Marcus Garvey should be posthumously pardoned for his wrongful conviction for use of the mails in furtherance of a scheme to defraud. During a time when Blacks were seen as second class citizens, Garvey led a mass movement to elevate the Black community through economic empowerment and independence. He was convicted after being targeted by J. Edgar Hoover and deprived of a fair trial. His sentence was later commuted by President Calvin Coolidge on recommendation by the U.S. Attorney General and with the support of 9 of the 12 jurors who voted to convict. Garvey never abandoned his movement to empower people of the African diaspora and he was recognized as a forebearer of the Civil Rights Movement by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Today, his legacy is celebrated the world over.
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Sign This Petition at https:petitions.whitehouse.gov//petition/grant-marcus-mosiah-garvey-posthumous-presidential-pardon-his-wrongful-1923-conviction
The name Africa has been connected with the Phoenician word afar, which means ”dust.” It has also has been connected to two Phoenician terms friqi or pharika, which means “land of corn or fruit.” It has also been hypothesized that Africa may have derived from a Phoenician root faraqa or faraq, meaning “separation or diaspora.”
The Romans have been given credit for popularizing the name Africa in the West. They used the name Africa terra meaning “land of the Afri” (or singular version “Afer”) for the northern part of the continent. Its capital was Carthage, which is modern-day Tunisia.
The story told by some historians is that the Romans got the term from the Carthaginians, as a native term for their country. The Latin suffix “-ica” can sometimes be used to denote a land (e.g., in Celtica from Celtae, as used by Julius Caesar).
Another theory is that the continent was named after the Roman general “Scicipio Africanus,” but his name meant “Sicipio of Africa,” which would mean the general was named for being from Africa.
Some say the term is drawn from the Latin adjective aprica (sunny).
The historian Leo Africanus (1495-1554) attributed the origin of “Africa” to the Greek word aprikē or aphrike. Phrike means cold and horror, when combined with the negating prefix a-, it means a land free of cold and horror.
The 1st century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus asserted that Africa was named for Epher, grandson of Abraham, according to the Bible’s Genesis 25:4, whose descendants invaded Libya. The Hebrew name for the continent, Auphirah is supposedly written as Ophir in many Jewish records.
Some have attributed the name to the later Muslim kingdom of Ifriqiya (sunny place) in modern-day Tunisia. However, the Arab version is considered by most historians to be a derivative of the Latin version.
Another theory is that the word might stem from Sanskrit and Hindi in which the root Apara or Africa denotes that which, in geographical terms, “comes after” or to the west — in which case Africa is the western continent.
Some have postulated that it is the name of a Yemenite chief named Africus who invaded North Africa in the second millennium B.C. and founded a town called Afrikyah.
A number of historians believe the Romans got the name from a corruption of what the Berbers called the region in which they lived. The theory asserts that “Africa” stems from the Berber ifri (plural ifran), the word for “cave,” in reference to cave dwellers. The same word is found in the name of the Banu Ifran from Algeria and Tripolitania, a Berber tribe originally from Yafran (also known as Ifrane) in northwestern Libya.
A few historians argue that the word “Africa” is indigenous to the continent, and the idea that the Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Hindus or any Caucasoid group created the name Africa is absolutely inaccurate.
This theory asserts that Romans and Greeks began using the term only after coming in contact with African people, such as the Greek conquest of Egypt and the Roman conquest of North Africa and Egypt.
The term “Afru-ika” means “birthplace” or “Motherland,” according to historian Ivan Van Sertima. Af-rui-ka means “to turn toward the opening of the Ka, womb or birthplace.”
Another hypothesis is that the name of the 4th dynasty pharaoh, Kh-afre, reveals that an early Egyptian king had the name “Africa.” It’s believed by some that because modern Egyptologists and others often mix the order of the hieroglyphs that the ancients wrote Kh-afre is supposedly written as Afre-Kh or Africa.
The internet abounds with accusations that President Obama is gay or at least bisexual. Some accuse Michelle of being a male or at least transgender. I take all of this as silliness and disguised racial slights. However, one thing is very clear--the LBGT agenda has made exponential growth during his administrations, especially the rights of transgender people. Clearly Obama's lasting legacy will be the Affordable Care Act and the advancement of the LGBT rights movement.
Appointment of Record Number of LGBT Persons - Made the most "LGBT" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) appointments of any President in history.
Appointment of a Homosexual Activist with Notorious Past: May 19, 2009 - Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), to the Department of Education.
Appointment of a Pro-Polygamy Law Professor: September 14, 2009 - Chai Feldblum, law professor who once said when "sexual liberty" clashed with religious liberty, "Gays win, Christians lose" -- to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Undermined the Traditional Family on Family Day: September 28, 2009 - President Obama celebrated families headed by a "same-sex couple" in his Family Day press release.
Signing of the first federal "Hate Crimes" law: October 28, 2009 - The expanded federal hate crimes law, hailed by supporters as the first major federal gay rights legislation.
Encouraged Subversion of Federal Marriage Law: April 14, 2010 - The Census Bureau was allowed to count homosexual couples as "married," in defiance of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Celebrated the Role of Lesbian Mothers on Mother's Day: May 7, 2010 - President Obama proclaimed the role that "two mothers" may have in "nurturing" children.
Extended Domestic Partner Benefits: June 2, 2010 - Extended a wide variety of quasi-marital domestic partner benefits to homosexual partners of federal employees, despite the absence of statutory authority to do so.
Praised the Contributions of Homosexual Fathers on Father's Day: June 18, 2010 - President Obama expanded the role of father to include a second father in his Father's Day press release.
Drastically Changed the Military's Traditional Policies: December 22, 2010 - President Obama reversed a 200 year-old policy that protected soldiers against homosexual conduct in the armed forces.
Abandoned Duty to Protect the Marriage Laws: February 23, 2011 - President Obama shirked executive responsibility by abandoning legal defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, forcing the House of Representatives to intervene to defend the law.
Ended Normal Workplace Dress Codes: May 27, 2011 - President Obama prohibited discrimination based on "gender identity" (i.e., cross-dressing) in federal employment, despite the absence of statutory authority.
