The Movement that Became the Rastafarians

  • I was planning on writing on the education system in America compared to other countries. However, with new developments happening in Africa and to some extent in America, I felt that it would be timely to write about this very popular movement.
  • The Rastafarian movement started in Jamaica in November 1930 by Leonard P. Howell following the teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr OHN, who preached of the divinity of HIM Haile Selasie I and who said that Blacks would gain superiority over whites that was always intended.
  • Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on August 17, 1887 in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Assn. which covered the famous Black Star Line and the  African Communities League.  His teachings and prophecies were soon followed by the coronation of Haile Selasie I of Ethopia in 1930. He ruled until 1974.
  • With the Atlantic Slave Trade, over one million Africans were enslaved and transported to the Americas with 700,000 of them landing in Jamaica.

Slavery ended in Jamaica on August 1, 1834. Academic and agricultural schools were established and people went about their lives.  As aforementioned, the Rastafarian movement started in 1930 as a social stand against whites and the middle-class. It followed a prophecy made by Marcus Garvey in which he said “look to Africa for the crowning of a Black King.  He shall be the redeemed”, and we now see how Africa is steadily rising.

This prophecy became the foundation of the Rastafarian movement, and if we can believe the Bible, Haile Selasie is said to be a descendant of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. I’m not doubting the reign of HIM Haile Selasie in the least but seeing that the King James version of the Bible was very popular, it does cause one to wonder. Just mentioning this because at the time the Brits were first and foremost in the slave trade. 

Later on however, Jamaican preachers began promoting Haile Selasie over King George the V while Jamaica was still a British colony.  So much so that in 1948 Selasie embraced the Rastafarian cause and donated 500 acres of land to develop the Ethopian community of Shashamane.  This was confirmed in 1955 and it gave the Jamaicans and other Blacks the fulfillment of their desire to return to their homeland.

In 1968 The Twelve Tribes of Israel was founded by Vernon Carrington or the Prophet Gad.  He promoted daily Bible readings and Nyahbinghi chants backed by drums.  The smoking of marijuana or ganja is a part of the religious ritual of the Rastafarians.  They believe that ganja is the “herb” that is mentioned throughout the Bible and it’s usually smoked in a pipe or “chalice”, or rolled as a spliff.

Acceptance of Rastafarianism was slow in forthcoming especially with the incident known as “Bad Friday” which occurred in 1963 when 150 Rastafarians were beaten and arrested by the police in response to a military flare up at a gas station.

The current Prime Minister, Honorable Andrew Holness subsequently issued a formal public apology in 2017.

It is no coincidence therefore that Bob Marley came to great prominence. He, along with Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailers and the I Threes; Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, gave credence, acceptability and positive confirmation to the Rastafarian movement.  With songs like Crazy Baldheads, Chant Down Babylon and Buffalo Soldiers, Bob Marley and the Wailers had no fear in speaking against what they referred to as the Babylonian system.  They also had a soft side too with the likes of Waiting in Vain, Is This Love and the positive Three Little Birds.

Other acts quickly followed such as Burning Spear (Winston Rodney) and Culture, fronted by the late Joseph Hill and so the Rastafarian movement became an even greater force to be reckoned with.

As of 2012, there are an estimated one million Rastafarians worldwide and the Jamaican government decriminalized marijuana in 2015.

Dorrette G. Young

Written by Dorrette G. Young
Jamaican. Born December 15, 1961. Worked for a bank in Jamaica. Was promoted to Secretary to the general manager for the entire banking system. Left for a PR firm, also in Jamaica. Wrote articles for our clients, interviewed local celebrities like Jimmy Cliff, traveled the island covering events with a professional photographer and I sang with the Jamaica Folk Singers, touring the island and Costa Rica. Moved to the USA in 1988 to pursue a career in entertainment. Worked as an LVN in the meantime. I can be contacted at Profile


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