We find it interesting, even telling, that Masimba goes to court in defense of his, and all Rastafari brothers and sisters, constitution and human rights to practice their spiritual observances to fullness in the sanctity of their homes on November 5th.
Why do we find this interesting? It is interesting to us because November 5th is also Guy Fawkes Day. Noting this, we have drawn many parallels to the history of Guy Fawkes, and the history that will be made on November 5th 2020. While being aware that Masimba’s impending legal case will not be fought and won in one sitting of the court, November 5th 2020 will be the day it starts. Thus that day, and the day the judgement is handed down, will be registered in the history ledgers of Barbados, as the time that its government was put on trial for cannabis offences, that have constitutional and human rights underpinnings. Maybe when Masimba wins, November 5th will become a day of significance in Barbados. It must be noted that Masimba’s case also includes representation for the legal adult use of cannabis. Thus a win for Masimba is a win for traditional and cultural cannabis use by any adult Barbadian.
Let us now take a look at the history of Guy Fawkes and draw some parallels.
Catholicism in England was heavily repressed under Queen Elizabeth I, particularly after the pope excommunicated her in 1570. During her reign, dozens of priests were put to death, and Catholics could not even legally celebrate Mass or be married according to their own rites. As a result, many Catholics had high hopes when King James I took the throne upon Elizabeth’s death in 1603. James’ wife, Anne, is believed to have previously converted to Catholicism, and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was Elizabeth’s Catholic archrival prior to being executed. There were even rumors, inspired by his diplomatic overtures to the pope, that James himself would become Catholic.
Rastafari in Barbados is heavily repressed under all its governments, mainly due their use of cannabis as a sacrament and healing agent in their community. The movements anti-colonial position that included a transformation of image, dietary habits, name and language, with the philosophy of African liberation leading the way, was set upon by law enforcement under the banner of the US lead war on drugs.
In 2018 in the face of rising international recognition of cannabis for medical properties and its therapeutic potentials, the now Prime Minister of Barbados in her election campaign recognized the Rastafari community, and promised the people of the island a referendum on determining if cannabis should be legally allowed for recreational purposes. This coupled with the unfolding medicinal cannabis industry gave hope to many that cannabis oppression would soon be over.
It soon became clear, however, that James did not support religious tolerance for Catholics. In 1604 he publicly condemned Catholicism as a superstition, ordered all Catholic priests to leave England and expressed concern that the number of Catholics was increasing. He also largely continued with the repressive policies of his predecessor, such as fines for those refusing to attend Protestant services.
Likewise it soon became clear to poorer Barbadians that the impending medicinal cannabis industry had no substantial space for them. Nothing was provided for the Rastafari community, or small farmers. A threat to take the government to court by Attorney-at-Law Douglas Trotman at the Joint Select Committee Meeting (medical cannabis edition), on behalf of Masimba rattled the Attorney General and his party. Their response was to hastily draft a Sacrament Cannabis Bill that would provide for the legal use of cannabis by Rastafari for sacramental purposes.
English Catholics had organized several failed conspiracies against Elizabeth, and these continued under James. In 1603 a few priests and laymen hatched the so-called Bye Plot to kidnap James, only to be turned in by fellow Catholics. Another related conspiracy that year, known as the Main Plot, sought to kill James and install his cousin on the throne. Then, in May 1604, a handful of Catholic dissidents—Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby, Tom Wintour, Jack Wright and Thomas Percy—met at the Duck and Drake inn in London, where Catesby proposed a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder. Afterwards, all five men purportedly swore an oath of secrecy upon a prayer book.
Likewise many Rastafari brothers and sisters have made public representation for the legalization of cannabis over the years. However, no mass protest action against the prohibition of cannabis, and the draconian penalties its possession or use incurred were ever held. It must be noted here that prior to the writing of Sacramental Cannabis Bill, the Order of the Nyabinghi Theocracy Reign, of which Masimba is affiliated, delivered letters to the Prime Minister and Attorney General stating their concerns on the manner in which they, as well was all Barbadian were being treated within the Barbadian cannabis revolution. This action taken by the Nyabinghi was made public through the Barbadian media, and was intended to let the masses know that they were in the battle along them.
Eight other conspirators would later join what became known as the Gunpowder Plot. But although Catesby was the ringleader, Fawkes has garnered most of the publicity over the past 400-plus years. Born in 1570 in York, England, Fawkes spent about a decade fighting for Spain against Protestant rebels in the Spanish-controlled Netherlands. He also personally petitioned the king of Spain for help in starting an English rebellion against James. According to writings in the Spanish archives, Fawkes believed the English king was a heretic who would drive out his Catholic subjects. Fawkes also apparently expressed strong anti-Scottish prejudices.