Endorsed the Redefinition of Marriage: May 9, 2012 - In a reversal of his stated position ever since entering national politics, President Obama stated, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married"-thus repudiating the laws of 42 states and the constitutions of 30.
Department of Health and Human Services: May 30, 2014 - Obama administration ended a 33-year ban on Medicare coverage for gender reassignment surgery — a major victory for transgender rights.
Office of Personnel Management: June 13, 2014 - Obama administration lifts the 40-year prohibition, now allowing health insurers to cover the cost of gender reassignment surgeries for federal employees, retirees and their survivors.
Use of the term "Transgender" in a State of the Nation Address: January 20, 2015 - Obama is the First President in History to Use Word “Transgender” in a Speech.
A lesson for Global Afrikan people (GAP)
History is not properly taught to Afrikan people. We have no idea how our worldview set the standard in ancient history. What has been erroneously called polytheism--that was us; the belief that a part of the person survived death, and could be communicated with, ancestor communion--that was us; the notion that the Supreme Being was self-evident throughout existence--that was us; the idea that the divine was both masculine and feminine--that was us; the idea that there was a natural order that was observable, could be emulated, and reproduced as a system to live by--that was us. And what did this worldview produce--the grandeur of Kemet, Sumer/Elam (pre-Aryanian Mesopatamia), Mohenjo-Daro (pre-Aryanian India), and the Li Min or Yellow River high culture (pre-Chou China). In other words, the Afrikan worldview was responsible for developing ALL the early so called river valley civilizations. Yes, before the rise of the Semites (mulattoes), Afrikan thought was predominant in the world. This point is nothing but an extension of what Chancellor William's Destruction of Black Civilization was about. We don't understand that the development of Greek philosophy, Judaic monotheism, Roman Christianity, and Arab Islam, all came about as challenges to Afrikan thought. What did these systems of thought all have in common--They attacked or removed the feminine from the divine! That's what they all did. Review history and you'll see this is what happened. Merlin Stone's When God was a Woman documents this--she does not make the connection between race, culture, and worldview though. Even Elaine Pagels' Gnostic Gospels demonstrates this attack upon the feminine in early Christianity but she too fails to put her argument in the context of race, culture, and worldview. My book Distorted Truths does this.
Someone said about my book that it was an "interesting look at the foundations of Afrikan thought and the struggle against it in the ancient world." Actually, our system of thought was and continues to be constantly under ATTACK. Non-Afrikan people have been attacking the Afrikan worldview for millennia now. They have replaced our matrifocal system with patriarchy structures. To me this simply means they have problems with the feminine and anything they equate with it. That means they will dishonor nature, women, emotions, the body, all things that they perceive as in opposition to their masculine counterparts: God (the Father), men, reason, the mind. This is based on their dichotomous logic.
I was recently telling a friend of mine that the Bible is anti-Afrikan, that at its core it challenges the Afrikan worldview. I proceeded to point these things out clearly, and unequivocally, and she said, "I disagree." It is not my intention to present those arguments now, but it was the person's knee-jerk reaction that concerned me. We have become so enamored with these foreign ideas (religions) that we are afraid to look critically at what we had. And when I say what we had I am not just talking about Nubia and Kemet, I'm referring to the Afrikan worldview and culture as it existed among any Afrikan people. Their foundations are the same though their level of "achievement" differed. It is this foundation that we need to rebuild. Our challenge is to regain our worldview and if this entails waging an ongoing struggle against Western, Eastern, or any system of thought that is anti-Afrikan, then so be it. The struggle to regain our worldview is paramount.
Initially, human identity was based on culture, and since cultures differed, people naturally viewed themselves as different. Ethnocentrism was a naturally occurring yet harmless phenomenon. Racial identity did not exist until the European creation of the concept. However, today, human beings are classified and divided into racial groups. Europeans for the most part are the most unified grouping while Afrikans number among the most disunited. Our apparent lack of racial unity (and economic cohesion) obstructs our development as other racial groupings feed on our factionalism. Nevertheless, we do have a genuine basis for togetherness. I have argued in my book Distorted Truths, that though Afrikan cultures are diverse, something our enemies (all to willingly) frequently point out, Afrikan cultures share the same worldview assumptions and cultural intentionalities. Thus, our worldview assumptions, and our unique history at the hands of other groups are but two of the most powerful rallying points for Afrikan racial unity.
Pan-Afrikanism must be the concept that provides that unity; it should become the eternal theme of Afrikan existence; it must be instrumental in the development of global Black Power. Pan-Afrikan unity cannot simply be a territorial unity but ought to express the solidarity of Afrikan people based on our distinctive racial, cultural, linguistic and historical identity; it should offer means for Diasporan inclusiveness and participation; it needs to provide for the collective security and ultimate survival of Afrikan people. We have to champion it and the Afrikan worldview with a passion exceeding European cultural chauvinism, modern Zionism, and Asian ethnocentrism.
S.K. Damani Agyekum or Seba Damani,
slave name Donald Saunderson
P.S. Damn, it hurt saying that, LOL.
Part VI of VI: Conclusion
From Rastafarites to Rastafarians
Ethiopianism had flowered into Pan Afrikanism, but in Jamaica, aspects of it, gave birth to Black Supremacist thought.  The Black Supremacist ideal, evident in the Piby and The Royal Parchment, came to fruition in The Ethiopian Salvation Society under the leadership of Howell. Today, however, the Black Supremacist and anti-white theology of early Rastafari is absent. What remain of Howell’s original principles are the divinity of Selassie I, repatriation, and the 4th principle, i.e., his disposition toward the Jamaican government that formed the basis of the Zion-Babylon paradigm. We agree with Lee that changes in theology and orientation took place post-Pinnacle, and that this was only possible once Howell’s position and power in the movement diminished, and his followers “scattered.” This post-Pinnacle era the author has identified as a “Rastafarian Diaspora,” and it was during this period that contemporary Rastafari emerged. This “Rasta” developed in the ghettoes of Kingston, the movement’s new epicenter, and not the old epicenter, Pinnacle.
