Rasta and The Politics of Repatriation

Mar 11, 2014
2 mins read

Rasta’s call for slavery reparations has largely gone unnoticed but now Caribbean nations are asking for slavery reparations.

No one knows how many African people died as a result of slavery in the Caribbean but the pain and suffering that this brutish trade continues today.  For years Rastafarians have demanded that European countries engaged in the Atlantic slave trade, pay reparations for the pain and suffering.

Rasta Stories

In 2004, Barbara Makeda Blake-Hannah, a member of a coalition of Rastafarian groups in Jamaica said “It’s a matter of human rights and justice for a crime that was committed 300 years ago and whose repercussions are still being felt today,”  (See the Guardian Article September 2004)

But it wasn’t until 2013, that governments of a number of Caribbean countries finally came together as a group to sue Britain, France and the Netherlands. The lawsuit seeks money to repair the lingering “psychological trauma” caused from slavery and in addition, assistance in developing a proper technological platform to enable real economic growth and prosperity.

In August 2013, dozens of Rastas gathered in Kingston Jamaica at the University of the West Indies with the objective of developing a strategy that would realistically pressure the European countries to comply.  But there are a number of different views, one holds the view that this initiative should exclude the Caribbean governments; another view is that by all means necessary. At this meeting, Bongo Ernest, a member of Nyabinghi when asked about move by Caribbean governments to ask for reparations,  said, “It’s a good thing that Caricom is seeking reparations now. We need to free up Rastafari,”

Undoubtedly most people in the Caribbean agree that there should be reparations for slavery. Some are of the view that today’s ills, rising crime, dysfunctional family and deteriorating economic conditions are a direct result of slavery. Another view is that it is time to move on and take responsibility for the future direction of these island nations.

We all know that many lives have been lost due to slavery and with a doubt the remnants of slavery still lingers. Moving forward with the lawsuit is a great first step and this will signal to the European countries that the descendants of slaves are serious in righting a wrong.

Rasta Elder Explains Repatriation

Rasta elder Ras Flako Tafari explains the origins of repatriation amongst Rastafari and speaks on Marcus Garvey.

Repatriation-A Historical Perspective

Leonard P. Howell is considered as the father of the repatriation movement.

Rastafari movement was influenced by the popular belief that Haile Selassie I was the prophesied return of Jesus Christ. Howell’s use of black people’s repatriation to Ethiopia was equated to Marcus Garvey’s back-to-Africa movement, the great pan-Africanist and black nationalist.

However, an alternative view is indicated by Howell’s attempts to use repatriation to decolonize the Jamaican people. To discredit his electoral victories, his back-to-Africa rhetoric was inflated by the British colonial government of Jamaica and later by Creole nationalists.

The colonial strategy applied to Howell left his radical anti-colonialism and political agency with skewed awareness. Although it is unquestionable that he paid tribute to Ethiopia, this article reveals that Howell wanted to stay in Jamaica, where he will work to make the island a part of the Kingdom of God’s global diaspora in Ethiopia.

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