Reggae As Social Change:The Spread of Rastafarianism

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Reggae As Social Change:The Spread of Rastafarianism Throughout its existence, Jamaica has experienced numerous revolutions, riots, and various forms of social unrest. From early resistance by escaped slaves to all-out fighting to end slavery altogether, not to mention riots in past years, Jamaica has been in a constant state of resistance. All these efforts to make a change have created a Jamaican religion called Rastafarianism, and with it comes a very powerful means of transporting its message: reggae music. These two forms of expression formed in the context of oppression, and in doing so they have contributed greatly to the ideologies, attitudes, beliefs, and actions of the people on the island. Rastafarianism is a religion based on social change, and reggae is the means of spreading these beliefs. For a new movement to effectively change the system that is in place, it must realize several goals. The movement must have a clear ideology that is supported by the general populace. The ideology of the Rastafarians has been put forth by leaders, such as Marcus Garvey, Leonard Howell, and Sam Brown. The movement must then succeed in organizing people to gather together in order to support the necessary changes. At this stage, there is most likely going to be resistance from the existing forces that want to maintain the status quo. Finally it is necessary to get people from other areas to support the cause. Only then is change possible. The message of Rastafarianism has been spread worldwide by reggae artists like Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, and many others. In Jamaica, Rastafarianism emerged as a native religion which addressed issues that affected the majority of the black population."It (black religion) has been equally concerned with the yearning of a despised and subjugated people for freedom -- freedom from the religious, economic, social, and political domination that whites have exercised over blacks since the beginning of the African slave trade."(1) Early leaders, like Marcus Garvey, stressed the importance of repatriation to Africa, and along with that idea, the importance of beating the slave mentality. Garvey wanted to resocialize the black man so he believed himself to be the equal of the white man, and that he could accomplish anything he wanted."Up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will."(2) Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born in the parish of St. Ann, in 1887. Garvey became a prominent leader in the fight for equality.

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