As stated earlier, the Jamaican government, persecuted (and prosecuted) Howell more than any other person in Jamaican history. All of this was taking its toll. After the fall of Pinnacle, Howell’s mental health deteriorated and he was committed in 1961. The destruction of Pinnacle and the decline of Howell’s power would have six consequences for the post-Pinnacle movement/Diaspora. First, and the most obvious, the destruction of Pinnacle shattered Rastafari’s economic foundation. Second, there was a change in nomenclature, which was emblematic of impending changes. Howell’s group was the first to have been identified with the emperor’s pre-coronation name—and in the same way that Bedward’s and Garvey’s followers were called Bedwardites and Garveyites, respectively—they were called “Rastafarites.” However, now in the streets of Kingston “Rastafarians” were what followers were now being called. During this period, the press would also for the first time use the term “Rastafarianism,” which is an abomination to Rastafari.
Third, in the late 1950s and 1960s the movement splintered once it lost the unifying influence Howell provided. In truth, a certain amount of diversity had always existed. For example, Dunkley and Hibbert had never settled in Pinnacle; they worked with the Ethiopian World Federation (EWF), which Haile Selassie’s cousin, Malaku Bayen, established in 1937. The EWF was important because it gave a voice to Rastafari during their formative years. Dunkley and Hibbert were both foundational members of EWF local #17. Howell had even written for its newspaper, The Voice of Ethiopia, until he established The Ethiopian Salvation Society later that year. Additionally, another early Rastafarite leader, Joseph Meyer, who worked with the AACC, had established his King of Kings Organization in Denham Town in 1947. Therefore, although Pinnacle had been the epicenter where the vast majority of Rastafari lived, there had always been small Rastafari organizations that existed in Kingston and elsewhere. Yet, the post-Pinnacle period saw the proliferation of groups in the shantytowns, where different encampments became “Pinnacles” in their own right. The Rastafarian Convention of 1958 organized by Prince Emmanuel marked the official end of Howell’s leadership. (Lee believes that they did not even invite Howell to the gathering.) Without a single leader, many leaders developed, and with this new leadership came new organizations with different “philosophies.” Indicative of the splintering during this period, was the development of the different “mansions” of Rastafari.
A fourth consequence that arose was an increased millenarianism that caused followers to rely more heavily on the Bible. We must remember that although Ethiopianism was quintessential to the movement, and it was predicated on the Bible, at Pinnacle the Rastafarites used The Promise Key and Howell’s six tenets in addition to the Bible; The Promise Key gave them organizational structure, a theology and an approach to healing; it added additional moral codes to biblical ones, and his six tenets rooted Rastafari in Black Supremacy, supported the Zion-Babylon dichotomy, had repatriation as a desired goal, and most importantly preached the divinity of HIM Haile Selassie I. Most of the above has little to do with the Bible but all to do with Rastafari. Earlier, Dunkley had searched the Bible and highlighted all the parts that related to Haile Selassie as God, and presumably, Howell used these excerpts at Pinnacle. In other words, Howell was an Ethiopianist who used the Bible selectively. Moreover, according to Howell’s son Blade, his father rarely read the Bible.
Having always been the most salient theme in Rastafari’s theology, it was Ethiopianism that ironically facilitated the use of the Bible to substantiate their livity, particularly after The Promise Key fell into disuse (copies of The Promise Key were burned at Pinnacle), and several of Howell’s tenets were spurned. As newer and younger members, who grew up in Kingston’s ghettoes, replaced the older Pinnacle Rastafarites, their knowledge of the recent past was limited. These Rastafarians, having not grown up in Pinnacle, were to a certain extent disconnected from its history. With the Bible becoming the movement’s only guidebook, it naturally was used to explain their livity; even though much of the livity had been developed through practice at Pinnacle, where it had synergized with Indian spiritual ideas and practices. And just like Ethiopianism was predicated on biblical verses, Rastafari now fittingly used biblical verses to support their livity. This was not necessarily a conspiracy against Indian influences by more Afrikan-centered Rastafarians, as Lee implies, but if anything, it was a testament to the centrality of Ethiopianism to Rastafari. However, it can be partly attributed to an ahistoricism, often characteristic of Afrikan people—newer members simply did not know the history. One might argue that the Bible was always the source of Rastafari livity. This would be inaccurate, however, and putting the proverbial cart before the horse. The rationale for the wearing of locks provides an excellent example. The question can be asked, “Where was the Nazirite law when Rastafari used to cut his hair?” It was inconsequential because no one was wearing locks yet. Its application only became important after the appearance of locks, not before, when no rationale was needed. Thus, the Bible was used to justify the practice but was not the source of it. If the Bible had always been the source then Rastafari would have had locks from the beginning. This example can be applied to vegetarianism, the sacramental use of ganga, and other aspects of the livity. Their justification was sought and found in the Bible after the fact.
Garvey’s readmittance into Rastafari “theology,” was another consequence of the post-Pinnacle Diaspora. It would be during this period that Rastafari began to reembrace Garvey as a prophet, casting him in the role of John the Baptist. It fit in perfectly with their new dependency on the Bible. In addition, it was now that his utterance, “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is at hand," regained it significance as heralding their expected Messiah. In the 1930s, Howell and Garvey’s relationship had become contentious, and when Howell edited and condensed The Royal Parchment, coming up with his text, he intentionally omitted all references to Garvey and the UNIA. To many Rastafarites, Garvey’s characterization of them as a dangerous cult made him anathema. But with the death of Garvey, the waning influence of Howell, and the attraction of younger followers, most of whom were unaware a rift ever existed, the earlier tensions between the Rastafarites and Garveyites dissipated. Besides, Garvey was irrepressible; he was a great man, a man with a legacy; a man considered a prophet by earlier Jamaican religious figures, such as Bedward and Pettersburgh, as well as by Rogers and the Hamatic Church (AACC).
Sixth, with the fall of Pinnacle there developed an immediate desire for repatriation to Ethiopia, and a number of organizations developed with this sole purpose. Rastafari’s Ethiopianism posited that Afrikan people were the Israelites and Ethiopia was the new Zion. They believed that God’s chosen people were still exiled, via slavery in Babylon, where they suffered continual oppression. Pinnacle had served as their “Promised Land” and while it existed there was no timetable for repatriation. Blade Howell said that although his father believed in repatriation—when it was supposed to transpire remained undecided. However, with Pinnacle, their temporary “Zion” destroyed, Rastafari looked to Ethiopia with renewed vigor and repatriation became a pressing issue.
