This is a movement of black consciousness born from poor people on the island of Jamaica, whose population is overwhelmingly made up of descendants of the West-African slave trade (Ashanti, Mandingo, Ibo, Yoruba, Fanti etc.) Despite harsh brutalities, throughout their captivity they managed to keep their roots with their native African heritage very strong especially within their music and dance. However, since the 1900’s Christianity has dominated the Island as the head religious faith of the Jamaican people. In Jamaica 1930 a recently freed slave population got educated and read the Bible with great hope and aspirations for the future.
In Revelation 5 it is written that the LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH shall LOOSEN THE SEVEN SEALS, 19 and upon his thigh the inscription will read THE KING OF KINGS AND THE LORD OF LORDS.
The Jamaican born African leader, Marcus Garvey made a prophecy on the island in 1928- look to Africa for a king to lead the people. Behold on November 2, 1930 Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned King of Kings, Lord of Lords, conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah taking his crown name of Haile Selassie I (power or might of the Holy Trinity); the messiah had returned again to his people. It is the first (and today the only) time in history a Western-Christian based religion (Old and New Testament) has proclaimed their messiah Black or of African descent and at a time when the world was just beginning to get use to the idea of a self ruling African population.
Beginning with Leonard Howell’s Pinnacle Valley camp the movement was rooted in self-sufficiency and humble clean African living. Like Marcus Garvey they preached the glory of their race with goals of Repatriation (returning to ones original home or country, Africa). To help sustain their living they grew, harvested, and distributed Marijuana throughout the island. Howell would also travel to Jamaica’s capital city Kingston selling portraits of Selassie with messages of repatriation. Visually they carried themselves as humble people who chose to grow their Nazarene (Numbers 6) beards and live off the land. They were seen by most society especially the ruling British as a direct threat.
Many acts of violence erupted in the hills and many followers of Rastafari were injured or killed. The authorities were determined to stamp out this “Cult” living in the bush. In the 1940’s the camp was destroyed and those who survived found a temporary home in the West Kingston ghetto of Back-o-Wall and the eastern hill called Wareika (aka Warriors Hill). This is where the movement made its most aggressive advancements up until Jamaican Independence in 1963. The word of Rastafari would spread quickly amongst the Kingston youth who were hungry for justice and exited at the opportunity of self-rule.
The followers of Rastafari would begin to form collective organizations lead by the Youth Black Faith (later this would become the I-gelic House, Bobo, Nyabinghi, and Twelve Tribes). They would create their own language know as I-ance (the Highest utterance) where they would substitute letters, vowels, and rearrange words and phrase for two main purposes; one, to comand the word: for example one does not “understand,” but the correct term is “over-stand.” The thought is that in order to fully know something you would not be mentally standing under it. Also the language was used to shock or confront the people. An example would be Bob Marley’s verse “A yad a yud, but the yud na nuff” translates to “the pot I cook, but the food is not enough.” Basically they were saying that they did not agree with the system and they were not a part of it, so much so that when they spoke only a fellow Rasta would comprehend the meaning.
After the camps in Back-o-Wall were destroyed the Rastas found themselves caught in a housing scheme in the now notorious areas of Kingston: Trench Town, Waterhouse, Coronation Market, Tivoli Garden, and Cockburn Pen. It was there in West Kingston that the movement found its musical prophets. Following Jamaican independence (1963) Halie Selassie visited the Island in April of 1966. It would become a defining moment in the history of the movement. The timing of a self-ruled Jamaica, revolutions in their popular music, and the birth of a new faith whose leader walked among the people would result in a huge phenomenon and a worldwide movement was born.