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Rasta and Resistance
RAS TYEHIMBA: From the earliest days of slavery, there has been a strong legacy of resistance on the part of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean. How does the Rasta Movement fit into that legacy of resistance?
RAS MARCUS: In my opinion, those people who resisted in slavery, although they didn't wear any locks, were also Rasta at an early stage because they were standing for Africa and Africans at home and abroad. They were resisting against the slave trade that was practiced against their people. The conception of resistance for the liberation of other countries made them Rastas in the real sense. You asked about the diversities of the Rasta. Well, at the early stage, it was the Nyabinghi Rasta Movement and then they came with the Nyabinghi Movement and it continued from 1930. There were other African Movements as well. The Garvey Movement was still here when the Rastas were coming. Several other movements existed, but they were following the Rastas. I guess the same thing would happen in Trinidad and Barbados because there were other Resistance Movements who were resisting slavery just the same. The same colonization existed there. In those days, the best jobs were going to the White people and the Black people were only to cut the cane or do domestic work and so on. There were social classes that caused resistance if not practically, internally.
There was a convention at Ackee Walk which was led by Prince Emmanuel whom I knew very well. When I knew him, he was not yet a Rasta. He was more like a revivalist and he would tie his hair like you see the Bobos' tie their heads today. His thing was practicing the Revivalist Movement. After he became a Rasta, the people followed him and they continued to tie their heads to this day. That was in 1958 after the convention. That's when the Bobo Shanti Movement came into existence. They did well industrially because they were making brooms and different types of things which they sold for themselves to make a living. That was something good they did.
By 1968, the Twelve Tribes of Israel came into existence and that's how we had the diversity of the Movements. Brother Gad, whom I knew, established the Twelve Tribes. Fortunately, he and I grew up in a yard at Matthews Lane in Kingston, Jamaica. He was a couple years older than me. He used to make a lot of kites and I used to help him fly them. I spent about five years around him and then I moved away. When I saw him again, I was a Rasta. He had just come back from England and he had a long beard. Later on, he became a member of the Ethiopian World Federation after which he transformed into his own Movement and called it Twelve Tribes of Israel. That is how those three Movements came about.
RAS TYEHIMBA: Within the Rasta Movement, there is a lot of emphasis on African history, the African Continent and on African people. What is the importance of that emphasis?
RAS MARCUS: True Rastas are African people. It's a Black Power Movement and, therefore, you must speak about African history. You must speak about the history of your people. If you are Chinese, you speak about Chinese history because you are authorized to do that. If you are an Indian, you must follow your Indian history. People should follow their history and culture and try to stay with their own people. A Black man and a Black woman should mate together and have children. An Indian man and an Indian woman should mate together and have their lovely Indian children. The European man and European woman should also mate together and have their lovely children instead of having all this mixed-up stuff where your children do not even look like you and they are cross-cultured. There is a conflict in the whole picture. Let the European man stay with his own culture, and the Indian stay with his own culture and his people. Let the Black man do the same. Leave the Black man alone. Do not waste the Black woman's life as they did on the plantation. Cut it out; it is time now. That was happening on the plantations in slavery and it was a violation of the dignity of African people. It should be abolished even now. That is the importance of African culture. Africans are Africans and Indians are Indians. Each of them has a culture. They have their own language, their own attitude and their own habit. It should remain that way and then you would have peace in the world.
RAS TYEHIMBA: Do you think the conditions in general that gave rise to the Rasta Movement have been addressed? Do you think they are still present?
RAS MARCUS: We have a lot of things to address. Some of the things we believed in the past, we should examine them and see if it is just a belief or if it is a reality. We should move according to the things we see changing. We cannot have a belief that we cannot prove and then pass it on to the following generation. We must deal with life the way life is because changes are always coming. There are a lot of things we have not addressed. We have not addressed food, clothing and shelter for our people. Those are important things. For you to keep a people in unity towards a cause, you have to find some way to be able to feed, cloth and give them shelter whether they are living in Africa, Jamaica or any part of the world. Even in Africa, the African leaders are not addressing the needs of the people. They are addressing the needs of their personal self, their friends and their family and leaving the people in poverty. Some of them are still being traitors to the race. They are taking instructions from the former colonial slave masters and making their personal self rich and leaving the people in degradation. The Rastaman has to tap into that too. He has to find some type of way to create employment or better living conditions for our people, so that we can move on as a race of people and not just be around without having anything to take care of ourselves. Those are conditions that must change.
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