Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Rastafari roars - Monthlong celebration of movement's contribution to Jamaica's development

Published:Wednesday | April 5, 2017 | 4:00 AMChristopher Serju
Neville O'Riley Livingston, better known as Bunny Wailer, and Member of Parliament for Central Clarendon Mike Henry take time out for a photo opportunity during the recent press conference hosted by the Rastafarian community at the Trench Town Multi-purpose Community Centre.

Celebration of the inaugural Rastafari Month by adherents of the faith is on in earnest as believers engage in activities across the island, aimed at shedding light on the invaluable contribution of Rastafarians to the cultural, spiritual and economic enrichment of Jamaica and the world.

"Rastafari Month will be the opportunity for all Jamaicans to unite with pride in this exceptional national achievement of celebrating our African heritage as the centrepiece of Jamaica's identity. Rastafari culture, transmitted through reggae, has shown the world that Jamaica is greater than its small size and population, greater than its myriad problems, and with an even greater potential for greatness," the Ethio-Africa Diaspora Union Millennium Council said in a release during a recent press conference at the Trench Town Multi-purpose Community Centre.

 

STATE SUPPORT STILL PENDING

 

Mike Henry, member of parliament for Central Clarendon, has been vociferous in his support for Rasta Month, but State endorsement through Olivia Grange, minister of culture, is still pending.

However, even as it awaits official stamp from the Government by having April gazetted as Rastafari Month each year, the council is going ahead with activities to observe that time of the year when Rastafari takes centre stage in Jamaica.

Commemoration of the 51st anniversary of 1966 state visit of Emperor Haile Selassie I to Jamaica from April 21-24 will be the high point of the celebrations with the Bournemouth Beach Park in east Kingston, as well as the Scott's Pass Nyabinghi Centre in Clarendon, expected to be blazing, literally and otherwise.

On Monday, April 3, the anniversary of the birth of Empress Menen, Scott's Pass Community Centre, a celebration of Rastafarian matriarchs and empresses under the theme 'Supporting Woman Rights Against Violence', was well attended.

Meanwhile, the One Love, One Step Walk - a 45-day pilgrimage across Jamaica, aimed at raising public awareness about climate change and the urgent need to protect Jamaica's coastlines, got off to a rousing start in Portland on Saturday.

Of course, the Coral Gardens incident, as it is referred by traditional media and Government, but which Rastafari deem the Coral Gardens Massacre and which led to 'Black Friday', will again come under the microscope.

On Holy Thursday, April 11, 1963, six bearded men, assumed to be Rastafarians, attacked a gas station in Coral Gardens. They were reportedly armed with guns and machetes. This resulted in a skirmish and the death of two policemen, and six civilians, including three of the assailants.

In response, the then Prime Minister Sir Alexander Bustamante instructed the army and police to bring in all the Rastafari not only in St James, but also in Hanover and Trelawny. If the prisons could not accommodate them, they were to be 'disposed' of - killed and taken to Bogue Hill - above a major cemetery in Montego Bay. The events of Holy Thursday 1963 thus resulted in a collective crucifixion of many innocent adherents of the Rastafari faith and crackdown on the movement islandwide.

The observance of World Ganja Day on Thursday, April 20, should prove interesting, as should the celebration activities for Rastafarian icon Bunny Wailer, who will observe his 70th birthday on April 7.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com