A HISTORY AND EXAMINATION OF PROPHETICAL FIGURES IN MODERN RASTAFARIANISM
PROPHET (prof’it), n. 1. a religious teacher regarded as being divinely inspired. 2. one who predicts the future. (Webster’s Dictionary)
PROPHET: one whose righteous actions adversely influence people’s minds, resulting in great enlightenment. (Travis Piper)
Throughout history, there have been many events and figures which have significantly altered the course of time. That which has been responsible for the huge amount of such drastic worldwide changes, ranges from the international success of The Beatles, to the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa. Although many great events have occurred that have both positively and negatively contributed to global change, the basis of this study will focus on the impact of three men in the lives of nearly everyone on earth, but, most particularly in the lives of black Jamaicans. These three men are Robert Nesta Marley, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and Ras Tafari Makonnen. Their influence is nearly impossible to accurately gauge, especially in a study of this nature. However, it is my intention to investigate each of their impacts through the eyes of an outsider, and to attempt to determine if any of their existences were prophetical, using a comparison between the two definitions of the word, listed above.
In 1944, a 50 year old white captain named Norval Marley, married an eighteen year old black girl named Cedella Booker. Shortly there after, they had a son named, Robert Nesta Marley, who was born at two-thirty on a Wednesday morning, February 6, 1945, in his grandfather Omeria’s house. The captain however, seldom saw his son although he did provide financial support for him.
In the late fifties, Bob and Cedella moved from St. Ann to Trenchtown in Kingston, (called so by the water trenches which flow through). In these early days in Kingston, Bob met a man named Bunny Livingston, (later to become Bunny Wailer). Together they began to play around a bit and shared common interests. It was also around this same time that they met Peter McIntosh, a local boy who, because of a bad home life, had no real place to be. Peter was commonly seen playing his guitar around town.
Slowly but surely, the band which was later to be known as the Wailers, came together. After many years of writing and playing in Kingston, Marley auditioned for Leslie Kong, who took the young singer into the studio to record his first single”Judge
Not”, in 1962. The following year, Bob formed the Wailing Wailers, together with Peter and Bunny. The three men were soon introduced to Clement Dodd, a producer of the record company Coxsone. On this label the Wailing Wailers released their first single,”Simmer Down”, which became a big sensation in Jamaica. At this time three more members had joined the group: Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso, and Cherry Smith. The Wailing Wailers began recording regularly and released some music that established the group in Jamaica. Soon thereafter, Junior, Beverly, and Cherry left the group, making it the original trio again.
Around this time, Bob’s mother, Cedella, convinced him to move to Delaware, where she was working, so he could get a job. After some hesitation, he agreed and decided to move there. Before he did however, he felt it was necessary to marry the young girl he had been courting, Rita Anderson, so she would wait for him while he was gone. In America he worked some odd factory jobs, just enough to finance his music and then soon left for Jamaica again. As Bob came back to his home country, he, Bunny and Peter reformed the group as the Wailers. Since Jamaican music style was changing the group changed as well.That brought them into conflict with Coxsone Dodd and the group formed the record label Wail ‘N’ Soul. The label soon folded however and the group seemed without much hope until they met the great, Lee Perry. Together with Perry, the Wailers produced great tracks like”Soul Rebel”,”Duppy Conqueror”,”400 Years”and”Small Axe”. In 1970 Aston”Family Man”Barrett and his brother Carlton, joined the Wailers. The band was, at the start of the seventies, internationally unknown, but famous throughout the Caribbean.
Around this time Bob took a trip to Sweden and London. While in London, he recorded”Reggae on Broadway”which later was released by CBS. When all the Wailers got to London to promote that single, they found themselves stranded there. With no other way out, Bob Marley stepped right into Basing Street studios of Island records and asked to see the boss, Chris Blackwell. He knew of the Wailers and offered to record them.The band was advanced a couple of thousand pounds so that they could return to Jamaica and record their first album for Island records. Now the Wailers had access to great recording facilities and for the first time, a reggae group could compete with the already established rock groups. The album was called”Catch a fire”and was released in December 1972. It didn’t catch on at first but the reviews were excellent in England and certainly far from poor in America.
