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Rasta, or the Rastafari movement, is a religious movement that accepts Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, as King of Kings, Lord of Lords and the Lion of Judah as Jah (the Rastafari name for God, from a shortened form of Jehovah found in Psalm 68:4 in the King James Version of the Bible), and part of the Holy Trinity. The name Rastafari comes from Ras Täfäri, the pre-coronation name of Haile Selassie I. The movement emerged in Jamaica among working-class and peasant black people in the early 1930s, arising from an interpretation of Biblical prophecy, black social and political aspirations, and the teachings of their prophet, Jamaican black publicist and organiser Marcus Garvey, whose political and cultural vision helped inspire a new world view. The movement is sometimes called "Rastafarianism"; however, this is considered improper and offensive by Rastas.
The Rastafari movement has spread throughout much of the world, largely through immigration and interest generated by Nyahbinghi and reggae music—most notably, that of Bob Marley, who was baptised Berhane Selassie (Light of the Trinity) by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church before his death, a step also taken later by his widow Rita. By 2000, there were more than one million Rastafari worldwide. About five to ten percent of Jamaicans identify themselves as Rastafari. Most Rastafarians are vegetarian or only eat limited types of meat. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement [Feb 2006]
Rastafari and AfrocentrismFrom the early 1930s, Rastafari in Jamaica have developed a culture based on an Afrocentric reading of the Bible, on communal values, a strict vegetarian dietary code known as Ital, a distinctive dialect, and a ritual calendar devoted to, among other dates, the celebration of various Ethiopian holy days. Perhaps the most familiar feature of Rastafari culture is the growing and wearing of dreadlocks, uncombed and uncut hair which is allowed to knot and mat into distinctive locks. Rastafari regard the locks as both a sign of their African identity and a religious vow of their separation from the wider society they regard as Babylon . In the island of its birth, Rasta culture has also drawn upon distinctive African-Jamaican folk traditions which includes the development of a drumming style known as Nyabinghi . This term is similarly applied to the island-wide gatherings in which Rastafari brethren and sistren celebrate the important dates on an annual calendar. With the advent of reggae, this deeper "roots culture" has spread throughout the Caribbean, to North American and European metropolis such as London, New York, Amsterdam, Toronto, and Washington, D.C., as well as to the African continent itself. This more recent growth and spread of the movement has resulted from a variety of factors. These include the migration of West Indians (e.g., Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Antiguans) to North America and Europe in search of employment, the travel of reggae musicians, and the more recent travel of traditional Rastafari Elders outside Jamaica. At the same time, many African American and West Indian individuals who have become Rastafari outside Jamaica now make "pilgrimages" to Jamaica to attend the island-wide religious ceremonies known as Nyabinghi and to seek out the deeper "roots culture" of the movement. Despite the fact that Rastafari continue to be widely misunderstood and stigmatized outside Jamaica, the movement embraces a non-violent ethic of "peace and love" and pursues a disciplined code of religious principles. Since 1992 and the 100th anniversary of Haile Selassie's birth, the Rastafari settlement in Shashamane, Ethiopia (part of a land grant given to the black peoples of the West by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1955) has come to serve as a growing focal point for the movement's identification with Africa. --source: http://educate.si.edu/migrations/rasta/rasessay.html
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