The young boy would shout, "Jah!!!" and in unison them rastas would an¬swer: "Rastafari, Selassie I, King of Kings!" The young boy would come running and say: "Uncle, do you know Jah?" I said I did but explain¬ing to him was not that easy.
After few weeks, his hair had grown long. As usual, boys would have untidy hair that looks like ntchentche when uncombed. He refused to go to the barber and told his mother that he wanted to be a rasta. He was only four years old. He claimed he had already discussed with me. He was lying.
Asked why he wanted to grow long hair, he asked us why we wanted his hair cut. He said his wish was to become a rasta, we could not allow that. I don't think we had a good reason to deny him his wish.
I read the story about some pupils being refused access to education because their parents are rastas and the pupils have grown dreads. It must be remembered at all times that everyone has a right to educa¬tion. These pupils should not be denied this right.
The reason I say rastas have to wake up is because there are some rastas I know who play reggae music. Few years ago, I declared that reggae especially in Malawi was losing its relevance. The rastas' failure to ad¬dress issues that affect them and everyone surrounding them was the reason for my declaration. In this age, where we claim to be demo¬cratic, it is a shame that we still don't recognise people who have different beliefs to ours.
Rastas need to enjoy their rights.
The misconception about rastas is historical. A black man had been oppressed for a long time so they needed someone they could relate to spiritually. The blackman ques¬tioned a lot of things; why are we oppressed by the very people who teach us about Jesus Christ? Ras¬tas wondered why the people who believed in Christ would oppress a fel¬low human being.
The prophecy of Marcus Garvey pointed to Ethiopia where the corona¬tion of the black ruler, Ras Tafari Ma-konen in 1930 was a fulfilment of that prophecy. One of the earliest leaders of rastafarism was Leonard Howell in Jamaica who was arrested because his doctrine was a threat to a white-dominated government.
Fast forward to 1987, Peter Tosh's intention to start a rasta radio was opposed because it threatened the existence of government which rastas refer to as Babylon. There are several theories about who was responsible for his death. Looking at this back¬ground, we can understand why a rasta is often time misunderstood. Here is an example, would the school authorities bar pupils, with their bald¬heads, because they belong to the Apostolic Faith?
In Malawi, there are a lot of civil society organisations who could have been in the streets right now if some minority groups were not enjoying the so-called rights. Rastas to them is not a minority group or is it because there is no-one to fund a protest like they did about those other minority groups?
The only people who can fight for these rights are the rastas and they need to wake up. They need to defend what they believe in and soon we must have rastas accepted in banks, hospitals and schools as long as they are educated.
Not long ago, Ras Judah I was denied the chance to contest in the Presiden¬tial Elections. I cannot remember why the Electoral Commission barred him. Maybe the next President will be a rasta and things would change.
But before we elect that rasta, the rastas must wake up and send the children to school. These children have the right to education and they are free to worship too. If they believe that Haile Selassie is God in-carnate (although Selassie denied this several times) let them follow what they think is right. Wake up rasta.