Remember the COPTICS?

REMEMBER THE COPTICS? signAs Jamaica’s effort to legalize ganja evolves under the control of the Government, I remember a time in the 1970s when a brave and pioneering group of ganja activists manifested and gave hope that the elusive dream would be a reality. The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a mansion of the Rastafari movement based in White Horses, St. Thomas, made no effort to hide the fact that they were in the ganja business and determined that legalization should be Jamaica’s future wealth. With the large number of white Americans now involved in the effort to legalize ganja, it is worth remembering the Coptics, whose white American members gave strength to the Black Rastas by successfully distributing hundreds of tons of ganja to the USA. I found an article I wrote in 1986 when Brother Niah Keith passed. I share some of it here.

VISIT TO THE COPTICS      “In the 70’s, when I used to write a lot of articles on ganja, and in favour of its legalisation, one of my articles was re-published in the widely distributed Coptic Times. I felt it was time to find out who these people were, and whether they were truly defending – as they claimed – the principles of Marcus Garvey as well as the legalisation of ganja. So I went to see them at their farm in St. Thomas, and ultimately to visit them at their Star Island home in Miami. copticsWhat I found surprised me at first, but then I realised that Coptic was a perfectly genuine and legitimate expression of Rasta – a movement of which I was then an active promoter – and one which attempted to realise the dream of Rasta/Black African aspirations in Jamaica, of a nation whose economy is based on reaping the wealth to be earned from ganja.

The group’s white leader was Thomas Reilly, also known as Brother Louv, while the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church in Jamaica was led by Everton Shand, chief elder, and spiritual leader Brother Niah Keith Gordon. The Coptics promoted the teachings of Marcus Garvey and said that they used cannabis as the Rastafari sacrament. “ Among their beliefs is that cannabis is the plant consistently referred to in the Bible—from the burning bush to daily bread—and that smoking it several times a day during prayer is vital to one’s connection with God. They also believe that in smoking the sacred herb, people grew to understand the nature of God in themselves and each other, a prerequisite to making this world a better place for everyone. (Wikipedia)

niah keith

Niah Keith Gordon

Brother Louv

Brother Louv

COPTIC BUSINESS         They published a free newspaper COPTIC TIMES with a circulation of 25,000 promoting Garveyism and the decriminalization of marijuana; they operated a fleet of trucks as Coptic Container Co. and also a large Kingston supermarket. Another article on the net informed that:

By the mid-1970s the Coptics, with the help of funds raised by the Brotherhood, owned large tracts in Jamaica and had over a thousand locals working with them, raising organic fruit and vegetables, cattle, working irrigation and forestry projects. They had a container company, a trucking firm and an auto-parts company. And they weren’t done growing. By 1975 they were flourishing enough to buy a compound on exclusive Star Island off Miami Beach for communal use by church members. farm

Carl Olsen says it was a very good scene. “What I saw in Jamaica with the Coptics was better than anything else going on in the world that I could see. I thought the world would be a better place if everyone lived like that. I really did.”

And by 1980, according to Brian Tranmer, who was raised in Jamaica, and recently finished serving more than 13-years on the bust his father James Tranmer was later charged with conspiracy in, the Coptics were the largest land owners in Jamaica, and were supporting nearly 10,000 locals in an otherwise impoverished area.

children260 MINUTES SCANDAL   But the Coptics actions were not approved by all. Their blatant ganja use and advocacy brought the attention of the US government and media. CBS 60 Minutes Reporter Dan Rather did an expose on the Coptics which not only showed footage of the farm and an interview with Brother Louv, but contained shocking footage of young white children smoking ganja, as all their Coptic parents did — a big mistake, in my opinion.

The outrage led to serious crackdowns on the Coptics. In 1979 the group was accused, tried, and convicted of smuggling massive amounts of potent cannabis from Jamaica to Miami in actions that kept the Jamaican economy afloat that decade. The most serious sentence of 35 years was given to James Tranmer. Tranmer refused to apologize for his herb smuggling. More than that, on being sentenced, he is reported to have said during an impassioned speech on the value of marijuana as a sacrament: “I’m an herb man. I’ve always been an herb man for more than 30-years. The herb is a sacrament: ganja is my sacrament…America is a sick nation spiritually…you cannot win this fight against marijuana. If you fight against the herb, you fight against creation.” And then, as if goading the sentencing judge, he added, “I will take anything you give me for ganja. You can’t take ganja away from the people. Ganja is what is given by God for the people and you can’t take that away from them.”

ganjaSEAGA CONSIDERS LEGALIZATION In an article in the Montreal Gazette 1980: Christopher Dickey of the Washington Post reported the opinion of newly elected Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga about the ganja trade. The article on Jamaica begins:Where there’s dope, there’s hope. The island’s marijuana trade is vast, vital and illegal and also worth US$1.1 billion per year. While the world watched this year and wondered if the troubled island’s economy might go up in smoke, the people here came to realize that smoke – specifically ganja smoke – was all that kept the economy going.

Seaga: “The ganja trade in the past several months was virtually all that was keeping the economy alive. It supplied black market Dollars which were then used by …. persons in the economy who wanted to import raw materials for which they could not get Bank of Jamaica dollars. … The question of legalizing it so as to bring the flow of several hundred million dollars as part of our foreign exchange… is not just an economic one, but a moral one. But I believe if you are going to analyze Jamaica’s problems in any depth … you are going to run into the fact that this huge traffic is going on and I’m going to have to say it’s keeping us alive. How else do we get kept alive?”

