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Differences and Similarities Between the Rastafari Movement and the Nation of Islam

Author(s): Michael Barnett
Source: Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36, No. 6 (Jul., 2006), pp. 873-893
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40034350
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DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES
BETWEEN THE RASTAFARI
MOVEMENT AND THE
NATION OF ISLAM
MICHAELBARNETT
Florida InternationalUniversity- UniversityPark Campus

Thetwo Black social movementsunderconsiderationin this articlearenow
well established among Black communities in America and, although
widely thoughtto be distinctfrom each other,have much in common. As
such, this article seeks to explore the similaritiesand differencesbetween
the movements. One overarchingsimilarityis that both movements em-
power their largely Black adherentsby providing them with a positive
Black identity. This may be viewed as an outcome of both movements
being inspiredby MarcusGarvey.In addition,because these movements
emphasizechangewithinthe individualratherthanchangein the surround-
ing social structure,they areconsideredto be expressivesocial movements.
A key difference between the movements is the specific type of posi-
tive Black identitythat is inculcated.For the Rastafarimovement,it is an
African-centered,Afrocentricidentity,whereasfor the Nationof Islamit is
a Blackcentricidentity(thatis not geographicallyanchored).

Keywords: Blacksocial movements;empowerment;positive Blackiden-
tity;Afrocentricidentity;Blackcentricidentity

The two Black social movements under considerationin this
articleare now well establishedamong Black communitiesin the
United States, and althoughwidely thoughtto be clearly distinct
from each other,have more in common than the casual observer
would suspect. As such, this article seeks to explore and investi-
gate, with a reasonabledegree of depth, the similaritiesand dif-
ferences thatboth movementshave with each other.

JOURNALOF BLACKSTUDIES, Vol. 36 No. 6, July 2006 873-893
DOI: 10.1177/0021934705279611
© 2006 Sage Publications
873

874 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 The ethnographicmaterialthathas helped to inform and shape this article was carriedout largely in South Florida. This interestingdemo- graphichas been an importantcontributorto the relatively large number of Rastafariand Nation of Islam adherentsthat can be foundthere.South Florida is characterizedby the significant number of African Americans and African Caribbeanswho reside there. the millenniumwill be total. the millenniumis "this-worldly. the centralmosque or head- quartersof Region#7 (whichcorrespondsto Floridaandthe Carib- bean) is the Miamimosque. locatedin the heartof LibertyCity.First. SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE MOVEMENTS One general and importantsimilaritybetween the movements is that both are liberation theological movements that seek to empowerBlacks by providingthem with a positive self-identity: one thatpurgesthe mindsof its membersof notionsof White supe- riorityandBlack inferiorityandthataddressesthe vicious cycle of false identity and self-hatred(Chevannes. second.therearetwo separateRastafariman- sions.In SouthFlorida.andfifth. 1994. 1995). that of the Boboshantelocated in LibertyCity. fourth. and thatof the TheocracyReign Ancient Orderof Nyahbinghi.the millenniumis imminentin thatit will occur very soon and very likely duringthe lifetime of the believer. the golden age will occuron Earth.the millenniumwill be ultimate.third. Talmon (1968) wrote that the characteristicsof millenarianmovementsinclude a vision of a golden age here on Earth.all the faithfulof the groupwould sharein the salvationof the millennium.As regardsthe Nation of Islam. Rashad.whose headquartersused to be located in the Redlandsdistrictin Home- stead. in that .Mohammed'sMosque#29.whereall the problemsof the membersof the groupwould be solved. She arguedthat there are five characteristicsthatmillenarianmovementsshare. by this re- searcher.when he was writing his dissertation. Another general similarity is that of the millenarianismof the Rastafari and the Nation of Islam movements. it will bringabouta final stateof history.thatis."that is. Miami.