In April 1973, the Wailers came to London and started a three month tour in Britain. Directly following, on their American tour, they even supported Bruce Springsteen for a weekend. Later the Wailers were about to support Sly & The Family Stone for seventeen dates. But rumor has it, after only four shows they were fired because they were too good. The band was left in Las Vegas without manager nor money. Somehow though, they managed to get to San Francisco were they did a live concert broadcast for the radio station KSAN-FM. Their second album”Burning”, was released in 1973. That included some older songs like”Duppy Conqueror”,”Small Axe”and”Put It On”together with”Get Up Stand Up”and”I Shot The Sheriff”. In the beginning of 1975 the group released”Natty Dread”. During that period Bunny and Peter left the group to go solo. The harsh lifestyle of constant touring was not what they had in mind when they began playing with Bob. Another reason why Peter and Bunny left was that they couldn’t find the natural,”i-tal”food that they liked to eat on tour.The band was renamed Bob Marley and the Wailers and Bunny and Peter were replaced by the I-Threes, Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt. When the band performed at the Lyceum, the show was recorded and later released as the album,”Live !”.
In a concert by Stevie Wonder on behalf of the Jamaican Institute for the blind, Bob, Bunny, and Peter did the song”Rude Boy”. It was the last time the original Wailers ever performed together.”Rastaman Vibration”was released in 1976 and boosted into the charts in England and the United States.”Rat Race”,”Johnny Was”, and”War”are a few of the tracks that made the album so popular.
On December 5, 1976, Bob decided to hold a free concert at Kingston”s National Heroes Park. The idea of the concert was to work for peace among the warring factions of Jamaica and to thank the people of the country. The government called an election for about two weeks after the concert which was a signal for renewed ghetto war. Gunmen broke into Marley’s house two days before the concert and shot Bob, Rita and some of their friends. Miraculous enough nobody got killed although most of the wounds were fatal. Bob was safely hidden at Strawberry Hill and had a hard time deciding whether he was going to do the show or not. Eventually he decided that the music was what was truly important and decided to go on anyway. After amazing success at the show, Bob left Jamaica directly after the concert, and in 1977 the whole group moved to London to record and later release the album”Exodus”.
“Exodus”went to number one in England and Germany and the singles”Exodus”, Waiting In Vain”and”Jammin'”sold massive. The band toured Europe and also did a week of concerts at London’s Rainbow Theater. At the beginning of the tour Bob hurt a toe during a football game and later was diagnosed with cancer, as a result of his medical examination. Because of his strict Rasta beliefs, Bob refused to receive any amputations or serious medical treatment, for the body of a Rasta is sacred and to pollute it, or modify it with the tools of Babylon, would be immoral.
In 1978 Bob the Wailers released”Kaya”. Although the album’s success became huge in following years, Bob was then accused of going soft and selling out. Two singles from”Kaya”went into the charts:”Satisfy My Soul”and”Is This Love”. In April the band played the One Love Peace Concert in Jamaica in front of the prime minister Michael Manley and the opposition leader Edward Seaga. In one of the most moving stage performance ever, Bob, amidst lightning, joined hands of the two leaders over his head in mid song, to show the people that they can all unite.
On June 15, Bob received the Third World Peace Medal by all the African delegations to the United Nations. He also made his first visit in Africa that year and went to Kenya and Ethiopia.The earlier tour in Europe was recorded as a ground to the band’s second live album”Babylon By Bus”. As”Survival”was released in 1979 it included,”Ambush In The Night”and”Africa Unite”amongst other great tracks. With the message of black survival, the album art was covered with the flags of almost every African nation. These were divided by a diagram that shows how the Africans were packed like sardines on a slave ship bound for West Indies.
