In my last post I wrote about Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930-1974. In this post I will explore the link between Selassie and the Rastafarian religion.
The Rastafari movement developed in the impoverished black community of Jamaica in the 1930's as a reaction against their then dominant British Colonial culture. They visioned an idealized Africa, putting their attention on the oppression of the African diaspora in Western society, referred to as "Babylon".
The Rastafari movement is both a religion and a political movement with several denominations, each with a different interpretation of beliefs. There are believed to be between 700,000 to 1,000,000 Rastas across the world, with the largest population in Jamaica. Rastafari culture has inspired many reggae musicians including Bob Marley.
Rastas believe in a single God, called Jah, believed to have come in the form of a man several times, including as Jesus. They also believe that the black race is one of the tribes of Israel. Many of them call for a resettlement in Africa, especially Ethiopia, which is considered their homeland and Zion.
Some of their unique traditions include the smoking of Ganja (cannabis), considered a spiritual purifier, living naturally (no pork, shellfish, alcohol, coffee, or cigarettes), and the prohibition of cutting hair.
So what was the connection to Haile Selassie, known as Ras Tafari Makonnen before his coronation, and from whom the movement gets it's name?
In 1920, shortly before Selassie's coronation, Marcus Garver, a Jamaican black nationalist made a prophecy.
"Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the redeemer."
Although he himself stated he was fully human, Selassie's divinity was declared by the Rastafarians. Many regard him as both God and king, while others think of him as a human prophet. For most Rastas, Haile Selassie is the God of the black race.
In 1966, Haile Selassie arrived to the island of Jamaica for a visit. He was completely overwhelmed by the unexpected reception of the one hundred thousand Rastafarians that came to greet him at the airport! Emperor Haile Selassie told the Rastafarians they should not immigrate to Ethiopia until they had found freedom in Jamaica.
Selassie showed special favor to the Rasta community in 1948 when he set aside land at Shashamane, Ethiopia for Rastas and others in the Diaspora to repatriate. He visited their settlement several times before the coup ended his reign in 1974.
I had so much fun writing The Big Buna Bash, and I want to share it to inspire cultural pride in kids who might feel like they don't fit in because of their differences. I believe in diversity and inclusion; that's why I wrote The Big Buna Bash!