Imani Tafari-Ama | Rastafarian feminism as an analytical tool | On point
I saw or became aware of Rastafari in my early twenties, who provided a model of personal identity to counter the negative stereotypes of Africans present in Jamaican popular culture. Kissing Rastafarian resulted in a change in my appearance and also a name change as resistance to the enduring chaining of African identity to European nicknames. Once inside the Rastafarian life or way of life, I quickly realized that although I resisted the mainstream unconsciousness of society, society was pushing back with stereotypes and exclusions of race and class.
Within Rastafari, I was saddened by the creeping patriarchy in power relations between the sexes, which ran counter to the simultaneous coronation of Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen Afsaw, monarchs of Ethiopia in 1930. In an unprecedented gesture of gender equality, Empress Menen, who was a full royal, was crowned Queen of Queens, which provided a platform for the promotion of a Rastafari Womanist program. This event was seen as the fulfillment not only of a Bible prophecy, but also of a prophecy that Marcus Garvey allegedly made a few years earlier, that dispossessed Africans in the diaspora should “look to Africa where a black king will be crowned ”, because this event would mark their redemption.
To tackle the glaring gender inequalities in life, I started a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project 32 years ago to critically examine gender relations in Rastafari, which I produced for my master’s thesis “Contradictory Gender Relations: Historical Analysis of Grass-roots Resistance in Jamaica”. In this project, I approached the themes of ideology, sexuality, roles and image. In the process, I demonstrated the usefulness of Rastafari Womanism as a tool for analyzing the contradictions inherent in relations between Rastafari brothers and sisters, which stifled the sustainable development of life. In addition to the posts written in leading Rastafari readers, I have also created the documentary Gender Relations in Rastafari, which can be viewed on YouTube. This research has resulted in visible changes in gendered practices in life, including Sister Mitzie Williams as the head of the Millennium Council.
Rastafari idealizes Empress Menen Afsaw – Queen Omega in Haile Selassie’s portrayal of King Alpha – for the epic role she has played in the nearly four decades the royal couple have been in power. She promoted education as a way for women to leverage leadership roles in public and private spheres for empowerment. As a governance strategy, it ensured that policy and practice demonstrated a coherent gender and development sensitivity. Idealizing this example, Rastafarian Womanists agree with Patricia Hill Collins, who explains that by applying critical theory, feminists or black womanists should always have a soft spot for promoting a social justice agenda, which ” must both relate to the lived experiences of black women and aim to improve them. experiences in a way.
FEMINISM AGAINST FEMINISM
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker said, “Woman is to feminist what purple is to lavender” as a symbolic way to distinguish black women’s advocacy for liberation and equality of movements. white suffragists and feminists. Feminism therefore encompasses responses to the intersections of racial, class and gender oppressions that are inscribed on the black body (especially female) by institutions of socialization, resulting in the Jamaican proverb taken for granted, which asserts that “everything which is too dark nuh to go. ”The fact that this proverb is understandable to all ages, highlights the problem of the internalization of racism as one of the factors of oppression which acts as an obstacle to equality The feminism / feminism debate defines the diversity of places of domination. This highlights the need to develop plural ways of responding to the presence of patriarchy, which produces the problematic power conflicts that mar social relations not only Rastafarian, but globally.
The womanists suggest that the experiences of black women should be examined to determine the sites of their oppression. These experiences should also inform the resistance strategies they develop to remain able to play their daily roles. In order to navigate the minefield of differences that prevent generalizing about what constitutes women’s realities, it is also important to address the socially prescribed assumptions that Sojourner Truth spoke about in his epic speech “Ain’t I a Woman” in which she explained that the fight for gender equality was very different for black women than for white women. Indeed, their incarnation and location at the intersection of identity contradictions drew a battle line in the sand between privileged women and those who did not enjoy the benefits afforded by upper class status. Sojourner Truth also provided a roadmap for addressing the terms of woman and woman loaded with value. She demonstrated that her choice to be female was also influenced by the class / race-specific notions of white supremacy invested in female-building, which was designed to put European women on a pedestal while disparaging women. black.
By appropriating the pejorative designation of woman and creating the concept of feminism, black scholars and activists have imbued feminism with the depth of meanings connoted by Alice Walker’s crimson procedure. Conceptualizing their experiences as knowledge (epistemology) and providing safe spaces to say what they know, women of color have exercised their power and power over the meanings (ontology) to be attributed to their own lives and representations.
A Rastafarian woman perspective is therefore compatible with the processes of emancipation without which the mental liberation to which Marcus Garvey alluded will remain elusive. With this critical compass, on the other hand, it is possible to leverage indigenous knowledge to restore the epistemic authority of those whose knowledge has been rejected and undervalued for too long.
n Dr Imani Tafari-Ama is a researcher at the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Regional Coordination Office (IGDS-RCO), University of the West Indies. She is the author of ‘Blood, Bullets and Bodies: Sexual Politics Below Jamaica’s Poverty Line’ and ‘Up for Air: This Half Has Never Been Told’, a historical novel about the foray into Tivoli Gardens. Send your comments to [email protected]