In the beginning of 1980 Bob Marley and the Wailers flew to Gabon to make their African debut. It was here Bob found out that Don Taylor (Bob’s manager) defrauded him on money. Bob got so angry that he almost beat Don to death and then fired him. Dispite this misfortune, the government of Zimbabwe invited the group to play at the country’s Independence Ceremony in April the same year. That was a triumph for Bob Marley and maybe even the greatest moment of his life.
The band’s last album”Uprising”received mixed criticism. It included such songs as”Could You Be Loved”,”Coming In From The Cold”,”Work”and the tear jerking,”Redemption Songs”. The group went on an European tour that included a Milan concert with over one hundred thousand Italians. The new album did well and plans were made for an American tour that would later intersect with Stevie Wonder. Bob started at Madison Square Garden and continued on to the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, which would be his last performance. At this point the cancer had spread throughout his body to the stomach, lungs and unfortunately even to his head. Despite extensive radiation treatment, on his way home to Jamaica, Bob died in a Miami hospital May 11 1981, at thirty six years old. He was put to his final rest ten days after his death. Bob was then 36 years old (White 1983).
At his funeral, there occurred one of the most significant Rasta gatherings ever. Like gathering for a big party, they came from all over to march from Kingston to Nine Miles, the place of Bob’s birth, to bury his body. The funeral was attended by both Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, symbolizing true progress in the struggle against political violence and oppression.
The total impact of Bob Marley’s life has sparked one the largest social movements in history. Although Rastafarianism surely existed before Bob declared himself a believer, the exposure that he provided the world with, truly opened up the religion to those who, without him, may never have even heard of Rasta, or reggae music for that matter. Some say part of Bob’s overwhelming success was in his handsome, captivating appearance. As his father was white, Bob’s complexion was very clear and handsomly proportioned between black and white. I suggest this as only a fraction of his popularity. I believe Bob Marley had a gift; a direct spiritual connection that perhaps no one else has had to date.
There are many reasons why Bob Marley and the Wailers became international superstars and the forefathers of global reggae, but only a few reasons why Bob was the way he was. Perhaps without him, the band would have reached similar levels of achievement, but the message that he spread and the feelings he conveyed throughout those who were lucky enough to know him and through those who are only able to hear him, were exceptionally phenomenal. So phenomenal, that divine inspiration and direct spiritual influence may be the only explanations.
When I watch footage of Bob performing live onstage, I sometimes get shivers, as if there is a beam of light which comes from the sky and shines directly on his head. The way he skanked his body, throwing his locks in every direction, sending praise to the most high, Jah Rastafari, captivates people, unlike any other reggae performer ever has. When Bob played, it seemed he got his spirit and power directly from God, and used his body as a translator to convey the energy to the people.
The great struggles that we all endure, particularly black Jamaicans, are the basis of Bob’s inspiration. How could people living in such a beautiful place undergo such incredible hardships? The irony is shocking. When music is all that you have, it feels pretty good when you can all get together and share a common wealth, that no one can take away from you. Music is all that Jamaicans have against the oppression of Babylon and it’s evil ways. Bob’s contributions and influence to this”chanting down of Babylon”has changed thousands of lives. As Bob says in Trenchtown Rock,”One good thing about music, it when hits, you feel no pain…one good thing about music, is when it hits ya, you feel no pain.. SO, hit me with music, hit me with music now! The metaphorical comparison of physical brutality by the hands of Babylon, and brutality with music, described above, provides an excellent Rasta assimilation.
I think part of the reason why Bob reached such incredible achievement and success, is that he was one of the people that he sang about setting free. Its not like he grew up in a rich part of Kingston and simply became interested in reggae and decided to start performing. His childhood in Trenchtown gave him brilliantly clear evidence of the oppression that was going on there. I suppose it was this that helped inspire such passionate performances.