This article has documented that Rastafari embodies a tripartite heritage, which consists of Ethiopianism, Garveyism, as well as ritual and cultural practices inherited from the Indians. Unmistakably the Rastafari worldview or theology has changed since the early days. No longer a Black Supremacist anti-white movement centered in Jamaica, today it is a livity followed by people of different nations and races. However, the author’s point in this article was to demonstrate that Ethiopianism is at the heart of Rastafari, more so that Garveyism, and the Indian influences that have contributed to Rastafari. It is the worshipping of a Black God, making Afrikan people God’s chosen people, and perceiving an Afrika country as the most sacred place on earth that makes Rastafari Rastafari. This is not to say that the wearing of locks, vegetarianism, and the smoking of sacramental ganga are not important. They are, but are not foundational. For example, the wearing of locks is not a universal practice as there are “dread-less Rastas;” Vegetarianism is not universal as there are pescatarians, and meat-eating Rastafari; finally, “ganga smoking does not a Rasta make,” and not all Rastafari smoke!!! All Rastafari embrace Ethiopianism, however. In concluding, the author would like to add a possible fourth factor, one not as instrumental as the aforementioned, but nonetheless, has been a factor in helping to shape today’s Rastafari: The Black Power movement.
The Jamaican Labour Party government of Hugh Shearer had banned Black Power literature such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and the works of Eldridge Cleaver and Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure). However, Afrikan Guyanese scholar Walter Rodney, when appointed as a lecturer at his alma mater the University of the West Indies (UWI at Mona) in 1968, he brought the movement to Jamaica. Rodney was highly critical of the Caribbean middle class for its role in the post-independence Caribbean, and was a strong critic of capitalism, arguing for a socialist paradigm. The Shearer government, which had already placed Rodney under surveillance for his engagement with Rastafarians and other disenfranchised communities, declared Rodney persona non-grata and a threat to national security, and banned him from reentry into Jamaica, after he had attended a Black writers’ conference in Montreal, Canada. After a student protest, led by now Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Honorable Ralph Gonsalves, the “Rodney Riots” erupted and consequently spread off campus to the capital Kingston. These riots, which started on October 16, 1968, triggered an increase in political awareness across the Caribbean. In Jamaica, radical groups and publications such as Abeng began to appear, and the opposition People’s National Party gained support, winning the 1972 election, which elected as Prime Minister, Michael Manley, who had expressed support for Black Power. However, one of the most politicized groups in Jamaica because of the Rodney Riots was Rastafarians. These politicized Rastafarians, especially the musicians, who were additionally inspired by the socially conscious music coming from America, gave rise to Roots Reggae. Moreover, Roots Reggae has been the ambassador of Rastafari, and has helped to spread its livity worldwide.
 America spawned its own Black Supremacist thought but rather than it being based on Ethiopianism, it used Islam inspiration. We are here talking about the Moorish Science Movement and the Nation of Islam.
70 Lee, p. 217.
71 Lee, p. 206.
72 Blade Howell also tell us that he and his brother often recited prayers from The Promise Key. Can we take this to have been the norm at Pinnacle, if so it would further indicate its importance as a spiritual guide for Rastafari.
73 Lee, p. 101.
74 Rodney’s encounters with the Rastafarians were published in a pamphlet entitled Grounding with My Brothers, which became an inspiration for the Caribbean Black Power Movement.
Part V of VI: Rastafari Livity and Indian Influences
The Rastafari in Pinnacle had developed a way of life, a livity, which consisted primarily of a theology or worldview, language (though most of Iyaric would develop post-Pinnacle), the smoking of ganga, diet, the wearing of beards and later locked hair or “dreadlocks,” symbols, and music (with Reggae also developing in the post-Pinnacle period).
Rastafari maintains that since their original Afrikan language was taken away during enslavement, and that English is an imposed colonial language, they have created a modified vocabulary and dialect known as "Iyaric," which reflects their desire to “take language forward” and to confront “Babylon.” One of the most distinctive changes in Iyaric is the use of "I and I" for the first person as well as other pronouns. As "I and I" also refers to us, them, or even you, it is used as a practical linguistic rejection of the separation of the individual from the larger Rastafari community, and Jah himself. Other examples of Iyaric include: “Overstanding," which replaces "understanding" to denote an enlightenment which places one in a better position; "Irie" (pronounced "eye-ree"), a term used to denote acceptance, positive feelings, or to describe something that is good; "Upfulness," a positive term for being helpful.
An important part of Rastafari livity is the smoking of ganga, which is seen as a spiritual act, and is often accompanied by Bible reading. They consider it a sacrament, which cleans the mind and body, elevates consciousness, facilitates tranquility, heals the soul, brings enjoyment, supports meditation, and brings one closer to the Most High. Thus, while Garvey believed the smoking of ganga was un-Christian, Rastafari uses the Bible to justify its use. Among biblical verses, they cite the following: Genesis 1:11, Genesis 1:29, Genesis 3:18, Psalm 104:14, Proverbs 15:17, and Revelation 22:2.
Rastafari’s diet is called Ital, the word is derived from the English word "vital,” minus the first letter, “v.” Those who adhere to it abstain from all flesh, such as the Nyabinghi, who assert, “To touch meat is to touch death,” and is hence a violation of the Nazirite law. Some Rastafari, however, eat limited types of meat in accordance with the Old Testament dietary laws. Then there are those that are pescatarians, who are primarily vegetarian but make a special exception allowing fish. In general, alcohol consumption is considered unhealthy; for one, it is seen as a tool of Babylon used to confuse people, and two, many Rastafari shuns foods that are pickled and/or fermented.
Though the wearing of locks was neither required, universal, nor exclusive to its followers, the relationship between dreadlocks and Rastafari is so intimately linked that the two are sometimes believed to be synonymous. Howell and the early Rastafari did not lock their hair, however. Yet today, Rastafari justify the wearing of locks using biblical verses and especially the Nazirite law.61 Further they state that the length of one’s locks is a measure of knowledge, wisdom, and maturity, in that it can indicate one’s age, but also his/her time as Rastafari. Rastafari state that dreadlocks also represent a lion’s mane, with the lion being a prominent symbol, representing the conquering Lion of Judah, a title for Haile Selassie I. For Rastafari, the razor, scissors and the comb are either Babylonian or Roman inventions.