Regardless whether we want it or not, the industry is here to stay. It is just not possible for it to be wiped out and we have to make up our minds how best to deal with it. There is a bigger moral problem, that is the bribery that runs with the illicit traffic. And at leasst two cases we know of gun trafficking that has been associated with it.” In 1980 guns and cocaine were not closely linked with the ganja trade. Historians see Seaga’s veiled threat as the reason for the USA’s consequent help to his administration. lands

HISTORY OF THE ETHIOPIAN ZION COPTIC CHURCH (Excerpt)  By Walter Wells, Spiritual Leader, Servant of Goud ……We finally settled at Coptic Heights, St. Thomas, once more in the East, for the final battle with modern Pharaoh. With more land space, we were able to expand our resources and make sounder planning. We were able to establish a fully accredited farming institution: – The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church Farms Eternal Limited, compromising over one thousand acres of land fully cultivated and pastured. On this farm we cultivate, vegetables, ground provisions, fruits, peanuts, escallion, thyme, onions, peas, melons, pumpkins, okras, bananas, sugar cane. There is also over one thousand head of beef and dairy cattle, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, mules and over two thousand head of poultry. A native lumber industry is also operated by cutting wood from the trees on the farm and sometimes buying from outside supplies. Coal is burned for the trade, and a stone quarry is operated. We were also able to establish a trucking department which, along with the produce of the farm, assists the brethren in their everyday needs. Today, as we look back at our past journey, and of a vast experiment of six thousand years, which are now coming to a close, the achievement that we have made, we now know that these could not be achieved by black alone, or white alone, yet by a united people, fulfilling the Mysteries of Goud in those who fear him and keep his commandments.

Coptic Tabernacle, White Horses, St Thomas

Coptic Tabernacle, White Horses, St Thomas

NATURAL MYSTIC BLOWING        Will the Coptic dream of legal ganja be realized to finance a Jamaica where farms and industries like these flourish all over the island? Who knows. That is not my battle anymore. But one battle of the Coptics that is definitely mine, is their advocacy that the teachings of Garvey can be used as the foundation for a new Jamaica of true independence. A new mystic is blowing in Jamaica, and Niah Keith and the Coptics are part of that storm. I wonder what the remaining Coptics would think of what is happening now, as dreams of 40 years ago are becoming reality. Their story would make a great film.

MELKAM FASIKA! A HOLY EASTER TO ALL!

SOURCES: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethiopian_Zion_Coptic_Church http://weedpress.wordpress.com/current-events/interesting-2010-stories/james-tranmer-and-the-ethiopian-zion-coptic-church/ http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2205&dat=19810602&id=GNEmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ygIGAAAAIBAJ&pg=1290,1769928 http://www.moonjamaica.com/content/ethiopian-zion-coptic-church Transcript of Dan Rather CBS programme: https://www.erowid.org/plants/cannabis/cannabis_spirit3.shtml 1986 barbara blake hannah http://textfiles.com/occult/ROSICRUCIAN/gordon.txt

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Cayman Break

 

IMG-20140411-01580TAKING A BREAK    I’ve been in Grand Cayman for the past few days, taking a well-deserved break from Jamaica’s problems.  It’s my first visit, invited as part of a team of entertainers and media for the 2014 Cayman Spring Splash presented by Youngblood Productions, and I’ve had an eye-opening look at the surprising contrasts between this Caribbean nation and my home Jamaica.

The Cayman Islands used to be a dependency of Jamaica, governed as another part of our British colonial system. However, at Independence, the Cayman Islands chose to remain as a British colony and still retains that status. Cayman also enjoys tax free status, hence the higher standard of living of all, but I still wonder how Cayman is so much more advanced in simple ways that Jamaica should be. People obey the speed limit, stash their garbage, and mostly live without fear of petty crime. There are few fences, actual or social, and Jamaica’s reggae music plays continually from radio stations and relaxation spaces everywhere.

IMG-20140406-01474Little touches show the difference. Take for instance, the Cayman policy that preserves their native turtles. Jamaica’s turtle population died out when development came to our beaches and turtle nests were raided for eggs by beach boys to sell to tourists. When baby turtles hatched and turned instinctively towards the light, they headed towards the lights of the hotels on the beach, while any survivors that grew large enough soon became lampshades, belts and other tortoise shell ornaments.

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Columbus landing marker

In Cayman hotels must by law turn off their lights at night during turtle hatching season. Turtle shell ornaments are illegal and turtles are a tourist attraction, so the natural sea life is preserved. I saw more fish in the sea in Cayman than I have ever seen in Jamaican waters and the abundant sea life is part of the island’s attractions. Another impressive fact is that few hotels are all-inclusive, so restaurants and entertainment spots off property are well supported as part of the tourism product.

IMG-20140411-01572Among the magnificent mansions that line the main roads, there is always pride of place for the original wooden Cayman houses with pastel paint and gingerbread trim that have been there for up to 100 years, maintained as part of the nation’s beauty. The sight made me think what Spanish Town or Port Antonio could look like with the same thoughtfulness and pride! Roads are well maintained, no potholes. At one spot being dug up for a new road I saw why: the asphalt is 6 inches thick, not just a thin black ‘icing’ spread over marl.

On board 'Keepin It Reel' with Big John of Slackem Charters

On board ‘Keepin It Reel’ with Big John of Slackem Charters

Cayman is truly a tourism island with an emphasis on water sports. Spending a day on board a super deep sea fishing yacht anchored off a sand bar so we could swim with the stingrays, seeing a young child pick up starfish from the sea floor, admiring a beautiful conch shell I found on the beach, all made me realize how much Cayman life is tied to the sea. There are many accessible and free beaches all around the island and sea craft of all kinds are everywhere.

camana bayThere was a lot that impressed me in Cayman. But most impressive of all was the Camana Bay development – a visionary new city created by US Billionare Ken Dart that surpasses any I have seen anywhere in the world. Think upscale Palm Beach mixed with Fifth Avenue, Manhattan in a setting rivaling the beauty of Jamaica’s North Coast, and you will have Camana Bay.