as well as MinisterRasul MuhammadRegion #7 ministerfor the Nationof Islam. whomtheyshallserve.an identity that will provide a renewed sense of dignity and self-respect.And also thatnation.Detailedresearchrevealsclearlythatfor both move- ments. and only the Chosen will be saved.one theme is apparenthere:thatessentially Blacks are the chosen people.whereasothersargued that the prophecy really applied only to the particularsituation broughtaboutby the middlepassage. we see that membershipin either the Nyahbinghi or Boboshante houses of Rasta or in the Nation of Islam leads to a positive reinforcementof Black identity. The argumentmadeby the membersof the Boboshantehouse and of the Nyahbinghihouse who were interviewedandquestionedon this."JudgmentDay.she arguedthatmillenarianmovementsemerge from the searchfor a new identity.was thatthis prophecyappliedto Blacks in the Westwhose ancestorshadbeenbroughtinvoluntarilyto the Ameri- cas andthe Caribbeanfor the purposeof slavery.or "Armageddon" is fast approaching. we are living in the final days before the inevitable and imminent Armageddonbefalls us. In short. Inter- .Knowof a suretythatthyseedshallbe a stranger in a landthatis nottheirs.andshallservethem:Andthey shall afflictthemfor four hundredyears.on the pretextthatin realityit is only Blacks in the new world that have been afflicted for 400 years in the land of a stranger.In other words. which involve apocalypticexpectationsandthe notionof a chosenpeople. From this perspective."the day of reckoning. Yetanothersimilaritybetweenthe two movementsis the impor- tance thatGenesis 15:13-14 holds.Talmon furtherarguedthatby adoptingmillenarianbeliefs. This reads: Andhe saiduntoAbram. a group caneffectivelygive itself a separateidentitywith anelevatedstatus. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 875 the world will become the total incarnationof perfection.Some respondents arguedthatthis was a repetitionof prophecy.Whateverthe specific argument expressed.will I judge:andafterward shalltheycome outwithgreatsubstance.millen- arianismcan be conceived of in a positive empowering light as opposedto being a negativeor backwardcharacteristicof any par- ticulargroup. Thus.

April 30.who attendedRasta- fari gatheringsin SouthFlorida. 2000. Barrett. manyRastafarischolarscon- test theirmembershipin the movement.personalinterview.For the Nation of Islam. Both memberships profess that God is man and man is God. If God lies within. Rasul Muhammad. then this leads to the implicationthat God himself is Black. 1996.) Anothersimilaritybetween the movementsis the centralityof a messiah figure for both movements. This is probablyone of the more notableparallels between the Rastafarimovementand the Nation of Islam in terms of the ideologicalramificationsfor bothorganizations. Undoubtedly the portrayalof oneself as godlike is absolutelyempoweringto the spiritof a people who have suffereddenigrationandstigmatization for centuries. Notions of the humanityof God and correspondingly the divinityof Man formcommontheologicalthreadsbetweenthe Rastafarimovement and the Nation of Islam. Rasul Muhammad.1997). 2000). then it follows that people can become .personalinterview. E.2000. L. Ronald Muhammad. Another noteworthysimilaritybetween the movements is the conception that Blacks are the original and God-like people of the planet.personal interview.April 16.the embodimentof the messiah (God in the flesh) is Haile Selassie I (Barnett. who emphasize pro- fusely in theirteachingsthatBlackpeople arethe originalpeople of the planet. 2000).personalinterview.April 30.reinforcedthe researcher'sobser- vationthatone's racialidentityis still significantin the Nyahbinghi and Boboshante houses (at least in Miami) and that the claim thatthe Rastafarimovementhas now been deracializedcould only really be leveled at the Twelve Tribes of Israel house and at the widely contested Coptic house. This is apparentparticularlyamong the Boboshante Rastafarimansion and the Nation of Islam. that is the idea that God lies withinpeople ratherthanoutside(Priest-X. (Because the Coptics do not be- lieve in the divinityof Haile Selassie. whereasfor most of the mansionsof the Rastafarimovement. the messiah figure (God in the flesh) is MasterFardMuhammad.and to a certain extent.If the image of Jesus Christcan be equatedwith that of a Black man.876 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 views with the White Rastafarirespondents. it is also Elijah Muhammad(Gardell. March21. 2000.

