Rastafari: Marcus Garvey’s 125th, Jamaica & Snoop Lion

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17: Snoop Dogg may be making headlines as a reformed Rastafari, but every Rasta today recalls another controversial global hero: the late Marcus Garvey, on the 125th birth anniversary of the man considered a prophet in the Rastafarian faith—and Jamaica’s official “1st National Hero.”

Garvey’s death in 1940 at age 52 was tragic in many ways. He had been hounded by FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and went through a tumultuous trial on charges of fraud; he was caught up in ethnic controversies and faced sharp criticism from many leaders in the black community in the U.S.; and he wound up in London during the start of World War II in Europe in failing health. He lay in a London grave for more than 20 years. Finally, in 1964, Jamaica brought his remains back to the island where he was celebrated as a heroic figure of the Jamaican nation.

Wikipedia sketches many details about the turbulent life and times of Garvey. But if you are intrigued by this flamboyant figure—usually shown in photographs from around 1920 with a long plume fluttering from his ceremonial hat—then ReadTheSpirit also recommends a terrific biography, Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey, published by Oxford University Press. Author Colin Grant is Jamaican-British and has worked for the BBC in addition to writing plays and books. On his website, Grant lets visitors read the book’s introduction.

To this day, some of Garvey’s supporters call him the reincarnation of John the Baptist. He urged black people to “Look to Africa, where a black king shall be crowned.” Then, in 1930, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie took the throne and the Rastafari movement began.


Aside from marking its 50th year of independence, Jamaica is planning a massive four-day tribute to Marcus Garvey this year, on the 125th birth anniversary of the Jamaican National Hero. Dr. Julius Garvey, son of Marcus, will be on hand for the launch of the Marcus Garvey Mobile Museum and will be handed the Keys to the City of Kingston on behalf of his father. (The Jamaican Information Service has more.)


It seems the famed “Gin and Juice” artist may be on track for a more family friendly career, as Snoop Dogg claims he experienced a spiritual enlightenment while recording his latest album in Jamaica—and will be switching from rapper to reggae. (Read more in the New York Times.) At midlife, Snoop reported that he needed something different; his new album boasts the name, “Reincarnated.” News reports cite Snoop as claiming, “I have always said I was Bob Marley reincarnated … I feel I have always been a Rastafari. I just didn’t have my third eye open.” While in Jamaica, Snoop was christened by Rasta priests as “Snoop Lion,” bearing resemblance to the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, “Lion of Judah.” Still not convinced? Check out Snoop’s latest album, due out in September, or an upcoming documentary and book that will attest to his spiritual rebirth.

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