The second figure of significant importance in African-American, and Rastafarian history, and often referred to as the”Black Moses”, was Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a black, Jamaican native who was born in St.Ann’s Bay, on the northern coast, on August 17, 1887. As the youngest of eleven children, Garvey was often thriving for attention amongst his family. Largely self taught, Garvey attended school until he was fourteen and moved to Kingston, where he found work in a print shop and quickly became acquainted with the abysmal living conditions of the laboring class. As a result of this, he immediately involved himself in social reform, by participating in the first Printer’s Union strike in Jamaica in 1907, and in setting up the newspaper, The Watchman. Once Garvey got a taste of the discriminatory conditions going on in Jamaica, he left the island to make more money to finance his projects. In the years directly following, he visited Central and South America, amassing more and more evidence that black people everywhere were experiencing the discrimination that he had, in Jamaica.
In 1911, Garvey returned to Jamaica and began to lay the groundwork for the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the first important American black nationalist movement, to which he would devote most of his life. Because of the importance he felt for his plans, the lack of enthusiasm he experienced by the Jamaican people, left him severely unimpressed. In 1912, he traveled to England in search of additional financial backing. In England, he met Egyptian journalist, Duse Mohammed Ali, while working for his publication African Times and Oriental Review . It was then that Garvey began to study the history of Africa and the exploitation of indigenous peoples, by colonial powers, particularly England and France. A major piece of literature that helped shape Garvey’s strict values was Booker T. Washington’s, Up From Slavery, a book that advocated black self-help.
Finally on August 1, 1914, with a group of friends, Garvey completely organized, and got underway, the Universal Negro Improvement Association and it’s coordinating body, The African Communities League. The motto of the UNIA soon became,”One God, One Aim, One Destiny”and signified well, Garvey’s intense beliefs. In 1920, the organization held its first convention in New York City, which opened with a parade down Lenox Ave, in Harlem. That evening, in a speech to over 25,000 people from the steps of Association’s Liberty Hall, Garvey explained the outline of his plan to build an African nation-state. He spoke of a”new Negro”, who was proud of being black and taught that blacks would only be respected when they were economically strong, as well as preaching an independent black economy within the framework of white capitalism. His words convinced many people that night, and his plans took off in NYC, as thousands enrolled in the UNIA. It was then that he began publishing the newspaper, The Negro World , which told of the exploits and heroes of the black race, as well as the splendors of African culture. Garvey also began touring the country, preaching about black nationalism to large audiences. In a matter of months, Garvey and his associates, established over thirty branches of the UNIA, as well as launching some successful business ventures. At it’s peak, the UNIA boasted a membership of over four million strong.
One of the most notable business ventures that Garvey started was, The Black Star Shipping Line, which was something that was unheard of at this time: a business belonging to, and operated by blacks. The Black Star gave even the poorest blacks the opportunity to become stockholders in a big business enterprise. Even though the idea of blacks owning and operating a business, was unheard of and largely unsupported by majorities, Garvey pushed on. The Black Star Line was established as a commercial venture, and it is my belief that Garvey did not intend, as critics so often claim, that the Line would serve merely as a vehicle for the transportation of all Negroes back to the African homeland.
The Black Star Line, despite it’s initial success, soon began to loose popularity and consequently, fell into serious financial difficulties. With the Line in such a predicament, Garvey promoted two new businesses, namely, the African Communities League, and the Negro Factories Corporation, as well as many other restaurants, factories, grocery stores and laundries. He also tried to follow through with his strong issues on colonization by sending a delegation to appeal the League of Nations for transfer to the UNIA of the African colonies taken from Germany during World War I. He reached the height of his power in 1920, when he presided at an international convention in Liberty Hall, with delegates present from over twenty-five countries. This affair was followed by a parade of over fifty thousand people, through the streets of Harlem, led by Garvey himself, in flamboyant costume.