The music of Rastafari is called Nyabinghi.62 Rastafari’s music had gone through a number of iterations though. At first, the music at Pinnacle was based on the Sankey Hymnal, which Rastafari adapted creating chants that contained themes like Black redemption, repatriation, or used lyrics from anthems written by the UNIA composer Arnold Ford. Later, in its second iteration, Kumina style drumming was added to the chants. Then in the late 1950s, due to the influences of Count Ossie, Burru drumming, another Afrikan-derived drumming style, became standard. (This was technically the birth of Nyabinghi, today considered the traditional music of Rastafari.) In the late 1950s, Jamaica would experience a musical revolution. Musicians blended traditional Jamaican folk music with Jazz and R&B, and created Ska. Ska developed into Rocksteady, and in the late 1960s, Reggae would evolve from Rocksteady. Then in the late 1970s, largely due to the success of Bob Marley, who actively and devoutly preached Rastafari, Rastafari’s footprint expanded as Reggae gained an international audience.
The Rastafari symbols and the colors green, gold and red (sometimes also including black) are very commonly displayed on their flag, icons, badges, posters, etc. The green, gold and red are the colors of the Ethiopian flag and show the loyalty Rastafari feel toward Ethiopia. The red, black and green were the colors used to represent the UNIA and ACL by Garvey. The author has already highlighted, the significance of the lion, which is one the most prominent symbols of Rastafari. The Star of David is another one of their symbols.
Lastly, there are a number of ceremonies and celebrations that are essential to Rastafari. Reasoning is a simple event where Rastafari gather, smoke ganga and discuss. The person honored by being allowed to light the herb, says a short blessing beforehand, and the ganja is passed in a clockwise fashion except in times of war when it is passed counterclockwise. Ganga is used to reason with Jah (God). Groundation/grounation or "binghi" is a holy day. Binghis are marked by dancing, singing, feasting, and the smoking of ganja, and can last for a number of days. There are also public prayers.
61 Numbers 6:5, "All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow."
62 Lee believes that although a female anti-colonialist secret society named Nyabinghi once existed, that it first came into the popular imagination as a propaganda tool of the Italian fascists. According to the Italian journalist who was behind the hoax, Haile Selassie was the head of this secret organization of twenty million men whose goal was to rid the world of the white race. This propaganda, rather than build international enmity against Selassie, instead galvanized Rastafari, as suddenly every Rasta wanted to join the Nyabinghi. See Lee, pp. 90-93.
63 Howell’s biographer, Lee, states the he acquired the name “Gong” while incarcerated. His prison converts gave him the name, meaning “tough guy.” The rest of the name is Hindi. Lee, p. 60. Perhaps Howell’s fascination with Indian culture continued with his admiration for Mahatma Gandhi and him fathering children by an Indian woman.
Part IV of VI: Garveyites and Howellites
Garveyites and the Howellites
The Garvey movement, or Garveyism, has its roots in Ethiopianism, and the Pan Afrikan movement that evolved from it. Garvey’s objective was to organize Afrikan people worldwide into an organization that would inculcate in them racial consciousness and pride, and a greater Pan Afrikan identity that could be directed toward the creation of global Black power, that then would be instrumental in creating a modern industrial (United States of) Afrika.
Garvey was born in St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica in 1887. Of maroon heritage, Garvey grew up having pride in his familial background. His family lived comfortably, his father being a mason who had a large library, and it is here that Garvey developed his love of reading and history. He knew of the exploits of Sam Sharp and Paul Bogle, and he grew up in a nation that witnessed the sociopolitical work of the Bedwardites. After traveling to Central America, England, and America, reading and observing the position of Black people everywhere he went, by 1918, Garvey was a well-schooled Afrikanist, who had developed philosophies and opinions that synthesized the best in Black thought. The ideas and efforts of Duse Mohammed Ali, Booker T. Washington, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Martin Delany, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, and Hubert Harrison were all given expression in the person of Marcus Mosiah Garvey. By 1920, he had amassed a movement that had millions of followers worldwide. This was a threat to white world hegemony and through the combined efforts of the American and British governments, the Garvey movement was sabotaged. After being wrongfully convicted of fraud, and serving two years in prison, he was deported, and as a result the movement struggled. By the late 1920s and early 1930s, although the UNIA and ACL was just a shadow of its former self, Garvey would, nonetheless, continue to fight for the dignity of Afrikan people.