IMG-20140408-01562My first sight was at night, as the concert was held on the grassy Camana Bay entertainment field with its own helicopter pad beside the man-made lagoon and marina. Beautiful by night with the buildings lit up, it was even more beautiful when I visited by day, first by deep-sea fishing yacht to pick up a passenger at the marina, then the following day on foot to explore its many spaces.

IMG-20140408-01560Ground floor shops, offices and restaurants have balcony apartments on top with a 2nd floor swimming pool overlooking the marina. Fountains spurt in strategic corners, streams flow beside walkways, flowering vines flow down the sides of buildings and you can recharge your electric car in the basement parking lot. A great deal of innovative design has gone into making Camana Bay a spectacular 21st Century city with artistic touches everywhere and a cultural programme that attracts residents and visitors. The open spaces on land invite relaxation, while the lagoon and marina give Camana Bay a water-based option for fun.

Childrens art exhibition

Childrens art exhibition

The Dart family earned their fortune by inventing and manufacturing the foam plastic cups we all use.  Ken Dart has invested some of his financial resources in Grand Cayman, with Camana Bay being just one of his several major projects that include a massive new hotel. Before Camana Bay construction started, Dart created nurseries growing the trees and plants that would eventually be needed, thus, he can plant a highway of flowering trees to beautify the meridian of a new highway passing his new hotel. If only Jamaica had such a developer!  It’s the kind of place everyone would wish to live.

acaymanIt was a pleasure to see the relaxed prosperity of this small Caribbean nation, such a contrast to the fear and economic uncertainty of Jamaica today. I truly enjoyed my short break from ‘reality’ and definitely plan to return.

maskel2EOTC TROUBLES       When Marxist dictator Mengistu took power in Ethiopia, he broke the Canon Law of the EOTC by removing the sitting Patriarch (the EOTC equivalent of a Pope) and appointing a new one. The Archbishop of the Western Hemisphere, beloved Abuna Yesehaq, objected to the breaking of the Canon Law and ‘removed’ himself AND the members of the EOTC Churches he had established in the West from the governorship of the Head Office. The faithful members, especially of the Jamaican and Bronx churches, sided with and supported Abuna Yesehaq’s stand and continued operating without the official sanction of the EOTC in Ethiopia. However, some Jamaican priests did not agree with the Archbishop’s action and established another venue where they have held EOTC communion services since then.

The controversial Patriarch died recently, having been predeceased by Abuna Yesehaq (who is buried at Maxfield Avenue), and a new Patriarch has been appointed. Now the head office of the Church in Ethiopia has sought to bring the Jamaican church into the fold again and has appointed Jamaican EOTC priests who did not agree with Archbishop Yesehaq’s actions, to take over the Maxfield Avenue building and operations of the church in Jamaica. Despite a Jamaican court case that ruled that the present administrators should hand over the church property to those appointed by the Head Office, this was opposed by some Church members leading to recent activity at Maxfield Avenue, where keys to the office and church documents were siezed under Police supervision and belongings of residents of the care home on the premises put outside (though later replaced until the end of Lent). The change has been inevitable, but not easy for the Maxfield Avenue faithful.

howellPINNACLE          There is uncertainty about the status of  Pinnacle and also the OCCUPY PINNACLE movement.  The Government has approved the allocation of the original 5 lots which will be under the control of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, on the board of which still sits one of the Pinnacle real estate developers. There is as yet no notification or plan of how these lots will be developed or by whom.  On the other side, a major issue is how to find a solution to the question of WHO are actually the authorized and accepted leaders of the Rastafari movement in Jamaica and therefore qualified to represent RASTA in any or all the necessary forums.

Meanwhile, the Howell Family continues their legal battle to reclaim the entire Pinnacle Property once owned by their father Leonard Howell, and fund-raising continues for the ongoing campaign.

ganjaGANJA REFORM       The Government has clearly already set in place the actions and people necessary to enable the legalization and/or decriminalization of ganja. However,  I continue to insist that the first action should be the wiping of the records of all those convicted for personal use. It should not be difficult to identify and clear the records of those to  benefit, as the Police have  the information  and an efficient computerized service. It doesn’t seem to be on the agenda, so let me say:  WIPE THE RECORDS!!!  CORRECT THE PAIN BEFORE YOU BANK THE GAIN!!!

emperor 3

 BLESSINGS & LOVE

 

Through RGG Specs RASTAFARI REPARATIONS        The topic this week is Reparations, about which I am famously (and infamously!) known for having written “Forgive Slavery, Forget Reparations” – a 2006 article that gained me not only further notoriety, but my first death threats. I had begun my article with the firm statement that the call for reparations was completely justified due to the horrors of the trans-Atlantic trade in Africans, their inhuman and brutal enslavement in the Americas and the free labour that developed and enriched Europe for 300 years. If ever there was a just cause, it was the need for a retribution – even perhaps revenge – for a most terrible act against humanity, it was for slavery. The call for Reparations is a basic principle of the Rastafari faith, whose principles I accept. JARM logo (2)

But, having taken up the Reparations banner from 2001 to 2007 in my effort to establish a Jamaica Reparations Movement (JaRM), the facts I encountered on both sides made me come to the conclusion of my article. I realize that, justified or not, getting governments and citizens of the European countries named to agree to and implement justified reparations, will be a long, drawn-out process that will only achieve further enmity between the two opposing sides and, worst of all, focus our attention on hoping that reparations will finance Rastafari’s true aim – the rehabilitation of Africa. Focusing on rebuilding the future was the advice Emperor Haile Selassie I gave to the people of Ethiopia after the Italian war.

