Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Orville Taylor | The Prophet’s loss

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Capleton in full flight on stage.
Capleton's lawyer Christopher Townsend speaking with journalists outside the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court on May 14.

I cannot imagine the Ras' cloth headdress, and worse, a female who embellishes the very vanity upon which he burns fire running fingers through the mark of his covenant. Pardon my ignorance, but in the years in which I have attempted to 'overstand' the 'fullment' of Rastafari, the locks of a Prince are virtually sacred and not to be fondled by any and any arbitrary female. Indeed, there is a reason why certain houses of Rastafari wear the turban, which my mischievous alter ego calls the 'boboRas cloth'. According to Holy Emmanuel I, Rastafari are on a battlefield and they must wear their helmets. Locks are not for public scrutiny or for 'fingling' by the unworthy. That is why they must be covered.

Despite their now becoming a fashion trend, dreadlocks, particularly by Jamaicans, are not simply hairstyles, and given their symbolism within the livity of our indigenous religion, any non-Rastafarian who wears dreadlocks is actually doing a mock the dread.

Within Rastafari, even if your heart is black and you have your gaze on the Trinity of Haile Selassie I, Marcus Garvey the Prophet, and Emmanuel I, you are unworthy of wearing the mark of the covenant if you do not have a Rastafarian livity. It is a big and serious step, more binding than being called to the Bar or taking the Hippocratic Oath. Therefore, unclean living and other trappings of Babylon must be avoided as much as possible. One cannot eat pork, lie with men, or even burn the chalice in the presence of heathen.

Taking tales out of school, I recall presenting with my Rastafarian sociologist colleague at an Association of Black Sociologists conference in the USA on diversity. I totally cracked up when an effeminate American presenter asked him, "Professor, are there no gay houses of Rastafari?" Of course, I had to quickly interject that no gay sects exist in The Nation of Islam either, although politics is another matter.

Anyway, being a BoboShanti carries an awesome responsibility of trodding the trod.

Sociologist Dennis Forsythe, now an attorney, wrote one of the most poignant works in locating Rastafari within the larger developmental process. His sociological analysis is deeply insightful although his legal ethic now might find them inciteful. The self-explanatory title, Rastafari for the Healing of the Nation, written more than 30 years ago, is almost prophetic.


Rastafari was the way forward


Just over a decade later with the advent of Garnett Silk, Tony Rebel, and the later conversion of Capleton evidenced by his Tour, which remained on the chart for almost a year, Forsythe's foresight was pinpoint.

Coming from the decade of the 1980s where dancehall music had descended to gun-murder worship and demeaning vagino-focality, Rastafari was the way forward. Many youth, including Anthony B, became real 'man dem' (not men). Later research, which I undertook in the late 1990s and early 2000s, showed a clear relationship between sighting up Rastafari and unwillingness to participate in negative social behaviour. Simply put, the youth who embraced the teachings or Marcus, Immanuel, and the current-day prophets and priest of Rastafari were not likely to become murderers and gunmen. This is not anecdotal; the statistical evidence is very imposing.

Thus, the Rastafarian, like a Christian, must let his light shine by his living so that the wandering sheep will repatriate to the flock via this exemplary living. Of all the entertainers, bar none, Clifton 'Capleton' Bailey is the artiste with the greatest social responsibility. First of all, there is no dancehall performer who has remained consistently relevant for such a continuous period. Since his first coming in 1989 as 'Capleton the Lawyer', who thrived on a slew of X-rated hits such as B**bo Red, Red and Granny a Lover, since 1990, he has never faded into obscurity.

Second, having now made the transition from the foul-mouthed lawyer (although flashes of his old self appear in In Har Heart and Good Inna Her Clothes) he is the Prophet, King Shango, with a large following of disciples. He no longer has the right to do as he pleases.

Younger Rastafarian artistes such as I-Octane are very lucid about who can touch their dreadlocks. His Nuh Ramp Wid Wi makes this clear, and he disavows the use of make-up and cosmetologists. Similarly, Chronixx, a youth who sometimes lacks discretion, as youngsters often do, makes a very doctrinal statement in Nah Follow Nobody.

Rastafari shouldn't "falla some dread and go pree hairdresser ... . When you go a dem yard, locks have in pure setters."

I might not wear dreadlock myself, although I do not use a comb either. However, in my humble opinion, as a 'Rastaphile' and blacktivist, I cannot help but burn a fire on the practice of Rastaman dem using cosmetologists to coif their covenants. To me, it seems like a defiling of this sacred vow, and, using Capleton's own words, I shout, "Judgment!" However his case is determined, Capleton has already lost face and evokes images of fashionistas. Indeed, there are many men whose sexuality he repugns who do exactly that with their dreadlocks.

Nevertheless, that is where my judgment stops because we have a schizophrenic judicial system that says that a jury of non-lawyers can determine the guilt of an accused for certain crimes, instead of learned judges. Therefore, if a gunman's aim is poor, he can be tried by a judge; but if the very same facts and malice lead to the death of a victim, laymen determine the case. So, I am obeying the sub judice rule.

However, let me advise potential victims and offenders that 'no' or 'stop' means exactly that, even if a naked woman enters your room and entices, but says, "Look, but don't touch!" No person, no matter how much she behaves like a harlot, ever deserves to be forced into any kind of sexual activity.

On the other hand, we must teach our daughters to be circumspect and avoid entering into situations where they can be victimised and not create the temptation.


- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to and