Eventually Garvey’s numerous financial schemes and occasional betrayals, caught up with him when he, and five other UNIA member were charged with U.S. mail fraud, in connection with the sale of stock to the Star Line. Although many critics contend that the charges were drummed up out of nowhere because the F.B.I wanted him put down, nonetheless, Garvey was sentenced to a five year sentence in 1925. But in 1927, after serving only two years, his sentence was commuted by President Calvin Coolidge, and he was deported as an undesirable alien.
Following this, he returned to Jamaica where he turned his attention to Jamaican politics, campaigning on a platform of self government, minimum wage laws and judicial reform. Some of the other doctrines that Garvey very strongly supported were: worldwide cooperation between all blacks, development of Africa to it’s potential, recognizing Africa as important in world affairs, development of black education institutions, raising up the consciousness of black people globally, and that blacks should be proud, self-sufficient, and disciplined.
Regardless of this, he was completely defeated at the polls, because most of his followers, particularly the poor folks living in the ghettos, did not have the necessary voting qualifications. Following this, Garvey was never able to relive his moments of success in the states, and in 1935 he left Jamaica and moved to England. He died there of pneumonia, on June 10, 1940, in a cottage on West Kensington, in virtual obscurity. Garvey was only fifty three when he died (Boyd).
Perhaps one of the most notable events that occurred involving Garvey, happened one Sunday in 1927 in a Kingston church, after he had been deported from the states. Garvey prophesied,”Look to Africa, where a black king shall be crowned, for the day of deliverance is here.”This one statement, layed nearly the entire course of what modern Rastafarianism is today.
In 1930 a tribal warrior from a small corner of Ethiopia named Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned the 111th Emperor of Ethiopia in a descendent line traced directly to the union of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. Upon being crowned, Tafari took the name Haile Selassie, meaning”Power of the Holy Trinity”. His official title was now, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, His Imperial Majesty the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Juda, Elect of God. When Garvey-following, Jamaican’s saw the picture of the newly crowned Ethiopian emperor on the front page of the newspapers, they looked to their bibles for a sign. The evidence in the Bible, combined with Garvey’s prophesy was strong,”And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to loose the seals thereof’..And one of the elders saith unto me, ‘Weep not: behold, the Lion of Judah, The Root of David, hath prevailed to open the Book, and to loose the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”
Soon thereafter, several preachers in Kingston began praying to Selassie as the living God and the key to African redemption. Much of the joy felt by Jamaicans, in Selassie’s establishment as the living God, came as a result of their unhappiness worshiping a white god. Encouraged by Marcus Garvey, some Jamaicans, although many were and still are Christian, felt the need to pray to their own god; one that could connect to their suffering. It seemed inappropriate, to some, to pray to a god of the same race as those who have oppressed them for hundreds of years. The crowning of Selassie was the best news some Jamaicans had ever received. Worshipers of him became known as Ras Tafaris or Rastamen. It was here that Rastafarianism began.
Haile Selassie reigned as the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. A cousin of Emperor Menelik II, he was born Tafari Makonnen on July 23, 1892. Menelik was succeeded in 1913 by his grandson Lij Yasu, a converted Muslim. When Lij Yasu attempted to change the official religion of Ethiopia from Coptic Christianity to Islam, Tafari Makonnen drove him from the throne and installed his aunt as Empress Zauditu, in 1916. Assuming the title Ras Tafari, he named himself regent and heir to the throne. He became de facto ruler of the country and was crowned king in 1928. Two years later, after the mysterious death of the empress, he became emperor as Haile Selassie I.