I tend to follow the Emperor’s example in all things. emperor b&WIn addition, seeing the matter from the perspective of the Emperor’s life example, I come face to face with the Christ he worshipped, Iyesos Krystos, who advised that we should forgive our enemies, love those that hate us and seek to live in peace with all. A high and noble ideal, I agree, but one worth aspiring to. So I said, let us be the generous spirits in this matter and forgive those who enslaved us, seek friendships and partnerships with those who recognize their ancestral guilt and who desire to compensate us in a spirit of human love. This would give I&I a powerful step up on which to stand for further negotiations.

shango baku

Ras Shango Baku

OTHER VIEWS SURFACE      I have taken a lot of heat over my opinions, so it is good to read other views on Reparations now being expressed in Rastafari circles since the Caribbean nations joined to present a united claim. The matter is not as clear cut, nor unified, as it seems. Ras Shango Bako, a UK-based Rastafari author and philosopher, feels the current proposals – including those from Rastafari organizations in the region– do not go far enough and, citing the need for a common call for reparations from the very countries in which Rastafari was born and live, says reparations should begin first at home in the Caribbean. 

What we do have in common is a legacy of inhuman oppression by Caribbean governments – tantamount to torture and genocide in more extreme cases such as Coral Gardens (Jamaica), Dread Act (Dominica)]; social disenfranchisement, harassment, discrimination, ostracism and outcast status in others. That common legacy is a brief encapsulation of the worst aspects of chattel slavery, such as incidents in Guyana (1980s) where Rastafari in Canvas City were ‘hog-tied’ to moving vehicles and dragged through the streets by law enforcement officers.

slave saleThese and other heinous crimes against humanity need to be catalogued, listed and  publicized alongside the meritorious achievements of our first and second generations in the islands. Our collective history needs to be written and ‘re-membered’; firstly to substantiate our overwhelming case for local reparations; secondly to reinforce our initial demand for repatriation, and thirdly to shame those ruling regimes who have now climbed on our backs to beg for reparatory justice that is rightfully ours in the first place. Slavery reparations can be effectively viewed through the lens of Rastafari history.

Otherwise it becomes a hugely complex historical issue with little tangible bearing on the present. Our continuity in upholding and manifesting African culture, lore, spirituality and culture in the West is the unbroken thread that gives meaning to the issue of reparations from that time right through till the present. From this common position there can be no blur in the debate. As Marcus said, a people with- out knowledge (or memory) of themselves is as a tree without roots.”

bongowisely

Bongo Wisely Tafari

Bogo Wisely Tafari of the Caribbean Rastafari Organization (CRO), writing from Barbados after the meeting of the Caricom Reparations Commission, urges Rastafari to put the call for REPATRIATION as primary before the call for REPARATIONS.

The two issues cannot and must not be separated. Repatriation – The right of return is anchored in several bodies of international law; eg. the law of nationality as applied upon state succession; humanitarian law; human rights law and refugee law. The right of return has also been affirmed in numerous UN resolutions relating to other refugee cases and in domestic law. Rastafari embraces Repatriation as an aspect of Reparations as specified in section (iv) Article 158 of the UN’s DURBAN Declaration and Plan of Action…

Regionally the Caribbean Rastafari Organization (CRO) has written to the Caricom secretariat seeking assistance in formulating and implementing such a Repatriation Census in all the islands. Seeking for Repatriation should not deflect from the major objective of Reparations. However Rastafari needs to come up with a comprehensive sustainable development plan for settlement in Afrika which will be accepted and embraced by the AU and the various Afrikan leaders.

rebel-salute-650pxgirls2REPARATIONS FOR WHO?                    Who will benefit from Reparations, should Jamaica succeed in persuading any European countries to repair the debt and Caribbean nations agree on how to divide up the reparations between each country? Who are the ‘descendants of slavery’ who will benefit from Jamaican Reparations? Remember, Rasta is not the only Jamaica. There is another Jamaica also.

pinnacle flagPINNACLE                             The OCCUPY PINNACLE movement continues to attract support, physically and financially. Controversy has arisen, however, about lack of adherence to traditional Rastafari principles on the site, activities that would not normally take place around a Nyahbinghi Altar, the physical dress of females, etc. One issue concerns the banner flying on the Nyabinghi Tabernacle, which is not the approved Ethiopian flag of Rastafari, but the one that Howell flew with the Red on top and the Green below. Donisha Prendergast and her OCCUPY PINNACLE team from the Rastafari Youth Initiative Council are seen by some as establishing a new Rastafari Mansion with its own objectives and behaviours, as they challenge long-held principles of the movement while they boldly and bravely take possession of the land in Rastafari and Howell’s name.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has not yet replied, as she should already have done, to the questions on Pinnacle asked in Parliament by former Minister of Culture Olivia Grange. Perhaps she will answer them this coming Tuesday. We wait to hear. Visit the FaceBook page, as I do, if you wish to be informed about OCCUPY PINNACLE developments. I, and the Rastafari nation at home and abroad, continue to follow the story.  

monk 1ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX LENT continues. Egzhio O Marene Krystos.

