This book has been compiled to give non Rastafarians in Jamaica and the rest of the world a clearer
idea of what a Rastafarian is -- what he believes in, how his beliefs came about, and what he hopes
to achieve in the future. Hitherto, the public in general has had some strange, and often mistaken,
ideas of what a Rastafarian is. Rumours have sprung up and because of a lack of any concise
information, the general concept has been of a wild and fanatical religious sect, whose members
grow their hair and beards long to assit in terrorizing peaceful citizens. Violence was supposed to
be part of the Rastafarian way of life, and many people may be surprised to learn that non-violence
is an essential part of the Rastafarian belief. Hitherto, the only written information available to the
public on the Rastafarian movement has been provided by colourful and inaccurate article in
various papers and magazines. There has also been a thoughtful and serious study compiled by
the University College of the West Indies, but as this was the result of only 2 weeks research, it
could not be ???? to cover the subject in its entirety, and the ?????????? necessarily limited.
The Rastafarians have been understandably suspicious of questions and investigations as they fear
the persecution and violent opposition that they have suffered in the past. Consequently, they
have been reluctant to talk about themselves to those outside the movement. Now, however, they
feel that the time has come for them to tell their story and this is their own account of their
movement. It is hoped that this booklet will shed some light on the movement and will show the
true, sincere, and constructive beliefs of the Rastafarian today.
|HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE RASTAFARIAN MOVEMENT|
The Rastafarian Movement could, in truth, be said to have been born from the teachings of that
great Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, who inspired many of the fundamental principles on which the
Movement was founded. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican visionary and prophet, achieved world-wide
fame in 1916 when, as a Negro leader seeking emancipation for his people, he went to America and
founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the African Communities Imperial
League. He advocated "One God, One Aim, One Destiny", and was an impassioned preacher of the
dignity and rights of man. His enormous following in the States made him very unpopular with the
authorities of the day and he was imprisoned for his political activities and finally deported back to
Jamaica. Here again, his preachings caused alarm and discomfort to the then Government, and
upon his release from prison the opposition to his doctrines was so strong that he was forced to
leave the country and go to England, where he ended his days in exile.
Before he left Jamaica he told the people to look to Africa when a Black King should be crowned, for
then, he prophesied, the Day of Deliverance would be near. In the year 1930 Negus Tafari,
formerly known as Ras Tafari, was crowned and became His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile
Selassie I, the Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and of Ethiopia, King of kings, Lord of lords.
Some of the followers of Marcus Garvey's preachings and prophecies believed this to be the
fulfilment of the prophecy and hailed His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I as the
Liberator of the Black People of Jamaica and negro peoples throughout the world.
In the same year a man called Leonard P. Howell -- a Jamaica -- began to preach the divinity of
Rastafari and he became the first interpreter of the Rastafarian doctrine. A number of other
preachers had, about this time, declared themselves believers in the divinity of the Emperor and
united in this central belief they all became part of the Rastafarian Movement and were known,
with their followers, as Rastafarians.
The year 1937 saw a great and decisive change for the Rastafarian Movement. His Imperial
Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I authorised Dr. Malaku Bayen to establish the Ethiopian World
Federation Incorporated and the organisation came into being on the 25th August 1937 in New
|Their objectives were set out in the following Preamble:|
"We, the Black People of the World, in order to effect Unity, Solidarity, Liberty, Freedom and
Self-Determination, to secure Justice and maintain the Integrity of Ethiopia, which is our Divine
heritage, also, the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of GOD, do hereby establish and ordain
this Constitution for the Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated.
The first Local, as the branches were termed, was established in Jamaica 1938. However, this local
(Local 17) met with heavy opposition from the Government of Jamaica and caused a split within
the Local which only functioned for a short period. But despite adverse propaganda the doctrine of
the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated spread all over the country and took firm root
amongst the working classes and the under-privileged peoples of Jamaica, who welcomed a
doctrine that offered them hope for the future and dignity as human beings.
