Jamaican Minister of Culture and Gender Affairs Olivia Granger has opened discussions with the Rastafari community in an effort to preserve its cultural heritage.
The talks, which began last Friday, are taking place at the Rastafari Studies Center at the University of the West Indies.
Granger sent out an invitation to the Rastafari community and initiated the talks after an act of arson destroyed a Rastafarian sacramental site, according to The Gleaner.
The impetus of the meeting was to discuss safeguarding Rastafari tradition and culture as it is incorporated within the U.N.'s mandate outlining Indigenous cultural rights. Such recognition encompasses the urgent need to preserve and protect cultural spaces and sacramental sites, Rastafari representatives said.
The U.N. has also dubbed 2015-2024 as being the International Decade for People of African Descent, which aims to advocate for the recognition, justice and development of people of African descent.
Other issues discussed included health care for elders, Rastafari entrepreneurship and host of other social needs. "I look forward to more meetings with all sectors of the Rastafari community," Grange said.
Members of the Rastafari community present at the meeting included: Dr Jahlani Niaah, director of the Rastafari Studies Centre; Sister Mitzie Williams, Nyabinghi Order; Ras Imo, Rastafari Business and Professional Association; Ras Iyah-V, Westmoreland Ganja Farmers Association; Ras Firstman, Rastafari Indigenous Village, Montego Bay; Ras Gairy Williams, House of Dread; Ras Marcus Goffe, Rastafari Youth Initiative; and representatives from the Rastafari Mansions.
Despite mainstream outlets that often depict reggae artists and Rastafaris as nothing more than dreadlocked, marijuana smokers, the precursor to both movements is Black liberation leader Marcus Garvey.
He advocated for African descendants across the diaspora to embark on a return — physical, spiritual, cultural and political — to their African roots via the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation. Established in 1919, the shipping line was envisioned by Garvey as a way to help Black people in the Americas return to their homeland and to boost the African global economy.
Garvey also established The Negro World publication which spread the message of freedom to Black people worldwide. The paper grew to a weekly circulation of 200,000 across the Americas, Africa and Europe.
Malcolm X praised the activist for his achievements. “Every time you see another nation on the African continent become independent you know that Marcus Garvey is alive,” he said, adding that “the freedom movement that is taking place right here in America today was initiated by the work and teachings of Marcus Garvey.”
The Namibian government will rename the main street of Windhoek, the country's capital, after Marcus Garvey.