RASTAFARI LIVES

 Through RGG SpecsRASTAFARI LIVES     Read an excellent column this week in the OBSERVER by Everton Pryce, in which he urges his fellow middle-class Jamaicans to face up to the fact that Rastafari is here to stay, an integral and immovable part of the Jamaican landscape, social structure and population. Noting the movement’s growth and progression from scorned to RASpected, he states that “…. we have witnessed over these many decades where the Rastafarian movement has remained the clearest expression of native wisdom in the creation of our own destiny and the demonstration of the innate structures of sophisticated thought that reside among the real people in the land. Indeed, money matters in these hostile economic times, but Jah — like God, Mohammed, etc – lives!”

EVERTON-PRYCE-new

Everton Pryce

Citing Rastafari’s growth from mountain hermit to university scholars, he continues: “In any event, the movement’s ideological fractiousness notwithstanding, it is doubtful whether we can refer to it any longer as a predominantly “Jamaican poor people protest social movement”. Many of today’s Rastas command wealth and star status; and there are more ‘baldhead’ committed Rastas now than ever before.” So true!

With this mounting body of evidence of the unique affection carried by many thousands of Jamaicans at home and abroad — and an even greater number of global citizens — for the Rastafarian movement, what weight is a Jamaican Government in the 21st Century willing to place on such loyalties to Jah, Ethiopia and to Haile Selassie in particular? …Are thorough-going orthodox Christian Cabinet ministers willing to facilitate the accommodation of the brethren and sistren, once and for all, over those issues of lingering concerns to the movement?” (Such as Coral Gardens, Pinnacle, Back-O-Wall, and repealing the ganja ‘records’?)

mottoPryce concludes: “ … The issue really boils down to one of tolerance, and we should not wait until the wrath of the Rastafarians surfaces again to seriously put into practice the message of our national motto. Jah lives! And there is nothing we can do to stop this.”  READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jah-Rastafari-lives—but-the-tension-remains_16205127

WHGFA

Ras Miguel Lorne, Ras Iyah V

WESTMORELAND HEMP & GANJA FARMERS ASSOCIATION FORMED     News this week of formation of a group of Rastafari ganja farmers from Westmoreland, the part of Jamaica long famous for growing the sweetest ganja. Led by Ras Iyah V – one of the stalwarts, leaders and Elders of the movement — and Rasta lawyer Miguel Lorne (who pops up everywhere these days), they made some strong statements at the Negril launch. According to the GLEANER report:

Members of the newly formed Westmoreland Hemp and Ganja Farmers’ Association (WHGFA) say the official licence to grow and sell marijuana, upon legalisation, should be restricted to members of the Rastafari faith and lower socio-economic groups, who have been victimised for decades for cultivating the herb.

WHGFA2“We will not stand by and watch anybody outside of Rastafari and grass-roots people take over this product. And we make no apology,” association President Ras Iyah V declared during his address at the launch of the organisation at the MXIII Lawn in Negril on Sunday night.  “We are saying this loud and clear to the Government, we are saying it to society, and we are saying it to the international community. Otherwise, we will take to the streets and turn Jamaica upside down – and we make no apology,” he said. “Because we not going take baton lick and brutality and all of a sudden now when the legalisation aspect come, a some rich people come tek it ova – people who used to scoff and scorn at the very mention of the herb name ganja,” he added.

“The WHGFA’s objectives are to make sure that those who have paid the price – who have been going to jail, going to prison, getting the baton licks, who have been planting the herb and it get cut down by police and soldiers, and yet have been persistent with this product – that the rights of these individuals are protected.” READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20140315/western/western1.html#.UyRR-nVCyio.facebook

21ROYAL ORDER OF RASTAFARI?        A Rasta in Italy wrote me suggesting that Rastafari could claim itself a Nation just as members of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta do. According to Wikipedia, this group was founded in Jerusalem 1050 as a hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became a military order under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the Order operated from Rhodes (1310–1523), and later from Malta (1530–1798), over which it was sovereign.

black madonnaAlthough this state came to an end with the ejection of the Order from Malta by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Order as such survived. It retains its claims of sovereignty under international law and has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations. The order is notable for issuing its own international passports for travel, postal stamps, along with its formal insignia, often portrayed as a white or gold Maltese cross. The order nominally invokes the Blessed Virgin Mary under the venerated Marian title of “Our Lady of Mount Philermos” as its patroness and spiritual intercessor. Today the order has about 13,000 members; 80,000 permanent volunteers; and 20,000 medical personnel including doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics in more than 120 countries to assist the elderly, handicapped, refugeed, children, homeless, those with terminal illness and also engaged to aid victims of natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts.

The ‘permanent observer status at the UN’ and ability to issue its own passport, stamps and insignia, lead me to invite discussion on the suggestion that Rastafari could qualify to identify similarly as a Nation, with similar benefits. It’s a thought, eh!

makedaWOMAN OF DISTINCTION       Those who know the US reggae music scene know of Makeda Dread Cheatam, also called Makeda Makossa-– the legendary Rastawoman who has for 30 years hosted the best annual reggae show in San Diego– the California city that LOVES reggae. So it will come as no surprise that she has been voted one of the 25 Most Influential Women in San Diego’s history. Here’s what they had to say about Sister Makeda.

“Makeda Dread Cheatom founded the World Beat Cultural Center in Balboa Park in 1985 where she has preserved the history of African and Indigenous cultures. She later created the Adams Avenue Theatre and serves as a DJ for 92.5 FM and 91X FM. Inducted into San Diego County’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012, she was recognized for being a “bridge builder.”

