We would like to turn your attention to a past issue of your respected paper, dated 19th January 2004, headlined 'The Misunderstood Rastafarians'. In spite of its tremendous and strength-filled attempt to clear a misunderstanding, it has raised a lot more confusion. It is therefore our wish at Langston Hughes Poetry Academy (LAHUPA) to help correct the errors and maybe give a word of advice.
1. First and foremost, there is no such thing as rastafari. What I suspect you wanted to write is Ras Tafari. 'Ras' is a title that means 'Duke' or 'Prince' and Tafari is a name of a man. So, Ras Tafari is basically Prince Tafari, in layman's language. The Ras Tafari, are a people who get their name from Lij Tafari, later accorded the title 'Ras' becoming Ras Tafari Makonnen (when he was heir to the throne) and in 1930, crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Ras Tafari are guardians of our civilisation that a lot of contemporary African scholars have failed to bring to the attention of the lost generations of this continent. The life of a Ras Tafari Man or Woman does not involve mysterious rituals and some form of religion. So it is not a cult.
2. On the point of dreadlocks, dagga-smoking and reggae music, we need to broaden our horizons. Currently, growing dreadlocks or dreads is the most common thing in fashion. It used to be cheap but the capitalist influence has made it expensive since everyone wants to grow locks! While at that, we acknowledge the usage of Marijuana by the Ras Tafari. It must be known that it is for spiritual and medicinal purposes. In South Africa, a variety of the Marijuana plant, Hemp, is used as fabric. Be careful, the shirt you are wearing might be made out of hemp (ke sone se e bidiwang hempe). On Reggae, music that sends a message should be for everyone in this corrupt world. Reggae is the King's Music and belongs to the ears that listen.
3. Negative perceptions have always been promoted hence their spread. The government has a history of being hostile to Ras Tafari people more especially the Teachers, until the Ras Tafari sought intervention of the courts of law and the office of the Ombudsman.
4. The bible, like other crucial history books should never escape a critical eye. The bible was used by slave masters against Africans and the same slaves used the same bible to get their freedom.
Moagisi Munya Mogalakwe
Public Relations Officer
Langston Hughes Poetry Academy
P.O. Box 487