Another Rastafari organization joined in the cannabis fight, but had placed great hopes in the Mia Mottley lead administration to do what was right as it related to cannabis liberation. While not aiding to their cannabis liberation, the government has responded the public’s disgust with the exclusion of the Rastafari community in serious cannabis considerations for economic development, by granting them land that by Government’s own agriculture initiatives anyone can access. Thus this was nothing the government did for the Rastafari community that they could not do for themselves. The Prime Minister also paid for trips to Africa for this organization when her government visited the continent to bury bones or dirt ( we are not sure). These actions have been highlighted by the government as confirming their good standing in the eyes of Rastafari.
By 1605 Fawkes was calling himself Guido rather than Guy. He also used the alias John Johnson while serving as caretaker of a cellar—located just below the House of Lords—that the plotters had leased in order to stockpile gunpowder. Under the plan, Fawkes would light a fuse on November 5, 1605, during the opening of a new session of Parliament. James, his eldest son, the House of Lords and the House of Commons would all be blown sky-high. In the meantime, as Fawkes escaped by boat across the River Thames, his fellow conspirators would start an uprising in the English Midlands, kidnap James’ daughter Elizabeth, install her as a puppet queen and eventually marry her off to a Catholic, thereby restoring the Catholic monarchy.
The aforementioned Sacramental Cannabis Bill now an Act, makes provision for Rastafari brothers and sisters to use cannabis at a place of worship, but does not locate the Rastafari home as such. This in itself is a violation of constitutional and human rights, and the basis for Masimba’s legal action. More recently in what can be seen as an effort to soften the impact of Masimba’s impending case, the government has announced the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis. You will now have to pay a fine of $200 if caught with less than 14grams of cannabis, you will not be arrested, and you will not have a criminal conviction against your name. The notion of still having the plant illegal, and as such having to hide to enjoy your cannabis in prayer, relaxaion or traditional medicinal applications, as one try’s to avoid a $200 fine, is unacceptable. This surely will be made mention by Masimba’s legal representation or by Masimba as the case progresses.
On October 26, an anonymous letter advising a Catholic sympathizer to avoid the State Opening of Parliament alerted the authorities to the existence of a plot. To this day, no one knows for sure who wrote the letter. Some historians have even suggested that it was fabricated and that the authorities already knew of the Gunpowder Plot, only letting it progress as an excuse to further crack down on Catholicism. Either way, a search party found Fawkes skulking in his cellar around midnight on November 4, with matches in his pocket and 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked next to him. For Fawkes, the plot’s failure could be blamed on “the devil and not God.” He was taken to the Tower of London and tortured upon the special order of King James. Soon after, his co-conspirators were likewise arrested, except for four, including Catesby, who died in a shootout with English troops.
Fawkes and his surviving co-conspirators were all found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death in January 1606 by hanging, drawing and quartering. A Jesuit priest was also executed a few months later for his alleged involvement, even as new laws banned Catholics from voting in elections, practicing law or serving in the military. In fact, Catholics were not fully emancipated in England until the 19th century.
After the plot was revealed, Londoners began lighting celebratory bonfires, and in January 1606 an act of Parliament designated November 5 as a day of thanksgiving. Guy Fawkes Day festivities soon spread as far as the American colonies, where they became known as Pope Day. In keeping with the anti-Catholic sentiment of the time, British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic would burn an effigy of the pope. That tradition completely died out in the United States by the 19th century, whereas in Britain Guy Fawkes Day became a time to get together with friends and family, set off fireworks, light bonfires, attend parades and burn effigies of Fawkes. Children traditionally wheeled around their effigies demanding a “penny for the Guy” (a similar custom to Halloween trick-or-treating) and imploring crowds to “remember, remember the fifth of November.”
Guy Fawkes himself, meanwhile, has undergone something of a makeover. Once known as a notorious traitor, he is now portrayed in some circles as a revolutionary hero, largely due to the influence of the 1980s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” and the 2005 movie of the same name, which depicted a protagonist who wore a Guy Fawkes mask while battling a future fascist government in Britain.
A cannabis fire is about to be lit under the government of Barbados. It is set to blow cannabis prohibition up and liberate the people of Barbados. Some will call him a traitor, and some will call him a hero, but it is the annuls of time that will truly position the actions of Masimba, his legal team, and their supporting structures like Cannabis Barbados in the pages of Barbados’ history.