Rasta Smokescreen Lifted

“One Aim, One God, One Destiny,” are the words of Marcus Garvey, one of the many influential intellectuals who contributed to the Rastafarian ideology and faith.

Two former FAMU students are working to dispel what they consider to be common misconceptions about the belief. Naashon Ducille and Desta Tonge are producing a documentary titled “Rasta Baby,” which explores growing up as a Rastafarian.

“Naturally, we have educated others about Rasta with our presence alone,” said Ducille and Tonge through e-mail. “We hope that through this documentary, people will learn the truth about Rasta and its impact on the world.”

The documentary will expose the social, cultural, religious, political and personal experiences held by Rastafarian youth. Interviews and discussions will illuminate challenges faced in school, work and relationships. The pair said they want the documentary to reveal similarities as well as differences between religions.

“We believe if people can see the parallels between faiths, they can begin to understand each other and create bridges instead of walls,” said the duo.

Ducille said Rastafarians first appeared in Jamaica as early as the 1930s, where the peace-loving people were outcast from colonial society, brutalized and imprisoned for following the faith. Rastafarians who chose to wear dreadlocks during this time were shunned, beaten and forced to cut their locks.

Ducille said the foundation of the religion is simple: Rastafarians are African-centered Christians who embrace Ethiopia as the Holy Land, and Zion and His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, as second coming of Christ. Rastafarians are well-versed in African culture, and teach black pride and empowerment globally.

There are three main denominations of the Rastafarian faith: Bobo Shanti, Nyabinghi and Twelve Tribes of Israel. However, not all practice the same. Elements of the Bobo Shanti denomination include turbans and long robes for men and women and a vegetarian diet.

Ducille said one misconception about Rastafarians is they all smoke marijuana.

“Herb is a sacrament used for direct connection with God during meditation, reasonings and bible study,” Ducille said. “Its use is a choice and is not observed by all. However, Rastafarians are naturalist and refrain from the use of all drugs because they are man made or adapted from chemicals.”

Atheism is another widespread belief the duo hope to combat.

“There is a belief in God, just not in a white God,” Ducille said. “The bible is recognized as the word of God transcribed by many men.”

Ducille and Tonge said Twelve Tribers also adhere to a vegetarian diet and recognize a natural way of living. Some refrain from dairy products, processed foods and table salt, while others choose to eat fish, keeping with the Old Testament’s dietary restrictions.

They hope to finish filming the documentary over the summer and want to host discussions surrounding the topic.

“We hope that, through this documentary, people will learn the truth about Rasta and its impact on the world,” Ducille and Tonge said.