In 1930, in his capacity as president general of the UNIA and ACL, Garvey sent a cable to His Imperial Majesty (HIM) Haile Selassie I that read: “Greetings from Ethiopians of [the] Western World. May your reign be peaceful, prosperous, progressive. Long live your Majesty.”44 The communiqué was printed in the New York-based Negro World newspaper on November 8, 1930. On that same day, Garvey published an article in his Jamaican periodical, The Blackman. In the article, Garvey expressed concern for the attempts by Europeans to separate Ethiopia from the rest of Africa, European attendance at the coronation and its impact, the coronation as a symbol of Black pride, and most important, Garvey’s expression of hope for a reign based on modernity45 within the framework of Pan Afrikan solidarity.46
Garvey’s interpretation of the coronation of Ras Tafari was primarily of secular significance. He saw in Selassie an Afrikan head of state, who could be a major player in his Pan Afrikan objectives. (Garvey wanted to build a secular state not a theocratic one.) Garvey never accepted the idea that Selassie was God and when he later criticizes him for fleeing the country during the Italian invasion, he is not criticizing a God but a man. On the other hand, Howell preached that Black people’s only true king was Emperor Haile Selassie I. Moreover, the Howellites, as early Rastafari were often called, interpreted the coronation as primarily spiritual. To them, Haile Selassie was God, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Thus, the coronation would have an even greater importance to Rastafari than to Garveyites. It was Haile Selassie’s apotheosis. Garvey and Howell both reinterpreted the Bible, noting its Eurocentric biases, as well as acknowledging the crucial role Afrika and Afrikans played in biblical history and the development of Judeo-Christian thought. For Garvey, God was Black but not a living man, especially one that he grew critical of. Although Garvey reinterpreted the Bible, his faith in Christianity remained unshaken nevertheless. Howell was more critical of the Bible, and some of his interpretation went further than Garvey was willing to go; consequently, Garvey found many of Howell’s doctrines offensive to his own Christian beliefs. His attitude and perception of the Emperor put him at odds with Howell,47 whose teachings he disapproved of. In fact, Garvey refused to allow Howell to sell the Emperor’s pictures in the UNIA headquarters in Edelweiss Park. 48
In addition, Garveyites accused Howell of “a number of disreputable practices,” including being an Obeahman. Most of these accusations are thought to relate directly to a “tearoom” that Howell opened on 136th Street where he is reported to have been selling ganja-bhang, a Hindu intoxicating tonic made with ganga.49 In 1932, Garvey in an editorial in his New Jamaican entitled, "The Dangerous Weed," expresses his views on the use of ganga. He states: “Ganja is a dangerous weed…. The smoking of it does a great deal of harm or injury to the smoker; we understand it has the same effect on the subject as opium has….That our people are being destroyed by the use of ganja there is absolutely no doubt….Between ganja and fanatical religion, we are developing a large population of half-crazy people who may not only injure themselves but injure us. Some will do it in the name of the "Lord" and others may do it under the influence of the evil weed.” This editorial was a veiled attack against the Howellites. Garvey’s position clearly brought him into conflict with those who advocated the use of ganga—and the Howellites, in particular, saw it as a sacrament; it was fundamental to their practices. Garvey, conversely saw it as un-Christian and a hindrance to racial development. By 1934, he viewed Howell and his followers as a dangerous cult. Garvey had an additional bone to pick with the Howellites. He had been critical of revivalist practices and this first incarnation of Rastafari was composed of a potpourri of groups, with some engaging in Afrikan-inspired, and as we shall see, Indian-inspired practices. Hinds’ headquarters, called the King of Kings Mission, was organized along the lines of a revival group. To Garvey these practices were un-Christian and reeked of revivalism, even Obeah.
Thus, while it was true that Garvey’s utterance contributed to the rise of Rastafari, the two movements remained separate and distinct. Whereas Garvey’s emphasis is sociopolitical and economic, and the Howellites included these aspects in their livity, but the latter incorporated a religious/spiritual dimension absent from Garveyism. However, as an organization the UNIA did address religion when in the early 1920s, it formed a relationship with the African Orthodox Church (AOC), which was created in Chicago in 1921 independent of the UNIA. The AOC’s bishop, George Alexander McGuire, would become the bishop of the UNIA and ACL. This relationship however, proved to be short-lived. We will conclude with the observation that though today, through the canonization of Marcus Garvey by Reggae music, nurtured and popularized by Rastafarian artists, that Garvey has been redeemed and his early relationship with Rastafari has been forgotten. Moreover, his status as a prophet of Rastafari has been cemented. But of course, as this paper has demonstrated, the relationship between Garvey and the early Rastafari was uneven at best.
44 Cited in Robert Hill, ed., Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, vol. 7: November 1927 - August 1940 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 442.
45 Garvey wanted to use westernized Afrikans and their training to the advantage of the UNIA, especially in regards to building a modern Afrika; while Rastafarians advocated a radical break from Western thought and traditions, and this included an anti-modernity outlook.
46 Nathaniel Samuel Murrell, William David Spencer, and Adrian Anthony McFarlane, editor, Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari
Reader (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998), pp. 145-158.
47 Supposedly, Howell began as a Garveyite. Whether or not this is true, Howell sympathized with Garvey and Garveyism, and was a Pan Afrikanist.
48 Robert Hill, “Leonard P. Howell and Millenarian Visions in Early Rastafari,” Jamaica Journal 16, 1 (1983): 24-39.
49 Vincent E. Burgess, Indian Influences on Rastafarianism (Ohio, Ohio University Press, 2007), https://kb.osu.edu/
dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/28443/Vincent_Burgess-Senior_Thesis.pdf;sequence’1, p. 26.
50 Marcus Garvey, Editorial, “The Dangerous Weed,” New Jamaican, August 13th, 1932.
51 The Jamaican Times, interview with Garvey, August 25th, 1934 edition.
52 When Garvey decided in 1924 to relocate UNIA headquarters to the West Indies, McGuire left the UNIA and began to devote himself to the development and extension of his church. Soon Endich Theological Seminary was founded, as well as an order of deaconesses, and the Negro Churchman magazine began publication with McGuire as its editor.
Part III of VI: Proto-Rastafari
Predicated on Ethiopianism and the Jamaican religious traditions and experiences, this section will examine three religious leaders who contributed to proto-Rastafarian beliefs, laying the foundation for Rastafari. These men are Alexander Bedward, Robert Athlyi Rogers, and Fitz Balintine Pettersburgh.
What would become popularly known as Bedwardism and led by Alexander Bedward was more properly called the Jamaican Native Baptist Free Church and was started by an Afrikan American preacher and “prophet” named Harrison “Shakespeare” Woods. The actual date Shakespeare arrived in Jamaica is uncertain but in 1876, he lived in Spanish Town, St David. He was said to have lived in a cave and from time to time came among the people and made prophecies. In June 1879, for example, he visited Dallas Castle, St Andrew and told the residents it would be destroyed by flood. In October of that year, a flood killed several people, and demolished the Wesleyan Chapel and many other buildings.
In December 1888, Shakespeare visited August Town with this message: “Thus saith the Lord behold the sins of August Town have come, up before Me, and I will destroy the place as I did Dallas Castle except the people repent. If they will come together, take their white cups, and hold to Me a fast, I will not destroy them. But if they will not repent and obey Me, I will sink the valley and make the two hills meet.”28
During his visit to August Town, Shakespeare lodged during the day with a host but departed to the woods to spend the night in solitude and prayer. He called for a general meeting of existing denominations in August Town, which consisted of the Anglican, the Baptist, and the Wesleyan. At the meeting, where they fasted, during prayer he repeated his earlier admonition: “Thus saith the Lord, if the people will only observe the Fast and do as I command them, I will abundantly help them temporally and spiritually. But if they refuse to obey Me, I will sink the valley of August Town, and close the hills.”
