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Augier urges Rastafari to accept Jamaica as home

Published:Thursday | August 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM
A stirring chanting session preceded the formalities at the inaugural Rastafari Studies Conference.
From left: Sydney Bartley, Sir Roy Augier, Professor Barry Chevannes and Professor Claudette Williams lead the gathering in observing a moment of silence for Professor Rex Nettleford and Mortimer Planno at the Undercroft, University of the West Indies, Mona, on Tuesday night. Augier was guest speaker at the opening ceremony for the inuagural Rastafari Studies Conference. - Photos by Mel Cooke
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Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

On Tuesday evening, Sir Roy Augier suggested to the largely Rastafarian gathering at the Undercroft, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, a relationship with Africa which would see an acceptance of Jamaica as their home.

Augier was guest speaker at the opening ceremony at the inaugural Rastafari Studies Conference, which runs from August 17-20 at the UWI's Mona campus.

From his unique perspective as the surviving co-author of The Rastafari Movement in Kingston, Jamaica, which he wrote with M.G. Smith and Rex Nettleford, Augier gently addressed the large audience, asking for the spirit of reasoning several times before making his conclusive point. He analysed the major difference between the majority and minority reports on Mission to Africa, both of which are contained in the new publication, Rastafari: The Reports, which Augier co-edits with Veronica Salter.

That difference had major implications for repatriation, a defining issue for many Rastafari.

No repatriation

There were cheers when Augier said that repatriation through getting the wherewithal from abroad will never happen.

"When Mortimer (Planno) came back from the mission, he knew that repatriation could not happen in that way. Coming to that knowledge, he was fulfilling what Arthur Lewis (former UWI principal) had intended. He wanted the brethren to have that first-hand knowledge," Augier said.

"No matter what Garvey had dreamt of, what you dream of, these countries could not and have not made any provision, despite the technical mission, to fund any person," Augier said. "There is work here. Why not turn Jamaica into a homeland?"

At that point, there was an uproar of protest from some Rastafarians in the audience, which continued even as Augier said, "Let's try reasoning."

Other Rastafarians in the audience tried to quiet the dissenters, at first to no avail. Augier held his ground, saying "The noise will not make me stop."

The noise soon subsided and Augier continued that the future lies with understanding Africa, its history and present culture.

"You brethren have a mission in that respect," he advised.

Africa liberated

He was gentle but unrelenting as he continued that those who have grasped the true nature of their relationship with Africa "have liberated themselves from you. Their economic condition is several times greater than you."

He said the source of that economic success is culture, especially music.

"If you want a source of economic independence you have to deal with culture. You have to deal with Babylon," Augier stated.

The protests had long subsided and there was a standing ovation for Augier as he ended.

The Rastafari Studies Conference is organised around the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Rastafari Movement in Jamaica, and the opening ceremony was held on Marcus Garvey's 123rd birthday.