There is nothing you can do that make me run away from this clash yah...

14.5.07

Politics and Rasta


Rastafari - co-opted by politics

SIZZLA

Today, Sizzla continues his reflections on Rastafari with a look at the relationship between politics and Rasta.

"In the last election Prime Minister X went to Ethiopia and met with the King of Kings and had a conversation with him. He came back to Jamaica and showed the people a rod, which he said was given to him by the King, Haile Selassie the First, to bring freedom to the black people of Jamaica. He carried that rod all around during the campaign. The Rastafarians heard this; the dreadlocks heard this; and this rod caused him to win a landslide victory for the party.

The Prime Minister came to power talking like a Rastafarian. He started some progressive moves on behalf of the African peoples of this country. But after a while he forgot the rod; he forgot to talk about Africa; he forgot to talk about the Rastafarians.

The other party was so anti-black that not even Elijah Muhammad could enter Jamaica as a black man. Today, it is a little better; there is freedom of speech for I and I. As you see, we even got the Marcus Garvey Park to use. Here and there we have seen a little change on the part of the government but not enough to bring the black masses out of the slums they are in right now."(Barrett 180)

This quote, along with numerous other readings, sparks interest in the political scene and situation surrounding Jamaica, Rastafarianism and reggae music in the 1970s and what it holds for the upcoming elections. It seems to me, despite the economic shambles of Jamaica and the staunch and deliberate refusal of Rastafarians to participate in 'politricks', that politics has had a deep impact on any and every aspect of life in Jamaica. A better understanding of Jamaica's political parties, what they stood for, why they sparked gruesome violence, and their impact on Rastafarians and reggae music are necessary.

At this earlier time Rastafarianism was gradually gaining attention in Jamaica. Although typically Rastafarians didn't participate in politics, the politicians were somewhat successful in wriggling their way into the Rastafarian scene through icons, music, language and symbols.

Prime Minister Manley's relationship with Bob Marley gained him support and admiration with many Jamaicans. Manley politics and Marley's music were integrated during the rule of the PNP, with Manley and Marley even living as neighbours on Hope Road. During the first four years of the Manley regime, Marley gave many free performances at the request of the PNP - two of the most significant being the 'Smile Jamaica Concert' in 1976 and the 'One Love Peace Concert' in 1978. Just prior to the Smile Jamaica Concert, Marley, his wife Rita, and his manager Don Taylor, were shot by gunmen at Bob's home on Hope Road. Many believe that this shooting was carried out by Jamaica Labour Party supporters although no concrete evidence has ever been brought forth to support this belief.

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