116-117) In Message to the Black Man Elijah Muhammad (1965) wrote. By establishing these connectionsthey.theremustbe one man in whom he exists most eminently and completely. discovertheirtrue"self. arguedthat for the Rastafari movement. We are coming to tell the world that man is God and God is man! (Owens. in a sense. 116). .however.God is to be foundin everyman.The articulationthatGod has manifestedhim- self in the flesh here on Earthis perhapsthe key andmost enduring similaritybetweenboth groups.bothmovementsadvocatea healthy dietthatservesto maintainthephysicalbody as best as is possible. Rastafari.They could hearno one."It fol- lows thatif one adheresto the respectiveteachingsof the founderor messiah of one's organization(MasterFardMuhammador Elijah Muhammadin the case of the Nation of Islam. When you say a Man is God you marvelto them.one should takegreatcareof it. as is the case for the Nation of Islam and for the Rastafarimovement. And yet you could not go in the sky to find a spiritup there The have-notsof the Earthcould not hearus becausethey thinkthatGod is a spiritin the sky. andHaile Selassie I or PrinceEmmanuelin the case of the Rastafarimovement).In the case of the Nation of Islam.) JosephOwens (1976) who researchedthe theological elements of Rastafariextensively in the 70s. pp. He went on furtherto quote PrinceEmmanuel(founderof the Ethio- pian AfricanBlack InternationalCongress [EABIC])as sayin. and.Haile Selassie I (p. 1976. (In addition. therefore.one is able to realizeone's Godliness. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 877 more godly by connectingwith theirinner selves.g Them say God is a spiritin the sky. as in main- streamChristianity. As a result. whereasin the case of the Rastafarimovementit is Haile Selassie I thatis God in the flesh.This may be contrastedwith the more limit- ing view of consideringGod only in the spiritualsense. MasterFardMuhammadis consideredto be the manifestationof God in the flesh. and that is the suprememan.The theologicalconceptionof "the humanityof God"allows for the possibilityfor the manifestationof God in the flesh.what follows fromthe correspondingconceptionof the "Divinityof Man"is that the humanbody is the temple of God.

afterourlikeness:andletthemhave dominionoverthefishof thesea. specificallyGenesis2:7 and2:22 alludeto AdamandEve as the progenitorsof the Whiteracewho were createdlater(Nicholas. the Yellow man. April 11. personal interview. then the Yellow man. From the originalpeople who wereBlack camethe Brownman.capableof accomplishing anythingthatHisbraincanconceive. Thus. andthe Brownman arecollectively groupedwith New WorldBlacks as the aboriginalpeople (Brother- TX. the Red man.This illus- tratedto the researcherthatthe distinctionin the Nation is now not so much Black and White but ratherpeople of color (non-Whites) and Whites. . 2000). The researchernoted duringhis attendanceat severallecturesat the Miami mosque and his interview with MinisterAbdullahMuhammad. The aboriginalpeoples encompass all those who came from the originalpeople but before the White people. 141). 1998. 6) A glaringsimilaritybetween some of the mansionsof Rastafari (Boboshantehouse and the Nyahbinghihouse) and the Nation of Islam is a racializedtheology thatarguesthatthe Black man came first (i.His wisdomis infinite. p. he is the original man) and the White man came last. Letus makemanin ourimage.(p.for man'sintelligencehasno equalin otherthanman. Nicholas (1979) notedsome NyahbinghiRastacite Genesis 1:26 as a basis for arguingthatBlacks arethe originaland Godlikepeople of the planet. 1979). whereas the later chapterand verses. Genesis 1:26 reads.. Yakub(Muhammad. and then finally the White man (Lieb. The contentionhere is thatthis chapterand verse alludesto Black people.878 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 Godis a manandwejustcannotmakeHimotherthanaman.lestwe makeHiman inferiorone.A spiritis subjectedto us and notwe to thespirit.thenthe Red man.the Nation of Islam's nationalrepresentativefor Latin Americans.e.thatthe term aboriginalis used synonymouslywith the termoriginal. p.1965. The Nation of Islam professes that Whites were made by the Black mad scientist. 9). who created other people.