In 1942, Local 31 was established, but caused controversy within the Movement as this Local
barred their Bretheren, who wore beards and were Rastafarians, from joining. By the time, the
majority of the followers of the Rastafarian Movement, which pays homage to Ethiopia, wore
beards, and this discrimination against the bearded Bretheren caused a number of informal and
unrecognised groups to spring up. Adverse propaganda was also launched against Rastafarians by
members of Local 31 and as a result the group Locals did not receive recognition or support from
the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated headquarters in New York, and a most unsatisfactory
stage in the development of the Movement ensued. However, in 1955 a Mrs. Maymie Richardson,
went to Jamaica on behalf of the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated headquarters to clarify
the situation and to organise further Locals as there was only one officially recognised Local, Local
31, in existence. During her visit, she met many representatives of the Rastafarian Movement and
was told of their desire to become a Member Local of the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated
as bearded Bretheren were still excluded from becoming members of Local 31. Mrs. Richardson
granted these disenfranchised Bretheren their request and named the Local Emperor Haile Selassie
I Local 37. Within the first year, over 50 members were enrolled by this local, and with the
following year the membership grew to over 500. During this same period, other Locals were
being officially formed and registered with a total membership by the year 1957 of about 3,000
members apart from the
|many sympathisers. The Government recognised these Locals as being social organisations. It is |
now estimated that there are over 60,000 Rastafarians at the present time, who owe an oath of
alliance to Ethiopia. Local 37 continues to be the strongest Local and enjoys the greatest popular
support from the Rastafarian Movement.
The Movement has suffered much damage from its association with other organizations connected
with the Back to Africa Movement.
In 1957 the most serious setback started when a man by the name of Rev. Henry, a Jamaican who
returned to his country after spending 16 years in America, started to preach about the Emperor of
Ethiopia and the Redemption of Mankind. He attracted the sympathy and interest of the public and
some Rastafarians and circulated many placards and photographs of the Emperor as propaganda
for his cause.
In this same year, the Rev. Henry spoke a public meeting held by Local 31 and 37 of the Ethiopian
World Federation Incorporated and on the same platform he announced that during his 16 years in
America he had never heard of the Ethiopian World Federation Incorporated -- this statement was
turned against him by his opponents but despite this, many Rastafarians supported him. He
established a church in the Western Section of Kingston and held regular services and meetings,
but this was not done with direct permission from Ethiopia. Some of his followers organised
themselves into a violent revolutionary group, which was not at all in accordance with Rastafarian
non-violent principles. American ex-servicemen, the Rev. Henry's son amongst them, were
recruited to train groups for combat, ostensibly for the struggle in S. Africa although this merely
proved to be an excuse to cover up his real intentions, but the excuse gained him wide public
support and sympathy. He told those who wished to go back to Africa to be ready by October 5th
1959, and many people sold all they possessed in anticipation of their repatriation to Ethiopia. No
such event took place and the Rev. Henry was charged with breaking the peace and with sedition
and bound over to keep the peace for 2 years.
The militant part of the movement now went underground and recruiting continued and people
still entered the country form abroad to join his forces, which had their Headquarters at Redhills,
which was also a Rastafarian camp. The Rastafarian Movement being so
|involved with the Rev. Henry's followers was branded by the Government as being one and the |
same organisation. Greatly concerned by this, Members of Local 37 studied the whole situation
very carefully, and infiltrated the Rev. Henry's movement. They discovered that many of his
followers were genuinely unaware of the real purpose of the movement. Gradually evidence was
collected and finally a full report was sent to the Prime Minister, who appeared to ignore this
warning as no action was taken and no reply given.
Finally, the Government became aware that arms were being smuggled into the country and they
took action. An armed force went to the Headquarters at Redhills, and during the ensuing action
many people were killed and wounded, and 5 men, including the Rev. Henry's son, were
subsequently condemned to death and hanged. The Rev. Henry himself got 10 years imprisonment
for treason and his abortive attempt at staging a revolution was completely broken up.
Unfortunately, the police had been given some excuse for using violence against the Rastafarian
who had been misguided enough to join the Rev. Henry and they continued to harass and
persecute any members of the Movement, however innocent.
