I can’t believe it is not butter, Rastafari in the BLP manifesto.

When I was younger people used to quote an advertisement that went “I can’t believe it is not butter”, when they were amazed about something or when something seemed to be too good to be true. It was an advertisement for a butter substitute that looked, smelled and tasted like butter. That was the thought that entered my head after reading the portion in the Barbados Labour Party manifesto that addressed the Rastafari community in Barbados.

I am fully aware that Ms. Mottley would have met with a few members of a small section of that community who obviously did not articulate broadly enough the various concerns of that community. I am also aware that Ms. Mottley is no stranger to the Rastafari community unlike many of her opponents who know very little about this section of their society However this does not excuse Ms. Mottley and her party on their shortsightedness in putting forward issues the Rastafari community faces in their manifesto.

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Here is what the manifesto says, and my opinions on it as a Rastaman in red.

  • Recognize and respect the members of the Rastafarian Community as valued and contributing members of Barbadian society. This is a great start, to recognize the contributions of this community after 40 odd years of being persecuted, prosecuted, profiled and imprisoned for being anti-colonial in its philosophies towards life and governance in a post-colonial space.

 

  • Facilitate access to large lots of land for farming. The fact is a good number of Rases have access to land but not the equipment, management skills or the funding to develop their spaces effectively. It is also a reality that unless a plan is put in place to ensure the boost of our market culture and the diminishing of the supermarket culture then this is a futile exercise. Thus it will not empower that community or their farmers. Maybe the BLP recognizes that should they legalize cannabis, the Rasafari community would need much more land than it already has to compete with the big white land owners on the island in a cannabis industry. Who knows!

 

  • Reserve space at new vending sites for the sale of the community’s fruit and vegetables. This one is a vendor issue and not really specific to Rastafari and its farming community. Added to this Rastafari is of the people and love to be among the people in the market as they share that culture. This community would not like to be separated from the people in this way.

 

  • Fix and repair Temple Yard and provide water, electricity and proper sanitation facilities. This is most amusing as Temple Yard suffers from a number of issues. The base issue is that the space was said to be a temporary location for that community for over 15 years now. Temple Yard has asked in the past under a BLP administration for assistance in developing itself into a modern state of the art cultural mall that retains its grass roots foundation. Temple Yard once developed should be included in the national promotion of this island within its tourism package. Simply talking of repairing shops, facilitating water and electricity simply will not cut it. Akin to the sentiments shared by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda in his apology to the Rastafari community, the BLP should secure some type of reparations for this community. One such way of doing so would be assisting Temple Yard build the facility previously spoken of.

 

  • Provide space at vendors’ malls and other suitable locations for the sale of art, craft and ware made by the Community. I don’t even know what to say about this as the previous two points would have spoken to this.

 

  • Hold a Referendum to consult on the decriminalization of the use of recreational marijuana. Consultation about a cannabis industry, recreational use and sacramental use is a good step forward and it is imperative that the Rastafari community be included in the discussion and decision making in these areas. I was hoping that we will hear of reparations for cannabis users that have suffered under this unjust law against the plant. Also immediate exemption from the law for spiritual use of the plant and permission to be freely used at reggae shows and events that have a roots Rastafari foundation.

 

  • Meet to discuss concerns about the treatment of Rastafarian. Well seeing that this is the last point and left open ended, I am assuming that the BLP is unaware of some of the issues that presently haunt the Rastafari community. That being the case, issues that this community face include:
  • The uncovering of locks by Rastafari women to have their ID picture taken. Some Rastafari women do not uncover their locks in public. To have them mandated to expose their locks for the sake of taking a picture of their face for an ID picture is an affront to their spiritual beliefs.
  • Another area that the BLP should address since they are now noting the contributions of Rastafari in the island would be their youth in public schools. The Rastafari community needs to have a law framed that prevents discrimination against their youth when it comes to their locks, wearing or not wearing of headwear and belief systems. This should not be left to the discrimination of teachers and school administrators.
  • Within public school spaces, African descended children need to be surrounded by images of the people who have made distinct contributions to their liberation. Seeing that the Rastafari community reveres Africa as their original home, having images of people like Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie included with others such as Kwame Nkrumah, Steve Biko, Winnie Mandela, Walter Rodney, Toussaint and countless others will serve to build self-esteem and pride in the youth.
  • Most recently this helmet law that puts my rastafari brothers and sisters in a serious position, as many persons such as myself cannot wear one as our locks will not permit such; you will see a number of Rasses with helmets on their locks marginally holding on. This makes no sense and it is not providing any form of safety for these brothers and sisters.

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I will close this article here with this thought. The Rastafari community is made up of different groupings as was eluded to earlier, and many Rasses that are not affiliated to any particular grouping. I am not aware of any one organization or grouping that represents the entire or even a major part of this community. I would suggest when the BLP meets with the Rastafari community, the invitation is made public for all Rastafari to attend. In this way the overall needs of the community can be tabled and addressed.

I do commend the BLP for being the first political party to include Rastafari in its manifesto. This speaks volumes in my opinion. It speaks to an awareness that a problem still exist with a section of our society that needs to be addressed. Further to this it speaks to a willingness to address these issues. Then it says clearly that the BLP is aware that many Rasses do not vote and addressing their concerns in this society may get her their support.

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Making history seems to be the order of the day in this time of politicking. I hope after the dust settles, further history is made by the actual implementation of things put forward in this manifesto should the BLP be victorious in its campaign to govern Barbados once more.

Please share. You are invited to share your views on this section of the Barbados Labour Party’s manifesto asit pertains to Rastafari. You are also invited to submit letters to this website at info@afrikanheritage.com

Walk Good.

Simba Simba

 

Author: Admin

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