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Rastafari Movement

Rastafari as a movement began in one of the poorest, blackest, places in the world, in Jamaica, inspired by Marcus Garvey as a call for Black unity, Black identity, and Black empowerment. It drew on the imagery and view of Christianity, which is the prevalent religious orientation in Jamaica, and viewed social and political revolution in terms of the Christian revelation.. Some of the early Jamaican Rastas saw in Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia the final return of Jesus Christ to usher in a New Heaven and New Earth, to break the chains of racism, injustice, oppression. To "set the captives free."

The Rasta 'trod' in life is very often described in terms of the Exodus out of Egypt, the return from Babylon, the return to Zion, the return home. What is envisioned is a restoration of the original intention of creation, just as the Bible describes.

Some interpret this literally as a return to Ethiopia, Selassie's home, the world's oldest Christian kingdom. Some use Eithopia to symbolize a return to any part of Africa - all of Africa. Others see this 'repatriation' as an internal process of reconcilement, the breaking of the bonds of 'mental slavery' so that one's true self can be revealed, one's true vision restored. So in Rastafari you have existing side-by-side people, who see man/woman and God as one, and 'stricter 'ones who seek to adhere to the letter of Hebrew law and read the Bible literally. Now it is quite an achievement that Rastas of such radically different orientations can tolerate one another.

I think that this tolerance exists because the real battle is the battle against the forces of white supremacy and global domination. These are the forces against which the first Rastas asserted Black identity and Black unity.

And here is why so many whites, ironically, are attracted to Rastafari. It is a way of expressing their own resistance to the 'Babylon system', even though they were born into it and partake, willing or not, of its privileges. As much as Rasta gives Blacks a way to deal with the historical pain of being born black, it offers Whites a way to deal with the pain of being born white. It offers a vision of unity, in which blacks and whites together can work to dismantle systems of global 'downpression'. Rastafari also offers whites a way to reconcile with their own heritage, to be Jewish or Christian, to return to a religious ideology many felt had to be rejected because of the way it has been used as an instrument of oppression against nonwhites. Rastas speak of being the 'real Jews', the 'real Christians' of this time, feeling that they have gotten to the heart of the Bible's teachings about justice, unity, and love.

The concept of "I and I", which is so central to Rastafari, reflects a radical identification of man in God, God in man, and the unity of all beings: "One Love". From "I and I", it is not far to travel to "I am God". In the same way that Selassie (and Jesus) is both man and God, so may I be, with the proper conduct in my life, the true livity. And this reconciliation of humans and God, of spirit and flesh, takes place here, in history.

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