University College of the West Indies Survey
The spirit of Pan-Africanism and Marcus Garvey's teachings were by now deeply instilled in the
minds of the people and after the breaking up of the Rev. Henry's attempt at revolution many
groups of people met together, sometimes as social groups, sometimes as Rastafarians, each with
the central theme of Pan-Africanism and the urge to return to Africa, and in the case of the
Rastafarian, to look upon the Emperor of Ethiopia as their spiritual leader. Local 37, the only local
at this time which had Rastafarian members, took the initiative and approached Professor Arthur
Lewis of the University College of the West Indies to ask for his assistance in applying the
Declaration of Human Rights for the union and protection of the Rastafarian Movement. It was
pointed out to the Professor that although the student body in most countries was in the vanguard
of social reform, this was not so in Jamaica, where students were so concerned with their own
advancement that they were not concerned with social reform in their own country. Subsequently
a survey of the Rastafarian Movement by three members of the U.C.W.I. was undertaken and
interviews took place with the Rastafarians, and as a result of recommendations the Prime Minister
-- at this time Mr. Norman Manley --- had a discussion with the Rastafarian dele-
|gation. This talk was long and comprehensive. As a result a fact finding Mission was organized to |
go to Ethiopia and the Free States of Africa, comprised of members of organisations who preached
of a return to Africa. Shortly after this, the Government changed and the succeeding Government
was not concerned with Rastafarian claims. Hitherto, Rastafarians had remained nonpolitical, but
by virtue of the very nature of their teachings and sufferings they are now deeply concerned with
the progress of the people and their political advance.
Formation and Work of Jamaica Working Committee
In 1960 Members of Local 37 in the U.K. were authorised to establish a Sub-Local of Local 37 and
documents authorising this were drawn up and a committee was formed. On 10th March 1960 the
first interview with the Counseller I/C Ethiopian Embassy took place, the Ambassador being away,
to enquire how ot get a Royal Charter from Ethiopia similar to the one operating with the Ethiopian
World Federation Inc. in Jamaica. The Counsellor said he could not commit his Government
officially without consultation, but expressed sympathy and interest in the Rastafarian Movement.
Subsequently, during June 1960, after office bearers for Sub-Local 37 had been appointed, the
Cultural Attache' visited the Sub-Local's headquarters and further talks took place. The sub-local
was then named the Jamaica Working Committee. Shortly after this visit by the Cultural Attache',
the Ambassador himself returned and two members of the Committee had talks with him,
explaining their aims and objectives, which were sympathetically received. The Ambassador
undertook to become a mediator between Ethiopia and the Rastafarian Movement, and to give all
possible help. He also said that the Cultural Attache' would make contact with one of the
dignitaries of the Church of Ethiopia, who he felt would be the right person to tackle their problems.
Local 37 was informed of the contacts that had been made, and the research work that had been
done on the problems that confronted the Movement.
The findings of the Jamaica Working Committee were as follows:
1) The Rastafarians had no voice in the legislature of Jamaica and must accept the need for
2) They could not advance the aims of the movement or reach the masses of the people until they
took practical steps to form a political wing of the movement.
3) A new and practical attitude of mind was needed amongst the members of the Movement.
They must be made to realise the vital necessity of accepting a political responsibility and a
reunification of their social activities and general approach to the community. Local 37 was
informed fully of these findings.
|PRESENT POLICY OF THE MOVEMENT|
Before the history and ideals of the Rastafarian Movement in Jamaica can be fully understood, it
must be made clear that the Rastafarians are the only people in the Western world today who
identify themselves positively with Africa and the Pan-Africanist cause.
Fundamentally there are seven main objectives in their present policy. These objectives
demonstrate a new and realistic approach in the development of the Movement, and shows the
merging of the Rastafarian ideals with practical propositions to meet the pressing needs of the
people of Jamaica in general. The Rastafarians now know they must become realistic and practical
and they realise that in order to achieve official recognition the basic essentials are:
1. Unification with the Movement
2. A different approach to the community they live in.
3. A constitutional approach to ensure the rights of the individual.
It can be seen that the following seven objectives demonstrate the fact that Rastafarians are aware
of the urgent need for an active and unified approach to these needs and for practical
implementation of the Rastafarian basic in the dignity and rights of men.
