spoke of is yet to be born?
Yes. Minds focused on Haile Selassie because he had not yet lost his country to mussolini. If mussolini had attacked earlier, or, had the british not decided that it would be harmful to thier long-term interests for a rival european power to establish a colony in what was (and still is) a strategic region, then Haile Selassie would have remained another African living under the colonial yoke. He would have never been allowed to form a government in exile (in london), the resistance in Ethiopia would have never received support (i.e. modern arms and military intellegence) and, Haile Selassie would never have become as worthy of praise as he did.
Garvey said : "Back to Africa!" and some said "What? back to those naked savages? those missionary eating drum beating horny feet niggers? The same ones who sold us into slavery? No!"
Then came Selassie, good hair, good skin and well dressed. He was the acceptable face of Africa and, he was a christian - which meant that black christian minds in rebellion against the concept of a 'white' jeep-ass now had a viable alternative. Let us not fool ourselves any longer; minds who find validation in the hebrew scripture - those who go to all lengths to prove thier relationship to Solomon - are minds that have rejected thier true origins. And don't tell me about 'the bible is based on African wisdom', African wisdom is not extinct, it lives, grows and is ascessible to any who would seek it, so, why embrace a copy instead of the original?
There is a prejudice at the heart of the orientation of the Selassie Rasta. This prejudice comes about because some feel more comfortable with thier mixed heritage than they do with thier purely African roots.
How many MILLIONS of Ethiopians were taken in the Atlantic slave trade and from which ports in east Africa did they depart? At the time of Selassie's emergence, the ruling class in Ethiopia were from the Amhara nation. What was the historic relationship between the Amhara and the other nations in Ethiopia? The answer to that question would answer this question : who did more for the awakening of the African mind from it's enslaved, colonised state, Garvey or Selassie?
Garvey said "Africa for Africans." Selassie invited not only diasporan Africans with the neccessary skills but also Europeans to come and help him move his country into the 20th century. The philosophy of Garvey is neccesarily exclusive - it demands 'One Black Love' - while the inclusiveness of Selassie's invitation has led to the misconception presently labelled as 'one love'. Rasta men with 'white' women. Why not?
The Selassie Rasta is caught in a contradiction; if they strictly follow Selassie, then thier congregation can include ones from all species. For a Garvey Rasta, there is no confusion. Africa for Africans, home and abroad. The Black Star rose to proclaim the rebirth of the Black nation. The message is unambiguous : this is an African movement to foward the African species. And as such, it can only be rooted in the eternal soil of the Black Earth.
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