Selassie ruled as an absolute monarch, centralizing Ethiopia and instituting a number of reforms, including the abolition of slavery. In 1935, after the Italian Fascist troops of Benito Mussolini had invaded Ethiopia, Haile Selassie gained the admiration and sympathy of the world with his impassioned plea for aid from the League of Nations. The league was powerless to act, however, and Mussolini consolidated his gains and officially annexed Ethiopia to Italy. Haile Selassie was forced into exile. Ethiopia was then liberated early in World War II, and Haile Selassie regained his throne in 1941. After the war he resumed his long-range plans to modernize Ethiopia. He continued his autocratic rule, however, and opposition to him grew. Beginning in 1960 a series of coups d’etat were attempted, and in reaction his rule became increasingly despotic. Finally, in 1974 the army succeeded in seizing control. Selassie was stripped of his powers, and later that year he was removed from the throne and placed under house arrest. He died in Addis Ababa on Aug. 27, 1975.(jah.com)
The impact that Selassie has had on Rastafarianism is incredible, hence the origin of it’s name. Most Rastas believe Selassie to have been the living God. In fact, the famous day on April 21, 1966, when he visited Jamaica for the first time, many magical things were reported to have happened, proving his divinity. On this day there were hundreds of dreads hanging around the airstrip, smoking ganja, just waiting for H.I.M to arrive. When the great plane carrying the King, first appeared through the clouds, with the Lion of Judah shining on the side, it is said, that the sun burst through the clouds and shone on his majesty the whole way down to the ground. It is also said that when Selassie’s plane finally came into view, doves appeared and flew in front of it, protecting and guiding it safely to the ground. After it landed however, there were so many Rasta’s awaiting a glimpse of their new God, that when Selassie stepped out, he became immediately overwhelmed and went back into the plane for an hour, waiting for some of the crowd to subside.
Bob Marley, who was in the states at the time of the King’s arrival, knew about it and advised his wife, Rita,”if possible, go see for yourself”(Salewicz 1995), for Selassie would truly be something to see. Rita Marley reported noticing nothing out of the ordinary, with this short, meager man, who wore his cap down over his eyes, until he drove by in his car, waving to the crowds. It was there that Rita saw the nail scars of Jesus’ crucifixion on his hands, and knew that he was truly God. Following this she said,”So when I saw this I said to myself, that this could be true, this could be the man of whom it was said ‘before the year 2000, Christ will be a man walking on the earth”(Salewicz 1995).
Besides the prophecy of Marcus Garvey, suggesting Ethiopia’s newly crowed king was to be God, there are other reasons why Rastafari people around the world see His Majesty Haile Selassie as their leader, king, and God.
First, Ethiopia is simply where the first humans lived. Lucy, or Denkenesh in Amharic, was the first human being and lived in Ethiopia over 4.5 million years ago. She was part of the first group of people that walked erect. In the Bible there is mention of the Garden of Eden and some claims that it was near Baghdad. Though the Bible says, in Gen 2:13, that”a river went out of Eden and its name was Gihon and it compasseth the land of Ethiopia”. From here life spread and before there were any countriesor boundaries, all of the earth was one. One Ethiopia.
Second, the ark of the covenant is in Ethiopia. The queen of Sheba visited king Solomon about 950 B.C. After returning to Sheba who bore him a son named Ibn Hakim. Grown up, Ibn Hakim wanted to meet his father, so he journeyed to Israel. Solomon greeted him and wanted to crown him heir to Israel’s throne, but Ibn Hakim wanted to return to Sheba and become emperor in the western part of Sheba – Ethiopia. Solomon sent his counselors oldest sons to help his own son rule Ethiopia. The high priest´s son Azaria couldn’t bare the thought of leaving the Ark of the Covenant, so with God’s permission, he stole it, and brought it with him to Ethiopia. Ibn Hakim became Ethiopia’s first emperor and took the name of Menelik I. He is Haile Selassie´s forefather of the Solomonic dynasty.
Third, and arguably most important, is that Selassie’s name is in the Bible. In the bible it says that God’s title is king of kings and lord of lords ( Rev. 19: 11 – 17 ). That is also the title that Haile Selassie received at his crowning the 2nd of November, 1930 in Addis Ababa. He also received the title: The conquering lion of the tribe of Judah. In revelation 5:5 it says:”Weep not: behold the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof”. Both these titles point to His Majesty as God!