Here’s what she had to say about the distinction: Wow I received this honor from the people of San Diego. This award is for my mother, a maid for many years for this town San Diego and for my father who shined the service men’s shoes downtown and for all the San Diegans that had to leave the city because it was too conservative and unjust. But most of all this award is dedicated to you my brothers and sisters who stood by me and believed in me. When I pass to the realm of the ancestors I’ll feel blessed to leave you one of the most dynamic cultural centers in the US and a tribute to all the reggae legends that always live within us. RastafarI. Ashe.

ja celebration

Jamaica celebration

TPDCo NEGLECTING ITS DUTY!        The Daily GLEANER Editorial said it, so I cannot be criticized for bringing this up. The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) is not doing its work of developing Jamaica’s tourism product. “It is inconceivable,” says the GLEANER, “that of the approximately J$616 million budgeted for projects for the 2013-2014 financial year, only JM$94 million has been spent, while more than J$350 million has been spent on TPDCo salaries. Salaries for what? According to TVJ’s Prime Time News report aired on March 12, 2014, only $4.6m of $39m; $3.7m of $101m, and $13m of $114 million was spent on TPDCo projects in Kingston, Montego Bay, and Negril, respectively. Those in charge have been receiving salaries under false pretences and seem only to have a bunch of excuses to offer to the Public.”

T-shirtI can’t agree more. Looking at the massive sums allocated for TPDCo to spend on making Jamica’s tourism more attractive and how little they have spent, I can only speak as one of the many event organizers dying for lack of support from government to develop interesting sustainable events to attract tourists. I am shocked to see that TPDCo had JA$500 million to spend in 2013 that was just sittng unclaimed in its bank account, while projects like the Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival searched unsuccessfully for financial support to provide the international promotion to position the event as another major summer event and a development of the tourism ‘product’.

OCCUPY 2pinnacle 3THURSDAY LUNCH CLUB AT PINNACLE                 As the Pinnacle development continues to attract interest and supporters, a Thursday Lunch Club has been happening for the past 3 weeks that follows a tradition started by Mr. Howell for speakers and cultural persons to interact with the community. Visitors, local and foreign, authors, film makers and other media expand the experience. Here are some pics.

Meanwhile, the individual posting on FaceBook under the title of ‘the Rastafari Millenium Council’ should seek unity with the OCCUPY PINNACLE movement which is doing good for Rastafari, despite all of I&I previous mistakes, blunders and errors of action, inaction and ego that have brought so much disunity and lack of achievement to the movement’s progress.

Donisha Prendergast is a brave youth with the warrior spirit of Nanny. May JAH continue to grant her the strength and wisdom to continue her blessed work.

home1All is done by the inspiration, example, guidance and BLESSING of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I.  PRAISE H.I.M.

 

Pinnacle – the Occupation

cropped-through-rgg-specs.jpgOCCUPY PINNACLE is a reality. A growing, loyal and committed band of Rastafari SoulJAHs have settled into Pinnacle, clearing the land so as to discover the remains of Leonard Howell’s historic settlement and the thousands of people who helped him establish Jamaica’s first indigenous self-development community using Rastafari principles and livity. So far they have discovered remains of dwellings, a bakery, wells and numerous artefacts which will become the foundation of the proposed Pinnacle Museum.

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Clearing land for planting

Donisha Prendergast continues to inspire the activism that has made Occupy Pinnacle the most important happening in Jamaica today and her team of young Rastafari show a determination and a confidence that encourages support . Now identified and acknowledged as the place where the First Rasta developed the First Rasta Village, Pinnacle has brought about a unification of Rastafari of all Mansions, and all nations. Support has come through social media from Rastafari around the world, including some notable supporters such as Nandor Tanckzos – the Rasta who made history as a Green Party member of the New Zealand Parliament.

1st Pinnacle Meeting - PM, Lisa Hanna, Dahlia Harris.

1st Pinnacle Meeting – PM, Lisa Hanna, Dahlia Harris.

The elephant in the Pinnacle room is, of course, the presence of the Minister of Culture in the dual role of head of the department and agencies under which Rastafari matters are handled, and as the common-law wife of the man who is presently selling and developing the land at Pinnacle. It is hard for Rastafari to negotiate with the Government while this anomaly exists, as the Prime Minister is fiercely protective of Lisa Hanna – the young fledgling under her political wing whom some say is being groomed as a future Prime Minister. Her ‘husband’ Richard Lake’s Island Homes can show title to his ownership of the land he legally purchased some 30 years ago and he has stated (through his lady partner’s comments on TV) that Rastas can purchase from him if they want land at Pinnacle.

Visitors

Visitors

A search is underway through the land titles records to track the ownership of the land after Howell’s purchase in 1935, as it is know that he lived on Pinnacle until finally being driven off in 1954. After the repeated raids by police under orders from the colonial and own own indigenous governments, nothing remains of Howell’s records of purchase except the oral accounts of those who lived there – many of whom still remain. One incontestable fact is that several bodies were buried there, showing proof of ownership as bodies can only be buried on owned land. What will happen to Mr. Lake’s purchase and title, if it can be shown that transactions since Howell have been illegal, unjust and corrupt?

i-octane I- OCTANE LAUNCHES NEW RASTA ALBUM    I Octane launched his new Album “My Journey” this week, and it is a great new Rasta album. I call it a ‘Rasta album’ because of the sentiments expressed in the tracks, with his hits like “Love You Like I Do“, new tracks such as ‘Babylon’, “Jah Jah Warrior”, “I Will Be There”  and collaborations with Gentleman, Alaine and KyMani Marley. My favourite track and one which I’m sure will become one of the first hit singles, is “Mama”, a loving, emotional tribute to his mother. “A street-side Mama sell to raise me, and she neva bring in a stepfada” was his joyful adoration of his mother, whom he brought onstage at the launch to serenade her personally. I-Octane says the album “… has served as a therapeutic way for me to voice not only the blessings, but the frustrations as well. My goal is to find ways that you, as the listener, can share in my experiences and use it to help you on your journey.” It’s a journey well worth taking, with danceable music that is a listening pleasure.  Rastafari sign and seal, Red, Gold and Green, You will know that I am Selassie Warrior.

