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Rastafari PoliticsRastafari culture does not encourage mainstream political involvement. In fact, in the early stages of the movement most Rastas did not vote, out of principle. Ras Sam Brown formed the Suffering People's Party for the elections of 1961. Although he received fewer than 100 votes, simply standing for election was a powerful act.
In the election campaign of 1972, People's National Party leader, Michael Manley used a prop, a walking stick given to him by Haile Selassie, which was called the "Rod of Correction", in a direct appeal to Rastafarian values.
In the famous free One Love Peace Concert in 1978, first Peter Tosh lambasted the audience, including attending dignitaries, with political demands that included legalising cannabis. He did this while smoking a spliff, a criminal act in Jamaica. Bob Marley asked both then-Prime Minister Michael Manley, and opposition leader Edward Seaga onto the stage; and a famous picture was taken with all three of them holding their hands together above their heads in a symbolic gesture of peace during what had been a very violent election campaign
Ras Sam BrownRas Sam Brown was born on 16 December 1925 and died in August 1998 while attending an international trade fair in Barbados. He was a Jamaican Rastafarian elder well known in Kingston for his politics after he participated in the elections of 1961 with his Suffering People's party. He received fewer than 100 votes, yet by being the first rasta to ever stand for politics his influence has been greater than this statistic suggests, especially as at the time there was generalised feeling in the Rastafarian movement that Rastas do not vote. He had a 21 point plan. Some of his ideas were:
Members of the Rastafari movement are an inseparable part of the black Jamaican people. As such we cannot and do not proclaim any higher aims than the legitimate aims and aspiration of the black people of Jamaica.
The Rastafarian Movement stands for freedom to its fullest sense and for the recovery of dignity, self-respect and sovereignty of the black people of Jamaica. The Rastafarian movement, for the furtherance of these ends, must have the backing and support to lead a political party of its own.
The Rastafarian movement has the backing of no political party. We are the subject of persecution and discrimination. The Rastafarian movement therefore has decided to actively join the political struggle and create a political movement with the aim of taking power and implement measures for the upliftment of the poor and the oppressed. All men, therefore, are free, irrespective of colour to join this political crusade. The only condition is that he must abandon evil.
In 1996 Ras Sam Brown became a roots reggae singer and poet with an album called History, Past and Present.
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