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  • Wayne Rose

Ras Tafari in the World: Halfway Up/Halfway Down?

It is IDOR’s experiential reality that many people from across multiple demography are engaging with, learning about, and embracing the ethos of Ras Tafari. This has been evident especially over the past 2 years. As the Almighty would have it, InI office has fielded many questions from ones seeking clarity on the ‘how and why’ of Ras Tafari. Members of IDOR’s administrative team were asked to, and have offered lectures in community and cultural centers, libraries, churches and universities to diverse audiences seeking to align themselves with the message and ethos of Ras Tafari. All of these activities inform the narrative that Ras Tafari as a cultural, spiritual, and liberation Movement is achieving the goals anticipated in the chants of the early elders, who declared “every goody ought to know who Ras Tafari is…,” and “The Conquering Lion has broken the Chain.” The reality of these engagements must be acknowledged and celebrated as partial fulfillment of InI mission.

Still, lingering signals of the shameful and inhumane colonial residue begs eradication from the consciousness and actions of many people, including some in positions of authority on the unique island of Jamaica. 

A clear example representing the duality of the Ras Tafari Movement’s trajectory, ‘halfway up, halfway down,’ is the fact that IDOR was able to secure a Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University to teach a course on Ras Tafari. One of the primary objectives of the course was to examine the work, testimonials, and forecast of the delegation of Ras Tafari ambassadors who visited the USA in 1988, 1989 and 1991.

As previously reported, the activities were seriously hampered by COVID-19, but the student participants testified to the intrinsic worth of the Ras Tafari Movement, and on receiving greater clarity, overstanding and knowledge about Ras Tafari. As part of the conclusion of the course, IDOR hosted a virtual symposium where participants from multiple regions in the United States, the Caribbean and Europe shared in the student’s testimonials and work. In totality, this was truly Way UP! But again, only halfway.

Unfortunately, as IDOR prepared to host the event InI were informed that one of the Ras Tafari Ambassadors who participated in, and played pivotal roles in the 1988 and 1989 USA delegations, Ras Irie Ions (William Montgomery Holmes) was viciously desecrated and permanently harmed while a patient in the Linstead Hospital, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Reports suggest that a hospital official assaulted the dignified Elder by cutting his 57-year-old precept (beard) desecrating his sacred covenant and vow to Ras Tafari. The family of Ras Irie Ions is equally traumatized. Throughout his entire life, the Elder never cut his beard, and always wore his precept with dignity and honor. Now at 78 years, Ras Irie Ions, a respected Elder in the local and international Ras Tafari Movement is dishonored in his home country. This forced us to recognize that our collective mission, as relates to the socialization and reorientation of our own people is only partially complete (halfway down).

This then, also forces us to interrogate Jamaica’s heritage of abuse and torture of Ras Tafari persons, and the 1963 Coral Gardens atrocities, in particular, as having informed the hostility against Ras Tafari/Dreadlocks by some within the society. It is plausible that the Linstead Hospital agent who committed this atrocious act represents the symptom of a patriarchal society who believes that it can force compliance of Eurocentric grooming norms on Ras Tafari. Unfortunately, some of those who sit in the lofty seats of governance are responsible for facilitating this level of abuse against Ras Tafari. Their past suggests that they will keep silent for decades to come, as they did in the Coral Gardens atrocity. And, if/when they act, their efforts will perhaps, insult the beloved Elder and his family with a pittance-settlement far below the dignity of the family’s office.

IDOR and the international Ras Tafari community are fully aware of the work, impact and importance of this good African Ras Tafari Ambassador. He sojourned on many missions on several continents representing the ethos of Ras Tafari. In 1988 he visited New York City, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.; he visited many institutions including Johns Hopkins University, Howard University, and Morgan State University. He assisted in the overstanding, growth, and development of Ras Tafari communities wherever he missioned. Collectively, and by the grace of Q’adamawi Haile Selassie I, he and his fellow Ambassadors filled the cup of Ras Tafari knowledge in the region halfway UP.

InI are calling for immediate justice, including a national apology, righteous financial compensation for the Elder and his family, and appropriate disciplinary measures against the perpetrator(s). InI are also calling on the Jamaican government to revisit the unjust and insulting Coral Garden’s settlement, especially in light of the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted, borrowed without repayment, funneled to personal projects, or simply stolen by politicians.

Elder Irie Ions’ life, mission, and legacy merit national recognition. As he remains in a state of shock and awe, it is only wise for the Jamaican government to act with all deliberate speed to ensure that he and other Ras Tafari followers are spared future injustice. Elder Ire Ions and other Black liberation patriots must be fully compensated for their work in making Jamaica a cultural superpower and militating against the socioeconomic and cultural wars of white supremacy. In taking corrective steps, the government will do its part in ensuring that it is not responsible for spilling the hard-fought gains in the halfway filled cup of Ras Tafari works…

Then, there is the issue of the Nyahbinghi center at Scotts Pass, Jamaica. Where are the FIRE Ingels, the Chanters, the Harps, the Psalmist, the JUDGEMENT? Enough said? Halfway down?

One thing that’s sure, as some rage and imagine vain things - as those with unchecked power set themselves and take counsel against true servants of Ras Tafari, all must be reminded to “Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and he perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are they that put their trust in the true and living I"

Ah so mi si de ting

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