Green & Gold on the Red Carpet

Black, Green & Gold on the Red Carpet

BLACK GOLD!!!    The Lupita Oscars are finally over and her fans can breathe sighs of relief to see her clutching that little gold man, the symbol of the highest excellence in the Hollywood film industry. Lupita Nyong’o, the unknown actress, whose  role in ’12 Years A Slave” –the equally-awarded Best Film of 2014 – brought her to global attention and the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, became an icon when her stunning Black Beauty was showcased in a series of glamorous Red Carpet gowns from leading designers that highlighted the deep chocolate colour of her skin, embellished by a simple natural hairstyle and modest make-up that were a complete contrast to the usual crop of starlets who decorate the Awards events. After a very long absence, the phrase ‘Black is Beautiful” was once again on everyone’s lips and social media pages.

Who would have thought that in all the welcome attention to Lupita for being not only a good enough actress to have been nominated for an Oscar, but also an educated woman raised by educated African parents, whose grace and modest composure added yet another layer to her star status, there would be outrage from a vocal section of the public protesting the very things that gained Lupita her fame. lupita 3

Believe it or not, there were some who objected to all the attention being given to Lupita’s skin colour, hairstyle and facial beauty, not to mention her Yale University education, her Professor father and charity executive mother. They criticized the world media for ‘just noticing that Black is beautiful’ and urged them to cease and desist, since they knew it all the time and didn’t need others pointing it out. Their anger was directed especially at the white media, whose attention to and adoration of Lupita’s Black beauty and style assured that the wider public knew who was the little black girl competing against well-known blonde, white nominees for the prestigious award.

Thankfully, their bitterness did nothing to deter Lupita’s ascendancy and eventual Oscar win. Just goes to show how true is the old adage: You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please ALL of the people ALL of the time. RISE ON, Lupita!!!

Photo: Eve Crane

Photo: Eve Crane

FEEDBACK     My story about the documentary on the Chicago 10 anti-Vietnam War demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic convention, brought an interesting response from a reader, Stephen Smith, who shared some photos and the following comments: I have pictures that where taken by historical photographer Eve Crane of the inside of the Democratic convention as the riots occurred outside. She was also involved in photographing the Black Panther Party … She took pictures of Bobby Seal with James Baldwin when Bobby was in jail sitting across the table from one another…pictures of Huey Newton as he talked with his lawyer while on trial in Alameda. I know Eve personally and have represented her body of work on several occasions. I contacted The Huey P. Newton foundations shortly after I met Eve, as none of her photo’s had very been published. David Hilliard contacted me and thus began a long friendship between all of us.

Bobby Seale Photo: Eve Crane

Bobby Seale
Photo: Eve Crane

I must mention the Black Panther Party support of the gay rights movement in the late 60’s. Not many realize that the first convention on gay rights in New York shortly after Stone Wall utilized the BPP 10 point program as their base “What We Want & When Do We Want It”. The convention added 6 more points to the program and adopted them as the frame work for what we all know now is the LGBT rights movement. There are audio tapes of Huey talking about the inclusion not only of the Brown Panther Party (Hispanics), but also of the homosexuals, as they too where being suppressed. It also serves to let the public understand that while the BPP was a Black organization it was inclusive of many different types of people & the main message was that oppression & suppression of any group or class of people was worth fighting for(Power to All the People).

The Black Panther Party morphed after Huey’s death and the foundation was started. The historical records & archives of the BPP are located at Stanford University. The Huey P. Newton Foundation made me an honorary member of the BPP in 2012 for my work in trying to correct the misconception & misinformation that was generated about the party at the time, and I could be any more humbled by the honor. I thought I would share this with you as seem to enjoy the movie so much to write about it.”  Thanks for sharing Steve!

Blessings to all Ethiopian Orthodox CHRISTians observing the Lenten Fast.

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Egzhio O Mahrene Krystos! Egzhiabher Ymassagan! 

Of Ports, Pinnacle & Paradise

Little-Goat-Island--A-SCOAL INSTEAD OF CORALS     This week brought the shocking news that the proposed mega-port logistics hub to be build by Chinese company CHEC will include a coal-fired electricity generating plant. If the news of the total destruction of the land, fish sanctuaries and coral reefs is not enough, Jamaican citizens will experience the smoke, ash and waste products from the world’s worst fossil fuel. With all the sunshine and land available, I wonder whether China could not have been persuaded to use some of its millions of surplus solar panels to construct a solar power plant for the controversial project. I wonder too if the proposed ‘Chinatown” city for the project’s Chinese staff will also be powered by this plant.

The smoke rising from the coal furnaces will either blow east to Kingston, west to St. Catherine or directly up to the Sligoville hills, and Pinnacle. It all does not look good to me. But clearly the people elected to rule Jamaica feel certain that in years to come Jamaica will be happy with this mega-project, with prosperous jobs, a thriving economy, smiles on our faces and millions of Chinese tourists. I hope they are right, and that I am having delusions of a Jamaica wrecked by this enormous destruction of a major part of our island. Surely one day soon our beloved Prime Minister will have a face-to-face talk with us in which she will show us all the future she sees will come from our country’s current love affair with China. I am looking forward to that, hopefully soon.

