I have always found Rastafarians a cathartic breath of spiritual fresh air. Not the “designer dreads” and celebrities sporting neat dreadlocks. I mean those with the signature long, natty dreads on the heads who cite up texts and chant down Babylon with positive vibrations.
I recall one of my encounters with a Rastafarian who was relieving the Ackee trees of their fruits. I can still see him in his jute bag clothing, up in the tree picking the ackees. I hailed him down in a tone that brought him down the tree all smiling. Our conversation went like this
“Who gave you permission to pick these fruits? Are you aware this is private property?”
“Who are you?”, he responded
“I am training to be a minister and live here,” came back my reply. “You mean they have not taught you that the root word for ‘private’ is from a latin word which means stolen?” “Anything a private – is a thief fu so by dem baldheads”. “Tell me preacher man, what do you hope to tell the congregation?”, he quizzed.
Thrown off balance, I replied: “About, God, Jesus, love and not to covet.” I sensed disaster, as he proceeded re-read the bible for me. “Well priest to be, how do you read the bible? Don’t you know that Jah (God) is the creator of all, including this fruitful Ackee tree? When did this turn into private property? Should not I, Jah child, eat like you? It is high time to put that love thing into practice.”
As the implications of his sermonising sank in, a flash of insight rescued me and some of the ackees for the polio rehab centre nearby. “But tell me brother, don’t you think Jah (God) wants those folks at the Rehab Centre to also eat some of Jah’s Ackee? He agreed and equally divided the Ackee between himself and the Centre. We became friends and had numerous “reasoning sessions”.
Another memorable incident was when hurricane Gilbert (1987) struck Jamaica. The morning after Gilbert danced off into the Caribbean sea, I ventured out. It was chaos all around – up rooted trees, turned over sheds, roofless buildings, fallen telephone and electricity cables, debris, and dazed people moving around. What caught my attention was the still figure of a Rasta comfortably seated among a cluster of fallen trees. He was focused on what he was doing: carving beautiful pieces from these fallen trees and branches. Etched in my memory is this imagery: a simple sign of some order in the midst of chaos.
My encounters with Rastafarians are some of the most “holy” moments I have experienced. Rastafarians’ socio-political religiosity, healthy reverence for nature, humanizing of the Divine, and subversive polemics, re-readings, music, poetry and play. with words, have constantly stirred my spiritual consciousness with positive vibrations. And in trying to come to grips with the pervasive nature of economic enslavement – the penury of the many for the benefit of the very few; and still wondering about Martin Luther King’s Jr. dream on that Memphis balcony about that beloved community where hatred and prejudices of all sorts will be a thing of the past, I draw wisdom from the Rasta’s insights of insidious nature of the ‘shitstem’ and their dissecting of the word justice to poke fun at its frozen state/nature…… just ice!
©jagessar April 2018