Rastafarians around Tallahassee were able to dispell myths about their beliefs and traditions in the Rattler’s Den last Tuesday as part of Caribbean Week.
The dialogue put on by the Caribbean Students Association is designed to culturally educate students on FAMU’s campus.
While Rastafarianism is thought of as only associated with the Jamaican culture, the movement finds its true roots in Eastern African origins.
Although the Jamaican culture has arguably embraced Rastafarianism on a larger scale than other cultures, the Rastafarian way of life is as diverse in its meaning as those who practice it, with followers around the world as far as China.
“Rastafarianism is not a religion. It is a way of life,” said Satta Chang, a Rastafarian and 22 year-old Florida State University music student.
Chang said that many of today’s religions reflect the larger society in that they pressure individuals to assume roles based on gender.
“Today’s society promotes a competitive, not communal environment. Rastafarianism stresses community first, then role assignment,” Chang said.
Chang pointed out what he termed were “holes” in many religious sects of European origins, alluding to the fact that religion was has often been used as a tool to maintain social order.
“What better way to control a people than to control their spirit,” Chang said.
Among the debated topics of the dialogue were the significance of deadlocks to the Rastafarian culture.
While deadlocks are not required to properly observe Rastafarian teachings, Chang described them as a reflection of a “state of mind.”
Chang also went on to acknowledge that wearing one’s hair in deadlocks has become part of the mainstream of today’s culture and may not be an accurate reflection or a spiritual identification of those who wear them.
“The objective of a seminar like this to educate, dispel stereotypes and encourage open-mindedness to different cultures,” said Denise Jarrett a 21 year-old biology student Montego Bay, Jamaica and the Public Relations Chairperson for the CSA.
Mirroring Jarrett’s comments was Veersamy Samuel.
The 26 year-old construction-engineering student from Antigua and president of the CSA described Rastafarianism as an evolving concept that seems to be practiced differently accordingly to geographic areas.
Samuel talked about how technology and societal pressures are threatening the simple, traditional teachings of Rastafarianism.
“I see Rastas in the U.S. with their cell phones and cars with rims,” Samuel said.
However, Samuel said the idea of a seminar explaining Rastafarian beliefs was a beneficial one.
Samuel said: “It is about education.”