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Early Experiences

RAS TYEHIMBA: Can you briefly explain your definition of a Rastafari person?

RAS MARCUS: A Rastafari person is a Black Power person who stands up for the rights of African people everywhere. That is how it was and that is how it is. That is how it is supposed to be. It is a Black Power person standing up for the rights of African people, based on what was done to African people by the Europeans. Mama Africa was invaded and the people were taken away and scattered all over the world for more than five hundred years. They have been abandoned and left in the Western Hemisphere for more than five hundred years. They are still in captivity today. So a true Rastafari person is a Black Power person standing up for the reparation and repatriation of African people everywhere. Mama Africa was robbed and has not been repaid. The reparation is to be paid to Mama Africa.

RAS TYEHIMBA: You were born in Jamaica. Can you tell me a little bit about your experiences with the early Rasta Movement in Jamaica?

RAS MARCUS: I can tell you some of the things that I learned from the elders who were before me and some of the things that I practically learned as I grew up in the Movement.

When I was a young man about twelve or thirteen years old, I went to the market and I bought a bag of black mangoes. The market was right in front of what was then called Queen Victoria Park. It used to have a lot of Rastas and other people over there. I remember I walked over there to sit and eat my mangoes, when I saw this very upstanding Rasta man with long, flowing locks. In a dignified way, he said to me, "Are those black mangoes?" I said, "Yes sir." Then he said, "Give me one." I think I gave him about two or three, and then I looked at him. From the time he said that to me, the look on his face, and the dignity in which he spoke, and his appearance, I was impressed with him from that very time. Even when I went back home, I was saying to my friend, "Are those black mangoes? Give me one." From that, I have been looking at the Rastafari people for a while.

When I was about sixteen or seventeen years old, I was living about two blocks from a piece of land in the center of the city which is called Back-O-Wall. The other part is called Ackee Walk. I was just about two blocks from there when I got information that my brother was living down there as a Rasta. That is a piece of land that the people took over. You call it "capture land" back in South Africa, where people would take a piece of land and build their huts and so on. Once I went down there to see my brother, I don't think I went back to my mother's house. When I was there, I would listen to them read the Bible and talk about the children of Israel, Moses crossing the Red Sea, the Psalms of David, Songs of Solomon, Job, Jeremiah, Isaiah and so many more. Because at that time the Bible was looked upon as a great book, if you made a mistake and tear a leaf out of the book in your mother's house, you could get a flogging.

I got caught up in the whole thing and from that time I started studying the Bible among the bredrens. I was the youngest one in a house of young Black men taking on the cause of Africa for Africans at home and abroad, and investigating the life of Ras Tafari Makonnen. At that time, I learned that Garvey was the one who said a king would come in the future, and we should look forward to him as a leader. And so, we kept following the information that was happening in Ethiopia. There was a book called the "Ethiopian Observer" which was printed and distributed by a lady called Sylvia Pankhurst and we would follow all what was happening in Ethiopia at that time. You cannot talk about the Rastafari Movement without talking about Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was the one who told some of his followers that Rastafari will come in Ethiopia, and we should look to him for leadership. Plus, Marcus Garvey was born in 17th August, 1887 and Ras Tafari Makonnen was born 23rd July, 1892. They were just five years apart. Marcus Garvey is more like the forerunner; or, St. John the Baptist as they would say. I came into the Movement around 1956 which is about fifty years now.

RAS TYEHIMBA: What were some of the social conditionings or social happenings among the Jamaican people at that point in time?

RAS MARCUS: They were poor. They lived in poverty because it was British-colonial ruled and we were called British subjects. Even when I was going to school, we used to sing "God save the gracious king or the gracious queen" and so on. They had British governors who went to Jamaica every five years. Some of them were transferred from India to Jamaica. The ones from Jamaica went to India and so on. The social condition was poverty and it is still poverty until this day. If you capture a man from his ancestors' land and beat the language and his culture out of him, then he is your servant, and he would be treated less than he is supposed to be treated. The condition was poverty, and it is still poverty today. We have not resurrected and restored ourselves to ancient dignity.


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