As the backbone of the Rasta religion, Selassie sits as the unsuspecting centerpiece. Hearing that all of these Jamaican’s thought he was the living God, was completely ridiculous to him. This is why I fail to understand the reason why so many claim Selassie to be God, when he openly admitted that he was not. This is generally responded to, however, by the argument that God would not know he was God, on purpose, just so he, (Selassie), would not become absorbed in his power. I can understand this argument, but do not agree with it. I believe Selassie was often prophetical in his political and social decisions and clearly so, involving his influence on Rastas. However, I do not think of him as a true prophet, using the defenitions stated above . A major reason for this belief lies simply on the fact that he did not encourage the Rastas and refused to condone the”back to Africa”or Zion movement. As a political figure, with an image to uphold, the last thing he wanted was thousands of poor, dreaded Rastas, to sit around Ethiopia, puffing herb, and praising him as the Holy God. Instead he told the Jamaicans to stay where they were, and that Ethiopia was not their Zion.
Many people saw Selassie as a great hero in the struggle of black peoples everywhere and the work that Selassie did towards abolishing slavery in Ethiopia was perhaps some of the greatest work he did, in the eyes of the Rastas. Even though he was God, to many however, not all of his actions were purely righteous. Selassie’s purpose was generally regarded as a man searching for political advancement and social achievement. His true intentions did not exceed the boundaries of these narrow goals. Although he is the basis of the Rasta movement, because some believe he is God, his existence on this planet was not truely propehtical. He was mainly a righteous man, politically, but not much else connects him with the Rasta movement. His life was so different than Marcus’, or Bob’s, because was a political figure at the same time, that they are all very difficult to compare.
When one thinks of Marcus Garvey, they usually think of the Jamaican who dedicated his life towards Black equality. This, for the most part, is true. Garvey influenced and continues to influence, thousands of people, movements, and songs. Without his work, black and white relations would certainly be a lot further behind than their current status. I would suggest, however, that Marcus Garvey was a much different character in the scheme of Jamaican and global influence, than Bob Marley.
The many aspects necessary for a truly prophetic figure, are in some cases, far beyond what secular culture can understand. Yes, although, Garvey was a teacher and was probably thought of as being divinely inspired by some, to me, he was not a true prophet. His overall influence on society was not completely righteous and his actions, didn’t necessarily cause enlightenment in people. Some of the shady dealings that Garvey was involved with when getting the Black Star Line together, and making it financially successfull, were far from righteous, even though they might have been done for a good cause. Garvey knew that people needed to be uplifted and, by making them able to support themselves on their own and succeed financially, he provided them with a way to do that. I would suggest that Garvey was more of a black sumpremacy advocate, than a prophet. I don’t feel the same level of oneness when reading Garvey’s writing or about his life, that I do with Bob. Even though blacks were certainly oppressed in Jamaica, and continue to be so today, I believe Garvey’s level of black-power was perhaps too overdone. In some ways, he defeated the purpose he was trying to achieve, which was eqaulity. Eqaulity needs to start with equality, not ammending the injustices of the past. For those injustices are in the past, and the future is in our hands now.
Bob Marley was one of the greatest musical, social figures to ever have lived. Almost constant enlightenment occurred when people listened to Bob sing or speak. It is obviously hard to establish who was a prophet and who was not, when examining three of the most influencial figures in the twentieth century, but after all is said and done, Bob Marley simply stands out from the others. His message of”One Love”has ammednded racial tentions in many ways. One Love is the true bottom line to everything. If we all loved each other equally; your father the same as your friend, the same as your lover, the same as those you don’t even know, the world would be a much greater place. Even though not all people are good and there are many who you will not like, if you can atleast understand every person’s point of view and know that each of us has our own struggles, than we can begin to lift the weight of racial, social, and political oppression, off of us all. Bob’s mission to uplift the people was, in some ways, very similar to Garvey’s and Selassie’s, but it seems that, plain and simple, Bob Marley had a divine gift of some kind. For the purpose of this paper, I will regard this gift as being a true prophet.