The dialogue started on Friday, October 20 at the Rastafari Studies Centre, UWI, following an invitation to Minister Grange from leaders of the Rastafari movement to discuss the recent arson and destruction of the Rastafarian sacramental site at Bobo Hill, Nine Miles in Bull Bay, St. Andrew.
Chief among the matters discussed with the Minister was the safeguarding of Rastafari intangible cultural heritage, in keeping with the United Nations mandate on Indigenous Cultural Rights. This included the urgent need for the preservation and protection of Rastafarian cultural spaces, sacramental sites and the pressing need for land tenure. A strong presentation was made by the director of the Rastafari Indigenous Village, Montego Bay, who explained the pressures on income-earning Rastafari businesses.
Health care for elders was highlighted, as the group hosts regular health fairs for Rastafari elders. They explained the health and social needs of the community and the concerns about the welfare of the victims and survivors of the Coral Gardens atrocity.
Issues relating to Rastafari rights within the liberalisation of ganja laws and the building of a medical marijuana industry were raised, pointing to the need for ganja reparations and saying it was equal to the need for Coral Gardens reparations.
A special appeal was made for the Minister to assist the effort to enable the Honorary Ethiopian Consul to issue Ethiopian Visas in Jamaica, to make it easier for Rastafari to fulfil their ambitions to visit Ethiopia. The Minister was also asked to take steps to declare April 23rd as a Rastafari holiday in Jamaica, celebrating the 1966 visit to Jamaica of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie. The group said there was a need to further educate the wider community of the history and contribution of Rastafari to Jamaica’s income from tourism.
Minister Grange addressed each issue separately, reporting action already taken by her Ministry on several matters raised, and identifying other areas and actions that could be addressed immediately. She stated how pleased she was to be meeting with such a broad representation of Rastafari groups and interests, and recommended that the group continue to work together to present Rastafari issues and ideas to her Ministry.
“I look forward to more meetings with all sectors of the Rastafari community,” Minister Grange said.
Members of the Rastafari Mansions and organizations present were Dr. Jahlani Niaah, Director of the Rastafari Studies Centre; Sister Mitzie Williams, Nyabinghi Order; Ras Imo, Rastafari Business & 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 Council; Ras Garth White, Musicologist; Mutabaruka, broadcaster; Dr. Michael Barnet, UWI; Bro. Jerry Small, Rastafari historian.
Minister Grange was accompanied by Mr. Dorrick Gray Executive Director of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust; Mr. Bernard Janke, Director and David Brown of the African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica; Ms. Debra-Kay Palmer, Director – World Heritage & Cultural Conventions, MCGES; and Mrs. Barbara Blake Hannah, Director – Cultural Research & Information, MCGES.