Trinidad Rastas Advocate for Reparations and Marijuana Legalisation
Bobo Shantis opening the programme
April 04, 2014
On Sunday 23rd February, 2014, in Trinidad the local Rastafari organization, the All Mansions of Rastafari, held a rally to advocate for reparations, repatriation and the legalization of marijuana. Rastas from around Trinidad and Tobago gathered in Woodfood Square, in the heart of the capital city Port of Spain, to forward their cause. The rally started with a motorcade to the square where the programme began.
Red, gold and green banners and flags were prominent throughout the square as the Bobo Shantis took to the stage with their drumming and chanting to signal the formal start of the programme. After this opening, chairman of the All Mansions of Rastafari, Trini Levi, welcomed those gathered and reminded them that Rastas have been at the forefront of the reparations movement and are presently working on the Trinidad Reparations Committee. He asserted that reparations must go hand in hand with repatriation for those so willing. Connecting the movement for repatriation and reparations to issues of social justice, he asserted that despite the discrimination that Rasta children face to go to school, Rastafarians are still making an impact in society.
Bongo Jack took to the podium afterward. He lamented that those who were caught with marijuana were put in the same jail with rapists and murderers. He expressed that it is the duty of Rastafarians, the stones that the builder has refused, to advocate and defend basic human rights. He quoted the words of Haile Selassie that "the preservation of peace and the guaranteeing of man's basic freedoms and rights require courage and eternal vigilance: courage to speak and act - and if necessary, to suffer and die - for truth and justice."
Bongo Jack addresses the Gathering
Priest Immersley of the Bobo Shanti Order then reminded the audience that Africans in the Caribbean had been taken away from Africa by force. This process he said stripped Africans of their culture, molding them in the image of the white colonizers. He emphasized the responsibility of Rastas to agitate for repatriation and reparations as a means of addressing the damage of colonialism.
Bongo Zach of the Nyabinghi Order speaking on the topic of marijuana legalization criticized the millions being spent on national security despite worsening crime levels, particularly violent crimes. He lauded Chief Justice Ivor Archie for his recent statements about revisiting Marijuana Laws towards decriminalization. Exploring the origins of the marijuana laws, he explained that it is time to stop locking up people for marijuana. This he said, would reduce crime and allow valuable resources to be focused on serious crimes.
Sister Joan addresses the gathering
Sister Joan Samuel addressed the gathering and invoked the memory of Marcus Garvey in speaking on identity and reparations. She observed that "after more than two hundred and fifty years of slavery and emancipation since 1838 here we are in 2014 still having to address some of the same problems." Pointing to the historical dehumanization of colonized people, the loss of identity and the crisis among young people, she highlighted the importance of the reparations process.
Mohammed Shabazz, the feature speaker on the programme, said that only when the United States control the supply of marijuana and okay it, would local leaders give the green light for decriminalization. He lamented the wasted potential and injustice meted out to people who are imprisoned for small amounts of marijuana.
Other speakers at the event included Dr Mark Myrie, Empress Tekla, Empress Jesurun and Shabaka Kambon of the Emancipation Support Committee. On the heels of Uruguay's legalization of marijuana and CARICOM placing marijuana decriminalization on the Caribbean agenda, it is yet to be seen if Rastas' call for freeing up of marijuana would bear fruit in Trinidad and Tobago.
Members of the All Mansions of Rastafari
Rasta Rally for Marijuana Legalisation in pictures:
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