I've been wearing my dreads since 1992, which turns out to be the 100 anniversary of Haile Selassie's birth. I grew my dreads much for identification with my african roots but because I was tired of combing what couldn't be combed and tired of cutting what I didn't want to be cut.
Can I ask you guys, why did you dread your hair and what do your dreads mean to you?
The African Diaspora,
Ethiopianism, and Rastafari
Diasporas invariably leave a trail of collective memory about other times and places. But while most displaced peoples frame these attachments with the aid of living memory and the continuity of cultural traditions, the memories of those in the African diaspora have been refracted through the prism of history to create new maps of desire and attachment. Historically, black peoples in the New World have traced memories of an African homeland through the trauma of slavery and through ideologies of struggle and resistance.
Ethiopianism and the Ideology of Nationhood
Arguably the most poignant of these discursive topographies is that of the Rastafari faith and culture. Like the Garvey Movement and other forms of pan-Africanism before it, the Rastafari fashion their vision of an ancestral homeland through a complex of ideas and symbols known as Ethiopianism, an ideology which has informed African-American concepts of nationhood, independence, and political uplift since the late 16th century. Derived from references in the Holy Bible to black people as 'Ethiopians', this discourse has been used to express the political, cultural, and spiritual aspirations of blacks in the Caribbean and North America for over three centuries. From the last quarter of the 18th century to the present, Ethiopianism has, at various times, provided the basis for a common sense of destiny and identification between African peoples in the North American colonies, the Caribbean, Europe, and the African continent.
While the present-day Rastafari Movement is undoubtedly the most conspicuous source of contemporary Ethiopianist identifications, the culture of Jah People obscures the wider historical range and scope of Ethiopianist ideas and identifications among African peoples in the Diaspora and on the continent. Names like Phyllis Wheatley, Bishop Richard Allen, Prince Hall, Denmark Vesey, Martin Delany, Casley Hayford, Frederick Douglass, Bishop Henry McNeil Turner, Albert Thorne, and Marcus Garvey all drew upon the powerful identification of this discourse to spread a message of secular and spiritual liberation of black peoples on the African continent and abroad. More so than any of his predecessors or contemporaries, however, it was Marcus Garvey--a Jamaican of proud Maroon heritage--who championed the cry of "Africa for the Africans, at home and abroad" and encouraged his followers in the biblical view that "every nation must come to rest beneath their own vine and fig tree."
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