I was raised a Rastafarian and I’ve learnt that despite being one of the most recognisable movements in the world, most people know very little about it beyond Bob Marley, dreadlocks and weed smoking stereotypes.
This is a real shame because the movement is one of the most influential and radical in recent UK black history. It’s based on the teachings of Jamaican-born Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, and played a key role in the fight against racism in the 1970s and was an important precursor to today’s Black Lives Matter movement.
But you wouldn’t know it from the crass caricatures depicted in popular culture, which focus on dopey marijuana-smoking Rastas. Despite being ripe for exploration, there are very few books, films or documentaries that look at the movement in depth and examine its legacy and impact in the UK.
To understand Rastafarianism the first thing you need to know is that it’s much more than simply a ‘religion’ – in fact to describe it as such misses its central importance. It’s better understood as a cultural and political movement and a way of life that emerged in direct response to black oppression and at its core preaches a spiritual-based black consciousness.