When you see someone waving the red, gold, green and black and shouting “Rasta”, never assume that they have taken the time to actually study the roots of Rasta. Many who shout Rasta don’t even know who Marcus Garvey was and what he stood for. They have no idea who Leonard Howell was or what he stood for. In fact if you asked them who founded the Rastafari movement they will probably say Bob Marley.
While peace, love and harmony is the goal of Rasta, that’s not the essence of Rasta. The essence of Rasta is resistance, fighting against oppression, resisting unjust systems and revolting until there is equal rights and justice for all. These are the things that are at the root of Rasta. The primary purpose of Rasta was to resist against European aggression and oppression. In fact, if you wanted to make a soundtrack of what is currently taking place in Baltimore and Tel Aviv, reggae would have to be the primary genre to choose songs from.
So I was very surprised at the messages I got when I decided to play some reggae songs in support of the protestors in Ferguson, Baltimore and Tel Aviv. One person even went as far to tell me that reggae is love and the music I was posting was not reggae. I am not making this up. I was posting songs from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown and Max Romeo. We are talking about the king of reggae, the prince of reggae, the stepping razor himself and a living legend in Max Romeo. The songs I posted were songs like “Revolution”, “Burning and Looting” and “Get up stand up” by Bob Marley. I also posted “Revolution” by Dennis Brown and “Equal Rights and justice” by Peter Tosh.
How could someone claim to love reggae but find some of the classic reggae songs offensive? The reason is a lot of people heard Bob Marley’s song “One Love” and have no idea what the term means or even who coined the term. “One Love” is a term coined by Marcus Garvey and it was not meant to be a Kumbaya song. One Love was a phrase for Blacks to unite and return to the motherland. Some white people also choose to conveniently ignore the part in the song where Bob Marley says, “Let’s get together to fight this Armageddon”. Who is he telling to let’s get together and who are they going to fight against? Again, Rasta is not all about one love. In fact, the motto of the Nyabinghi is, “Death to all Black and White oppressors”. So trying to stifle certain reggae songs and pigeon hole militant Rastas as weed smoking hippies is ridiculous. So I could play Bob Marley’s “One Love” but I mute the part about fighting the Armageddon and I should not play his songs like “Revolution” or “Get up stand up”? It is alright when Dennis Brown says “Here I come with love and not hatred”, but not when he says “Are you ready to stand up and fight the right revolution?”
If you are just on the Rasta bandwagon because it seems cool, please hop off. Rasta is way deeper than just being cool. Reggae is way deeper than just being cool. Big up all protestors from Baltimore to Tel Aviv. As Bob Marley said,”Arm in arm with arms we fight this struggle.. Cause that’s the only way we can overcome this trouble.”
And Cheer up to all the oppressed. As Fred Locks says, “things won’t always be the same.” We have to take the steps to make sure things change. BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!