Many people hear the word ‘Rastafari’ and several things come to mind. Unfortunately, these ‘several things’ are not necessarily the makings of what truly embodies the Rastafari culture and because of this misnomer, the culture has come to be viewed through very polar lenses.
With this post, I hope to shed some light on this culture, my culture, and seek to do my little part in ironing out some of this mis-identification.
Misconception No. 1: All Rastafari smoke weed. Not the case. I personally do not partake in ganja smoke, but do understand its significance to (many) Rastafari. As a Rastafari, however, I do acknowledge and respect the right of others to do as they choose; an it no harm done, do what ye will.
This misconception has also led many to assume that since all/most Rastafari partake, then they obviously do not work, as anyone who partakes cannot hold down a decent job (since all decent jobs require clean urinary analyses). Therefore, Rastafari must be uncontributing to society, and therefore are lazy and mooch off of the government. This slippery slope of misconceived deductive theory could not be farther from the truth. Sadly, this is what many within the confines of Westernized structure come to believe.
There very well may be a Rasta man or Rasta womb-an working with you and you don’t even know it. A Rasta may be preparing your food at lunch or dinner, and how would you know? In fact, your best friend may e a Rastafari, and you may have no clue. There is no physical requirement for Rastafari; no dress code; no ‘logo'; no ‘badge'; Rastafari is about the person, not the paraphernalia. Which brings me to…
Misconception No. 2: All Rastafari wear dreadlocks. No no no!! The decision to lock or not to lock, is a personal one based on the personal spiritual journey of each Rastafari. Rastafari may choose to lock their hair, in accordance with personal beliefs regarding their relationship to Jah. The reasons behind my decision to lock my hair were multifold: I was tired of yielding to Euro-centric standards of beauty, I wanted to treasure and revere my hair in its natural state, and be blessed and appreciative of what I was given by God, and I grew to view my hair as an extention of my innermost self; my soul. Therefore, I have made a personal vow to never cut my hair again, for this very reason! My hair is like the mane of a lion; so majestic and beautiful, with every natural curl and coil; with each kink and knot.
Misconception No. 3: Rastafari are not Christians. Some are, some are not. Some Rastafari view HIM (His Imperial Majesty) Haile Selassie I as the reincarnation of God and thus the Saviour of our people; some continue to worship Jesus Christ as the Saviour. I follow the latter crowd. I respect and revere HIM Haile Selassie I as a great leader, and sort of as a Moshe (Moses) of Africans and those affected by the diaspora. I look to his leadership and feel that it was vital for unifying Africans of the motherland and abroad. I do hold HIM Haile Selassie in high esteem. I will NEVER judge another Rastafari for the- I’s belief system or reasoning behind it, and I would hope to receive the same respect. Why? We are all one. InI, walking in step with our Creator.
Misconception No. 4: Rastafari is a cult religion. This is erroneous…erroneous on both accounts. (If you know what movie that quote is from, post it below and you’re my Honorary Awesome Hero of the Day. Forreal, if I had a treat, I would give it to you.) First of all, Rastafari is not a cult. According to http://www.m-w.com, a cult is “1.) A formal religious veneration.” and “2.) A system of religious beliefs and ritual.” If one were to say that Rastafari is a cult based on the first definition, then the same assumption would therefore have to be made about ALL organized religions. ALL organized religions are formal religious venerations, and the most fundamental of these religions are ESPECIALLY in line with this definiton. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly than the first definition, Rastafari is not a religion. It is a spiritual LIVITY. Get to know that word, because it is not very popular in western (and dare I say even Eurocentric spiritual lifestyles). Livity is the concept of living life based on the spiritual principles that sustain and preserve life, that enhance and propel life…not destroy and desecrate it. For me, this was the primary driving force behind answering the calling to the Rastafari livity: Rastafari complemented my lifestyle; not competed with it, and surely didn’t cause me to compromise it, as did my associations with more strict, fundamental ‘religious’ followings.
Misconception No. 5: All Rastafari are from Jamaica. Though the origins of the livity were formed in Jamaica and focused on repatriation and reconnecting with Africa (I-thiopia, the mother land of ALL human creation), not all Rastafari are Jamaican. Rastafari live worldwide.
Have I missed any misconceptions? If so, post them below. Help others to overstand…
Image Source: http://www.getreligion.org/wp-content/photos/ganja.jpg