A conference honouring Marcus Garvey's birthday, the 60th anniversary of the publishing of Report on The Rastafari Movement in Kingston Jamaica, is taking place at the University (UWI, Mona) this week. It's a big celebration gathering Rastafari scholars from the African Diaspora. They are exploring ways that the Rastafari world view has influenced all areas of life under the banner 'Negotiating the African Presence: Rastafari Livity and Scholarship.'
Much has changed since Roy Augier, Rex Nettleford and M.G. Smith first offered their report to the nation about Rastas. In 1960, the movement was still in its infancy and greatly misunderstood amongst Jamaicans. Rastas were effectively demonized by wider society that could not accommodate their desire to return to Africa, beliefs about the divinity of Haile Selassie and their use of marijuana as a sacrament. Yet, in many ways Rastafari's stand against what it called 'Babylon' including corporate culture, the hypocrises of the church and excesses of state control, were visionary. Today, with the universal popularity of reggae, a global youth culture that favours outsiderism and Rastas inclusion within 'Brand Jamaica', the movement has achieved acceptance and a place of national pride for its ability to survive. Rastafari's lifestyle that promotes 'ital' vegetarianism, self reliance and ecological stewardship has proven inspirational and very much in keeping with new age thinking. It is a movement that needs to be honoured for its spiritual fortitude, and the way that its convictions have contributed to the conscience of our nation. See an extract of my paper.