In addition. 1962. 1997. In the case of the Rastafarimovement.emphasizingthe family as the cornerstone of society.in which the women are separatedfrom the men (this is trueof the Nation of Islam and the BoboshanteRastafarimansion and partiallytrue of the Nyah- binghiRastafarimansion). Hill. and the man as the provider. America. 1976). 1969). by MasterFardMuhammadin 1930 (Essien-Udom. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 879 A somewhat ironic similarity for this researcheris that both movementsemergedin the sameyear. The literatureinforms us that the Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit. He also developed the . Barrett. Garvey perfected the Ethiopianist ideology that provided the theological and ideological foundation for the Rastafarimovement(L.ungodly. The Nation of Islam and the Rastafari movementshold patriarchalconservativepositionson genderrela- tions. 1974.This shouldnot be really surprisingcon- sideringthat Garveyhad such a majorimpact on Pan-Africanism and Black Nationalism (Deburg. we noted that this emergedin JamaicaafterNovember2.with the womanas the primarycaretakerof the childrenand the house. E. 1987. As such. 1930. and forbiddenby the Bible and the Quran. essen- tially 1975.) There is also commonalitywith regardto the gender relations within the movements.Both movementsarealso characterizedby a religious conservatism. transitionedfrom the physical realm in the same year. 2001. Anotherseemingly ironic coincidence is that the messiahs for both movements. 1995). Geiss.1997). This is expressedparticularlyduringthe religious and cere- monialactivitiesof the respectivemovements.in our discussion of the similaritiesbetween both movements. (From the perspectiveof the respective movements.Greatemphasisalso is placed on gender roles withinthe family. Elijah Muhammadand Haile Selassie I. the grandcoronation day when Ras Tafariwas crowned"HisImperialMajestyEmperor Haile Selassie I" in Ethiopia(Campbell.we shouldconsiderthatboth were significantlyinflu- enced by MarcusGarvey. both movements castigate homosexuality based on it being consideredimmoral. 1930. whereas Elijah Muhammaddepartedto the MotherShip. Tafari. Lincoln. Haile Selassie I departedto the spiritualrealm.The leadersof the religious services are overwhelminglymale. Pinkney.

e. In his economic-nationalist threadof ideology. In 1989.in his culturalnationalistthreadof ideology. p. A primarythemeof the educationprovidedby these Universitiesof Islam is a knowledge of God and knowledge of self.880 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 political ideology. he instilled a sense of pridein being Black and encour- aged racialsolidarity. As was the case duringthe firstresurrection of the Nation. 323).This strategywas employedby the Rastafari movement and the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam is highly critical of the Americanschool system.mathematics.Since then a numberof MuhammadUniversitiesof Islam have been establishedunderthe auspices of the Nation of Islam Board of Education on which TynettaMuhammadandAbdulAlim Muhammadserveas officials (Gardell.In doing this. the Nation of Islam opened its first MuhammadUni- versity of Islam since the second resurrectionof the Nation (i. It is arguedthatthe White-centeredcurricu- lum is designed to make invisible the history and achievementsof the non-White peoples and to imprintthe false doctrineof White superiority and Black inferiority in its pupils (Gardell. 323).Boys andgirls aretaughtin separateclass- rooms that according to Minister Farrakhanfacilitates learning . andthe impactthatthis has madein moderntimes. Englishlanguage. Garvey. They also attemptto cultivatemoral conductanddiscipline. Garvey'sexample of educationalnationalismis also employed by the Nation of Islam in that they have their own educationalsystem. p. since the departureof ElijahMuhammad).. empha- sized the proudhistoryof Black people.andscience. The universitiesalso focus on Black history. Chi- cago's MuhammadUniversity of Islam provides classes right up throughhigh school.Africa for the Africansat home and aboard- which laid the foundationfor the repatriationistzeal of Rastafari- ans.1996). andthe economicnationalistthreadof his nation- alism has observedlymade a majorimpacton the ideology of the Nation of Islam.1996.most of the MuhammadUniversitiesof Islamareele- mentary schools with a few offering secondary education. Garveyprofessedeconomic self-determination for Blackpeople. theiraccomplishmentsin ancienttimes. 1996. which is seen by them as the principal means of perpetuatingWhite supremacyby systematic misedu- cation(Gardell.