Nathaniel Hibbert

Nathaniel Hibbert

ANOTHER RASTAFARI LEADER    Another of the Trinity of Rastafari’s founders, Nathaniel Hibbert, is rising from obscurity via social media. With Howell and Dunkley, Hibbert’s name is always called when the beginnings of Rastafari are explored.  Where was his ‘Pinnacle’ where he spread the Gospel of Rastafari? More is being uncovered about this great and brave leader.

Meanwhile, what next for Pinnacle? The first month of OCCUPY PINNACLE has passed without confrontation, while several Rastafari have been clearing the land, discovering the ruins of buildings and dwellings and actually occupying the land. While matters rest in the hands of the Ministry of Land and the team of 3 appointed by the Prime Minister to ‘look into’ Pinnacle matters, we are all waiting to hear what will come next from Donisha Prendergast and her team of youths leading the movement.

A post on the OCCUPY PINNACLE page details a 2006 proposal by the Nyabinghi Ancient Council for the development of the site as a National Heritage Site. Presented to then-PM Portia Simpson-Miller during her former administration, the proposal calls for:

  • A Worship Centre – an authentic Rastafari Tabernacle to be considered as a Rastafari holy grounds, where Rases from all over the world can pilgrimage and worship;
  • A Library where students and scholars can develop the art of Rastology;
  • A Museum to showcase historical artifacts and information about the Rastafari Movement; 
  • A Cultural Centre for performing arts and craft where musicians and artists can contribute and build their talents for a source of income;
  • A Holistic Centre for the study of herbal medicine and health care;
  • A Garden Park for organic farming and beautification.

The proposal states that the principal objectives of such a development would improve and keep up the standard of Livity in Rastafari culture throughout the Globe, and to bring more income from the tourist industry into the country.

pinnacle 2The Nyabinghi Order feels that as the Tabernacle already built on the site is the property of the Nyahbinghi Order, it would be good to continue under the leadership of the High Priest of the Nyahbinghi Order and the Ancient Council in order to uphold the tradition, balance and integrity that is needed to preserve the site within its development into a National Monument. This indeed could be a good place to begin.

Meanwhile, as Marley sings: “Me no know how we and dem a-go work it out.” This applies to the residents who built mansions on land they were sold as part of an upscale housing enclave, but who are now faced with the inevitability of Pinnacle becoming the Rastafari National Heritage center. Sadly, there’s no turning back on this development and come it will, hopefully only by peaceful and diplomtically-argued methods, rather than the confrontation towards which some seem headed. With the nation united that Pinnacle is part of Jamaican history and heritage, this should be an easy matter to resolve.

players_mobe_thALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE   I spent some time this Sabbath watching CHICAGO 10, a documentary on the trial of ten Americans who led the revolutionary demonstrations against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, USA. After seeing it, I would qualify it as the best documentary I have ever seen, a moving film that shows the steps, actions and effects of a modern urban revolution led by people passionately convinced that ‘Might cannot overcome Right’ and that only by their actions could their country’s leaders be persuaded to end an unjust and unwinnable war.

chicago 10Watching animated recreation of the courtroom drama, the defiant humour which which accused answered cross-examination, the shocking gagging and shackling of Black Panther leader Bobby Seal (the one Black defendant, whose demand to represent himself was disallowed by the stern, autocratic Judge Julius Hoffman), and the shocking actuality footage of unarmed young Americans being mercilessly beaten with batons and gassed by helmeted policemen armed with rifles as they gathered and marched to show their country’s leaders their demand for “Peace NOW!”, made clear the price paid by those brave enough to confront an entrenched system convinced its way is ‘Right”. It’s a high price to pay indeed, as the film showed, and it should be watched by all those impatient for ‘revolution’ as a means of change. But, as Bobby Seale says as he addresses a crowd after his successful appeal: “All power to the People’ who actively participate. 

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Paradise Jamaica

NEW FILM COMMISSIONER     And speaking of film, interviews are currently being conducted to find a new JAMPRO Film Commissioner. The last one, Rhodes Scholar and intrepid Antartic expeditioner Kim-Marie Spence departed late last year for further studies in Australia, leaving no explanation but a gap to be filled. Academic qualifications are sought by the HR Department of the Ministry of Industry, Business & Commerce under which Jamaican film production rests, though sadly the high academic qualification of the departed Commissioner showed that the experience of hands-on training and excellent international contacts don’t necessarily accompany a degree. The Government considers Film a business, not a creative art, and the role of the Film Commissioner is to attract major film business to Jamaica to hire local staff and resources, just like the Tourism Ministry attracts foreign hotel chains to hire local housekeeping and light managerial staff.

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Irish TV film crew

Most films come to Jamaica of their own accord, usually small documentary productions that pay JAMPRO US$300 for a permit to import their equipment to film their personal ‘Jamaica story’. The job of attracting productions to Jamaica has become difficult with the attractive tax benefits being offered by other island locations. But Jamaica has something the other’s don’t – an international reputation as a beautiful Paradise, home of a unique culture, music and people that everyone wants to experience and film makers want to share. So the US$300 films keep coming, justifying the existence of the JAMPRO Film Commissioner and the Customs Brokers who actually assist the film makers to bring their equipment in and out.

Wisdom suggests that Jamaica should tap resources in C.H.A.S.E.,TPDCo, the TEF, JIS and CPTC to finance some local film productions – not just feature films, but documentaries and a reality TV series or two. If only there was an agency interested in copying the Cuban Film Institute which does just that – financing the production of films by its great film makers and earning money by sales and distribution of them to make more.  Should I continue to dream on?

“Blessed be the Lord JAH, my strength, who teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight.” PSALM 144