The Baptists and Wesleyans responded to Shakespeare’s call and many assembled on April 19, 1889 on Papine Pasture. During the gathering, Shakespeare said, “The Lord is coming and will soon be here.” According to those present, then there was the sound of a strong wind, followed by a light drizzling rain. Everyone was overcome with silence and awe, and a general prostration followed. After this, Shakespeare withdrew into an apartment where a large jar of water drawn from the Mona River had a Bible placed upon it, and he called in by name twelve men, and then twelve women, establishing them as Elders. One at a time, each placed his or her hand on the Bible while expressing the solemn vow to be faithfully devoted to the Service of God even unto Death. And with this, the Jamaican Native Baptist Free Church was established. On that occasion, Shakespeare made some very remarkable and prophetic utterances. Looking on the Elders he said, “There is one among you who shall succeed me, and be the leader of a great Religious Movement, which shall be centered in August Town, and it shall be a blessing to millions. As yet however, I know not who he, my successor is.”29
In 1891, Shakespeare, announced his retirement as bishop of the church he had founded just two years earlier. The self-denying and devout Woods, who had crafted the entire liturgy of the church, further surprised the congregation when he announced his successor. It would be Alexander Bedward. He further stated that Bedward would be the leader of a great religious movement, whose fruits would “so abound in August Town that from various parts of the world people will come to gather them.” The selection of Bedward as successor was quite a surprise, as Bedward, of all the church Elders had perhaps the most questionable past. Born in 1859, Bedward had migrated to Panama, where he experienced prophetic visions and was scourged and commanded to go to August Town. These he ignored. He later returned to Jamaica, where until recently he had lived a “lascivious” life on the Mona Estate.30
The congregation was stupefied, and assumed Shakespeare had stumbled. However, within two years of his consecration as bishop, Bedward was a household name in Jamaica. Bedward as bishop of the Jamaica Native Baptist Free Church was so charismatic that in time the church and the movement became known as Bedwardism and its followers as Bedwardites. He baptized his followers in the Hope River, where once blessed by him, became a “healing stream” that was believed to cure body and soul. Every month Bedward had a baptismal ceremony and hundreds of people from Kingston and the surrounding areas came to Mona, where the Bedwardites wore white robes, staged marches, and sang hymns and chanted dirges. There were processions, frequently of great length, trams often packed with devotees. Many returned home carrying bottles or pans of the curative water, which Bedward had blessed of course.
Bedwardism was an amazing spectacle, and it attracted many followers and sympathizers. Beward was able to fill his followers with pride and self-esteem, which motivated and inspired them to build an impressive stone church. He considered the church “the finest structure in the western hemisphere.” To give his people hope, he often quoted Joel 2:29: "And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit." Another one of his favorite verses was the Ethiopian Prophecy.
Defection from established churches to the Jamaican Baptist Native Free Church was hastened when foreign newspapers and magazines reported on Bedward’s healing, which led to thousands of “tourists” visiting August Town to be touched by him. Hostilities quickly arose from the anti-Bedward establishment, which consisted of the Anglican, and Catholic churches that had lost membership to his church, and doctors whose medicines did not have the instant and magical effect of Bedward’s healing. Bishop Enos Nuttall of the Anglican Church even led a march in Kingston against the Bedwardites. The Roman Catholic bishop Charles Gordon issued a proclamation barring all Roman Catholics from visiting Bedward’s healing stream or encouraging others to do so. That proclamation was read in every Catholic Church and school in Jamaica.
Newspapers were also hostile to Bedward, and there were high-level meetings at King’s House to trump up charges to imprison him. On a number of occasions, he was charged with incitement and sedition, but was able to avert arrest. Eventually he was arrested and tried for sedition. The court did not find him guilty, yet did not acquit him, instead sending him to the mental asylum.31 The doctors released him after a few months and he returned to his role as Baptist healer and preacher, hardly missing a beat.
However, apart from the religious spectacle, Bedward’s church appealed to thousands of people with its call for social justice, and its programs designed to help the poor. He attributed “the establishment’s” hostility to him and his church to racism. He likened himself to Paul Bogle, reminding followers of the Morant Bay rebellion. He railed: There is a black wall and a white wall, and the white wall has been closing round the black wall. But now the black wall is growing, and it shall crush the white wall. Bedward fearlessly and openly challenged racism and injustice, and called for changes in the race relations in Jamaican society. At the same time, he stressed to his followers the need for self-sufficiency and at its height, the movement gathered some 30,000 devotees. Ultimately, the government suppressed the movement in 1921 when Bedward and 800 followers marched into Kingston “to do battle with his enemies.” He and many of his followers were arrested and he was sent to the mental asylum for a second time where he remained to the end of his life. With Bedward being institutionalized, the movement lost its fervor.
Many former Bedwardites became Garveyites. Earlier, Bedward, in true Ethiopianist style, stated that he and Garvey were as Aaron and Moses, one the high priest, the other prophet, both leading the children of Israel out of exile. Bedward was the first to liken Garvey to a prophet. Garvey’s middle name, Mosiah, was considered by some to be a mix of the two names Moses and Messiah. Other Bedwardites became Rastafari, bringing the experience of resisting the system and demanding changes from colonial oppression and racial discrimination with them.
The church’s literature describes Bedwardism as a new religion, the heir to Christianity and Judaism.32 However, Bedwardism differed little from other Christian denominations, as it too stressed the importance of Jesus the Christ as God and man, as well as emphasizing the importance of fasting. Nevertheless, Bedward did introduce concepts that fastened his faith firmly to Jamaica. First, he likened the ruling classes to the Pharisees, which foreshadowed the likening of society to Babylon, something the Howellites would later do. But most important, Bedward established August Town, Jamaica, as a modern equivalent to Jerusalem.33 For nearly 30 years, Bedwardism was a prominent religious and sociopolitical movement in Jamaica, and it undoubtedly had an important impact on society.
28 A.A. Brooks, History of Bedwardism (Kingston, Jamaica: The Gleaner Co. LTD., Printers, 1917), p. 4.
29 Brooks, p. 4.
30 Brooks, p. 7.
31 Bedward proclaimed that he was a reincarnation of Moses, John the Baptist, Jesus the Christ and that, like Elijah, he would ascend into heaven in a flaming chariot. He then expected to rain down fire on those that did not follow him, thereby destroying the whole world. It was statements like this the authorities used as grounds for insanity.