Firstandforemost. The Rastafari movement. one overall message for its members.the structureof the organizationaffects the identities of its members. ultimately.we may summarizeby noting thatthe overarchingsimilaritythatbecomes evidentfor bothmovementsis the conceptionthatBlack people are the chosen people.and Blacks as principalactorsof the Bible. In ourdiscussionof the similaritiesof bothmovements. DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE MOVEMENTS Afterexaminationof ethnographicdataandliteratureregarding both of the movements.Whatulti- mately connects the variousmansions of Rastafaritogetheris the belief in the divinityof Haile Selassie I. The more .Rastafariand the Nation of Islam.in contrastto the membersof the Nation of Islam where thereis greaterconsistency in all three categories. several discernablefeaturescome to light regardingthe issue of identity. is a polycephalous (many-headed) one with no overallleaderandno one absolutedoctrine.but clearly lag the Nation of Islam in both areas.1996.style of dress. p. who will rise to prominencein the time of judg- ment as a result of prophecy.on the other hand. It shouldbe noted that Rastafariadherentsdo aspire to implementeducationalnational- ism and economic nationalism. Arguably. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 88 1 withoutdistraction(Gardell.What becomes apparentis the relativelygreaterdegree of individualism thatis expressedandexhibitedby membersof the Rastafarimove- ment (specificallyin termsof theirideological orientation.the currentstudyrevealsthatthereis a marked degree of variationof identity orientationamong membersof the Rastafarimovementthatis in starkcontrastto thatof the Nation of Islamwherethe variationof identityorientationis negligible. 324).Also thereis an additionalemphasis on ancientBlack cultureprovidingthe bedrockfor civilization. includingbeing the people of the covenant.The Nation of Islam is a highly centralizedhierarchicalmovement with one overall leader and.This may be attributedlargelyto the differencein struc- tureof the respectivemovements. and theologicalperspectives).

Childrenof Ezekiel (p.the Nation of Islam focuses primarilyon people of color in the New World(MinisterAbdullahMuhammad. that both movements allude to the perpetuationof White supremacyby mainstreamChristianity.The mostpowerfultribewas the originalAsian Black nationknownas the tribeof Shabazz. 1995). Anothermajordifferenceis thatthe Nation of Islam is a move- mentthathas. This can be attributedto the Rastafarimove- ment following the Pan-Africanistdimension of Garvey (Tafari.personal interview.The conception is as follows: In the beginning. includingthe Nile Valley and the place known as the Holy City of Mecca in Arabia. Rasul Muhammad.All stemsfromhim. andall is resolvedin him. Yet anothermajordifferenceis the distinctlyAfrocentricorien- tation of the Rastafarimovement. andthe populationwas entirelyBlack.The Tribeof Shabazzis the source of the so-called Negro in America. 2000).albeit an Afrocentri- cized blend of Christianityand Judaism. 139). the pri- mogenitorof all the otherraces.882 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 structurednatureof the Nation of Islam leads to less individuality amongits membersthanexists in the Rastafarimovement.a theology based on a fusion of Islam and Christianity. underclose inspection.which puts "MotherAfrica"at the center of their ideological stance and is concerned with the reconnectionof New WorldAfricanswith the continentof Africa. how- ever. April 30.In knowing this. detailed the Nation of Islam conceptionof the Black man'sidentityandorigins.It should be noted. Lieb (1998) in his book.whereas the Rastafarimovementhas a theology that is essentially Judeo-Christian.The tribeof Shabazzwas the firstto explore the continentduringthe primordialperiod. there is a greaterdegree of uniformityand conformityof its membersthanthatof the Rastafarimembers.the Negrois now able to understandthat he really is a descendentof the powerful Black people of Asia.AfricaandAsia were one continent. 2000. the Negro becomes awarenot .personal inter- view.It is these people who discoveredthe most desirableplaces to inhabit.In addi- tion. whereasthe Nationof Islamhas arguablytakenon the Black Nationalist elements of Garvey's philosophy. Knowingthathis originis in the Tribeof Shabazz.He is the Alphaandthe Omega. February7. In contrast. The originalman is the Black man.

1989). As mentionedpreviouslyfor the Rastafarimovement. A key ideological differencebetweenthe move- ments thatmanifestsitself because of this differencein identityis thatconcerningthe matterof repatriation.he or she will take pridein who he or she is.the ideology is clearlyBlackcentricas opposedto the more geographicallyorientedideologyof Afrocentricism(Asante. In this regard. This conception of identity clearly does not put sub-Saharan Africa at the center.Although thereis a clearconceptionof identityhere.This is not the case among the Rastafarimemberswho tend . the Negro discovers his or her Islamic heritage.Anothernotabledifference is thatthe lifestyle andattitudeof membersof the Nationof Islamis extremely discipline oriented with an emphasis on structureand order.For the Rastafarimove- ment. Anotherkey differenceis in the use of the holy herb(marijuana). When he or she understandsand acknowledgesthis heritage. and sometimesin casual every- daycircumstances.The Nation of Islam. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 883 only of his or her genealogy but also of his or her ultimateplace of origin that for the Negro of America is the spiritual center of Islamicworshipandidentity.for Nation of Islam adherentswho do not see Africa as the motherlandor homelandor as the primarybasis of identityas do theirRastafaricounterparts. preachescomplete abstentionfrom anythingthat may be consid- ered as a recreationaldrugin America.or at the very best.the fact thatAfricais not at its centerpurgesit of much Afrocentricpotentialin the opinion of this researcher. This is not the case. which for Rastafariis a sacrament.the iden- tity thatis internalizedis an Afrocentricone. Racial solidarity is encouraged based on the notion that people of color in the New World are aboriginalpeople.Africangarmentsarewornby sistrenandbreth- renalikeas an affirmationof this Africanidentity.However.By virtueof this.Forthe Nationof Islam.ratherit puts Mecca in Arabiaat the center.For formalevents. specificallythatof an exiled African. Egypt of NorthernAfrica at the center. the identity internalizedis fundamentallythat of a chosen people whose religion is Islam. repatriationis a centraltenantof their ideology. however.one thing must be said: This concep- tion emphasizesthatBlack people are the originalpeople. however.