The objectives are as follows:
1. Representation. Hitherto Rastafarians throughout their history have never sought direct
representation for members of the Movement. Now we have realised that our aims cannot be
achieved without some form of official representation. We wish to be able to nominate our own
candidates for election without fear of persecution, which we have suffered in the past, and with
due regard to the fundamental laws of Human Rights.
In order to be able to achieve this constitutionally we have taken the decision to form a political
wing of the Rastafarian Movement which will be known as the Peoples Democratic Movement.
This organisation will unite all the different branches of the Movement in their efforts to achieve
the common aim of Rastafarian representation on the Legislature through constitutional and
2. Repatriation to Africa for those Jamaican nationals who so desire it, with a realistic approach
to this migration and the realization that it can only be achieved at Government level. Pioneer
schemes must be organized to meet the practical needs of the country, or countries, to which it is
intended to migrate. The ultimate right to the nationality of the African country chosen should be
accorded to the
|??????? immigrant as and when he or she qualifies for it by virtue of their residence and the merit |
of their contributions to that country.
3. Establishment of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica as the recognised and official
church for members of the Rastafarian Movement. At present there is no official representative of
the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica, and the members of our Movement, who are deeply and
sincerely religious, have to worship in groups, established as camps, lead by an elder who is
looked upon as a chaplain. These exponents of the faith and the scriptures, who observe certain
days in common with the Ethiopian Church, are liable to develop along individual lines, and with
idealogical interpretations of their own, and personality cults and divisions amongst members of
different groups have arisen as a result of these different concepts being preached. Another
problem which the establishment of an official church would assist in solving is that of undesirable
elements who look like Rastafarian bretheren, bearded and long-haired, but who are, in fact, not
true and sincere members of the Movement, but are using it as a cover for their activities and
bringing disrepute on the Movement.
4. Freedom of Choice and equal opportunity in employment with properly enforced conditions of
work, and protection against unemployment. At present the Rastafarian who, because of his
religious beliefs grows his hair and his beard long, has very little hope of employment as there is
almost universal discrimination against him by other members of the community. Some
Rastafarians have been forced to cut their beards in order to get employment. To date, no form of
legislation protects those who wish to preserve their deep religious beliefs and at the same time be
able to work. Consequently, many Rastafarians are unemployed through no wish of their own, and
the Movement is branded as being largely composed of people who do not wish to work. This
serious discrimination has caused great hardship and the inevitable lowering of the standards of
living of many members of the Movement.
5. Co-operative development in commerce and industry should be assisted as one of the
answers to objective 4. At present, many Rastafarians spurned by the community in general, have
had to develop crafts and trades amongst themselves into groups and small co-operatives, which
need encouragement and expansion especially with regard to marketing co-operatives in order to
raise the social as well as commercial standards of the Rastafarian. This is a practical step which
has already had its foundations prepared, and now needs official recognition and assistance.
|6. Educational facilities. These facilities are extremely limited under the present system. Two |
thirds of the population of Jamaica get no more than elementary education. Many are forced to
leave school before they have completed their education from the sheer economic necessity of
having to go out and work to help the family budget. It is felt that more emphasis should be placed
on technical training and the whole teaching system should be revised. The history of Africa
should be taught in the schools instead of the intensive study of European history, which is of less
7. Health & Housing. The serious understaffing of the already inadequate hospitals should
receive immediate attention, and the training of doctors and nursing staff increased immediately,
and reasonable conditions and incentives given to trained staff. The present medical facilities do
not meet the public requirements and must be revised and improved if the peoples' standard of
health and hygiene is to progress. Under the present system, the desperate need for housing
cannot be said to be met. Conditions in many areas are unspeakably bad, with shanty towns which
have sprung up on many areas of former crown land and private property. Some overall planning
is essential if the dangerous gap between the haves and the have-nots is to be bridged. The need is
urgent, as conditions amongst some of the underprivileged peoples in Jamaica are appalling, and
apparently without hope of improvement. It would be foolish to ignore the risk of letting such
conditions prevail to nourish the seeds of a revolution which is bound to overtake a community
which is so indifferent to the sufferings and misfortunes of a large number of their people. Surely,
this cannot be the will of God for man?