Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Positive Vibrations: Reflections on the Inaugural Rastafari Studies Conference (Aug. 17-Aug. 20th)

So this post is related to the last in that I will be reflecting on the event, which spawned my early August departure from NY, which, in turn, led to my acute homesickness.

August 17, 2010 marked the beginning of the 4-day Inaugural Rastafari Studies Conference whose theme was 'Negotiating the African Presence: Rastafari Livity and Scholarship.'  Needless to say there was great historic symbolism behind the conference.  August 17th marked the 123rd birthday of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, founding father of the Rastafari Movement.  The year 2010 also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of "The Report of the Rastafari Movement in Kingston, Jamaica," as well as the 80th anniversary of the Rastafari Movement itself. Ah, a present in which history abounds!

Despite a recurrent issue with time and staying on schedule there were positive vibes throughout the four days.  Rasta elders and youth, many of whom would make the daily trek from nearby August Town to UWI- Mona campus where the conference was held, were in attendance.  It was especially nice to see the various Rasta families- mom, dad, and several small children.  Clearly the Rasta community in Jamaica and abroad (you had Rasta scholars and community leaders from places like Mexico, France, South Africa, the U.S., Antigua, and Martinique present at the conference) were committed to the aim of reasoning to come to a solid plan of action to ensure Rastafari's continuation throughout the 21st century and beyond.  The diversity among the conference attendees as well as the seriousness with which topics such as economic sustainability for the Rasta community in Jamaica, the role of Rasta women, and so on were discussed truly spoke to this notion that Rastafari is some sort of "play thing."  Graduate or not, I guarantee you everyone in attendance was educated- and extremely eloquent at that.  Don't mean to sound like the many white folk who so quickly use the A-word (articulate) to describe the world's most brilliant black men and women as if it's a surprise that we actually have active brains BUT I want to use this platform to counter the misconception of Rastafarian people as uneducated and lacking any real intellectual contribution to society.  In short, I was further humbled by the great minds and deep intellectual insight of the Rasta elders at the conference.

Here is a photo taken at the conference.  This one was taken by a woman named Joanna Francis. It is of Barry Chevannes, author of many books on Rastafari and professor at UWI, and Prof. Jalani Niahh, conference organizer and my faculty supervisor at UWI.

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