and fluidityin the adoptionof a Rastafariidentity.telephoneinterview.884 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 to take a less dogmatic and less formularizedapproachto doing things.Islamicclothingstores. 321). In this vein.anda Chicagomall of supermarkets and restaurants. 1999) commented.rigid or boundedas the Nation of Islam.In addition. especially the chain of Salaamrestau- rants.one of the researcher's Rastafarirespondents(I-Tafari.November7. 1996. 2).they areaccusedof being less organized than the Nation of Islam. Thereis more freedom. p."In an interviewwith LindaJones. INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF IDENTITIES WITHIN THE RASTAFARI MOVEMENT AND THE NATION OF ISLAM Murrell(1998) wrote that "Rastasoften argue that every true Black personis Rasta(theyjust need to discoverit)" (p.This scale of business enterpriseis not replicated by the Rastafarimovement."Whenit came to having shaved faces and bald heads. staff writer of the Dallas MorningNews (August 11. it may be arguedthat the criteriafor identifying and being identifiedas Rastaarenot as limiting or constrainingas thatof the Nation of Islam. Yet another(andinteresting)differenceis the zealous economic nationalismof the Nation (which some Blacks criticizeas amount- ing to no more than Black capitalism."Rastafariis not as limited.fish markets.the Final Call newspaper.the Nationof Islam securityagency. in other instances are highly regardedfor the higher degree of individualismthat they are per- ceived to express. 1996).shabazzbakeries. A numberof businessventureshavebeen establishedin differentsec- tors by the Nation of Islam.In manyinstances.Gardell. however.there is real estate in a numberof states.largely because of the conflict within the movementaboutengaging to such a extensive level in what is regardedas the Babyloniansystem of capitalism. a Rastafarianwho was once a member of the Nation of Islam re- marked. JimmieMoore.farmland.flexibility.Notably. I couldn't deal with it. It seemed too much like what I was tryingto .andClean'N Freshskin and hair products.

The body symbolism of the person may be consideredto be an externalex- pression of the internalizedidentity of the memberand serves to reinforcethis identity(R. without so much focus on an afterlife. Con- versely.thatis. Williams. Barrett.Son. Third is the belief in the supremacyof life. they shouldendeavorto eat naturalfoods. the Father.for the Rastafarimovement. 2000).Fourthis the belief in the corporate dimensionof evil.1991.the notion thatRastasare the chosen peo- ple of Jah. humanbeings should aspireto protectthe environmentby reducingpollution. 139). until one becomes a processedmemberof the Nation. Seven is the notion of repatriation. In consideringthe characteristicsof the groupidentitiesthatare institutionalizedin bothmovements. Haile Selassie I is divine. thatis. in other words.that is. one remainsas a nonbelieverwho has yet to acquirea trueknowledge of self. Sixth is the belief in the priesthoodof Rasta.one does not need to join any organizationor mansion to be considered a Rastafari.as such.for othershe is one thirdof the God-Headtrinity. he representsthe entiretrin- ity.ratherthan heavenly."An interestingfeatureof the institutionalizationof identityin the case of the Nationof Islamis thatthereis an inherent assumptionthatthe perspectivememberdoes not know who he or she is untilhe or she becomes partof the organization. Second is the belief that salvation is earthly.which is instilledin its members.This distinctionhighlightsthe greaterindivid- ualistic natureof the Rastafariidentitythatwas discussed earlier.through one's own volitionone can come to identifyas Rastaindependently of any organization. Bamett / BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 885 get awayfrom. and Holy Ghost (Barnett. p. at . In addi- tion. The belief system of Rastafari(the internalcomponentof their identity)may be summarizedas follows: First.we need to considerthe inter- nal component.which is essentiallythe belief system andideology of the institution.some referto him as the returnedmessiah.the celebrationof the temporalexistence of people.andthe external componentthat is the body symbolism of the member. He representsGod in the flesh for some Rastafari.and for othersstill.Fifth is the belief that one shouldlive in harmonywith nature. the notionthatcorporationsandbig busi- ness are inherentlyevil and oppressive. 2000. whose role it is to manifest God's power and promote peace in the world.