32 Brooks, p. 17.
33 Brooks, p. 27.
Part II of VI: Jamaican Baptists and the Native Church
Jamaican Baptists and the Native Church
One hundred and sixty-one years after England seized the island from Spain, no attempts had been made to Christianize the enslaved in Jamaica. Unlike Haiti, where the enslaved were forced to be Catholics, the English planters in Jamaica refused to share their religion with the enslaved population; the Church of England considered its liturgy too sophisticated for people of "a lesser breed." The first sincere efforts to “give religion” to the Afrikans were initiated by the Moravians in 1734, the Methodists in 1736, the Baptists in 1784, and the Presbyterians in 1823.
In 1773, an enslaved Afrikan named George Liele became the first Afrikan American licensed by the Baptists to preach in Georgia. Liele’s master, a Baptist deacon, freed him before the American Revolution and over the next few years, Liele converted and baptized many of the enslaved in the area. He attracted nearly 30 members, established a congregation, and they soon built a church. Rather than risk reenslavement in the American South, after the Revolutionary War Liele chose to leave with the British to ensure his freedom. With his wife Hannah and their four children, he immigrated to Jamaica, after borrowing $700 for passage from a Colonel Kirkland. In 1782, he left America as an indentured servant on a ship of evacuated British troops. In Jamaica, after he completed his two-year service with the Colonel, he was given a certificate of freedom.
In January 1783, Liele secured permission to preach to the enslaved. He began by preaching in their homes, then at the Kingston racetrack, where the novelty of a Black (ex-slave) minister attracted great attention. Despite growing persecution from the whites in Kingston, Liele established on his own property the first independent church in Jamaica, called The Ethiopian Baptist Church.20 Liele called his followers “Ethiopian Baptists,” thus beginning the tradition of Ethiopian identification in Jamaica. A theme in his sermons was—Emancipation was “the Promise Land.” In 1789, his congregation built a house of worship on a piece of land containing three acres purchased for $775. By 1791, the new church comprising mostly Blacks and a few whites grew to more than 350 members. By 1814, his efforts had produced, either directly or indirectly, some 8,000 Baptists. Often harassed by the white colonists and by government authorities for “agitating the slaves,” he once was imprisoned for more than three years. While he never openly challenged the system of slavery, he prepared the way for those who did. Native Baptist churches inspired by Liele taught Christianity through the lens of Ethiopianism with a messianic millenarian fervor that became the vitalizing force behind the enslaved Afrikan’s continuous demand for freedom as a command from God.
Liele’s first two converts were Afrikan Americans, one of which was a mulatto named Moses Baker, who would become instrumental in helping Liele develop the church. Liele initially did not receive or accept remuneration for his ministry, most of which was directed at the enslaved. Consequently, his mission was always in need of resources. In addition, because most of his congregation could not read, one of Liele’s priorities was the organization and promotion of a free school for Black children, who would be taught by Black deacons. Toward this end, he and Baker turned to churches in England for financial support. Baker approached benefactors in Britain and made contact with the Baptist John Ryland, who became interested in securing funds from British donors to meet the mission’s needs. Ryland was able to get the Baptist Missionary Society of London interested in establishing chapels and schools in Jamaica. By the time the various members of the society arrived, which consisted of Thomas Burchell, James Phillippo, and William Knibb, they found that the Afrikans had already built six Baptist churches, had ordained Afrikan Jamaican deacons, and had thriving congregations. Between 1814 and 1832, with the assistance of the Baptist Missionary Society, Jamaican Baptists grew from 8,000 to 20,000. It did not take long for the white Baptists to realize it was more efficacious to use Black preachers “to fish” for Black converts, and between 1831 and 1843, during a 12-year campaign of religious proselytizing, the Baptists converted 24,000 members.
Thomas Burchell came to Jamaica to assist in the Baptist mission. Burchell, however, enters Jamaican history for an even more important event: the massive slave rebellion in 1831 called, “The Baptist War.” (Apparently, Methodist enslaved Afrikans did not participate in the rebellion.) As indicated by the name of the rebellion, which is also called the Christmas Rebellion, Baptists were involved and ultimately blamed, as well as persecuted for the uprising. There was good reason for the Baptists being implicated and Burchell narrowly escaping death. Samuel Sharpe, the educated enslaved Afrikan, 21 who led the rebellion, was a deacon and preacher in the Montego Baptist Church that Burchell pastored! This undoubtedly implicated Burchell. However, historian Leonard Barrett offers evidence that suggests that Burchell may have been totally oblivious to the plan. He shows that while Sharpe served as a deacon in the white controlled Montego Baptist Church, he was at the same time, a leader in the “native” Church, where the rebellion was actually organized.22 Sharpe was able to organize the rebellion, which started as a strike, because he spent most of his time traveling to different parishes in Jamaica, educating the enslaved about Christianity and freedom. The rebellion lasted eleven-days and mobilized as many as 60,000 of Jamaica’s 300,000 enslaved Afrikans.23 Although the rebellion was suppressed, it hastened the King of England’s decision to emancipate the enslaved throughout the British West Indian colonies in 1834. Sadly, Liele did not live to see the end of slavery in Jamaica. He died in 1828, but his impact on the institution was significant. His church promoted the widespread desire for freedom and as large numbers of the enslaved became Christians and literate enough to assume lay leadership, the desire and demand for freedom grew.
19 Left to themselves, the enslaved Afrikans fashioned the survivals of their traditional belief systems into an Afrikan syncretic practice called Kumina, which served their needs.
20 Leonard E. Barrett, The Rastafarians (Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1997), Chap 3.
21 Born in 1801 in Montego Bay of Afrikan parentage, Sharpe died for the cause of abolition when executed on May 23, 1832. Initially buried in the sands of Montego Bay Harbor, he was later safely exhumed and reinterred with a hero’s burial near the pulpit at Burchell Baptist church. Today Sharpe is a Jamaican National Hero.
22 Barrett, Chap 2.
23 Barry W. Higman, "Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Autumn, 1985), pp. 365-367.