the much-celebratedmotherlandand homeland for Rastafari.per- sonal interview.personalinterview.March19.it should be noted thatbecause the Rastafarimovementis not a homogeneous movement.the internalcomponent of the institutionalized identityfor a memberof the Nationof Islam (i. 2000. that Islam is the naturalreligion of the Black man (Ronald Muhammad.personalinterview.(The precedinglist is not necessarily exhaustivebut makes up what this researcherconsiders to be the core beliefs of the Rastafarimovement. whatbecame evidentfrom the interviewswith members of the Nation of Islam [Brother-XX. 1996.I. Rasul Muhammad. thatthe sexes should be sepa- rated. 2000. theremustbe the adoptionof a new nameto replacethe slave mas- ter'sname (unless one is directlyfromthe continent. A fifth element of the belief system of the Nation of Islam is thatthe sacredtexts of aboriginalpeople are the Quranand the Bible. the belief system) is as follows: first. RonaldMuhammad.thatthe heritageof the aboriginalpeoples in the Westis that of the Asiatic Blackmanof the tribeof Shabazzandthatthey are a chosen people because of Biblical prophecy. Six. Rasul Muhammad.personal interview. 2000). (On a side note. membersneed not necessarily subscribeto all of the above beliefs to be consideredRastafari.886 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 some point in one's life one should leave the Westernhemisphere for Africa.) Contrastingly.April 30.and eight. but not in Heaven. thatthe millennial age (the golden age) will be here on Earth.in which case one can keep his or her originalname).thatthe messiah is Elijah Muhammadand the great Mahdi was Master Fard Muhammad (Gardell. who prophesized the crowning of H.April 30.personalinterview. In addition.e.in the practiceof religious ritualsand ceremoniallife.April 16. fourth. Haile Selassie I and laid the ideological and philosophicalfoundations for the Rastafarimovement.M.third. 2000).or on the mothership itself.Eight is the belief thatMarcusGarveyshouldbe revered as a prophet.April 16. 2000] was thatthe completeseparationof Blacks andWhitesin Americais no longer advocatedand thatthe aspirationof Blacks having the five . second. in acquiringa new identity as a memberof the Nation of Islam. Seven.thatthe originalpeople of the planetwereBlack.

however. p.we shouldalso address the externalcomponentsof identity. R. He arguedthatpeople who belong to groupswhose membersthink of themselves as alienatedin some way from mainstreamsociety tend to adopta looser. Barrett(1991. manymembersstill thinkof themselvesin the morefamil- iarracialsense or were not as likely to verbalizetheirAsiatic roots unless prompted.So far as the Rastafarimove- ment is concerned.means simply that they had committedand attachedthem- selves to the organizationand the faith of Islam. which.was that they were believers. The key thing that was stressed. they felt thatbeing a Muslimwas the really importantthing with the racial considerationscoming sec- ond. for them- selves. thatis.The Latino members that the researcherques- tioned seemed more comfortableidentifying along religious lines thanalongraciallines. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 887 southernstates [or at the very least one separatestate]. This indicated to the researcherthat although the teachings of ElijahMuhammademphasizethatthe heritageof Black people is Asiatic.is a powerfulmeans of expressingour relationshipto the social order. is no longer actively pursuedby the Nation. which is worn as dreadlocks. The researcherwas unableto speak at length with any of the femalemembersof the Nationbecauseof the extremegendersepa- rationthat occurs at the mosque. the most distinguishing external feature of many of the members is the hair. or leave them in a state of relative abandonment. an observationthatreally drovehome a sense of this groupbeing a communitywithin a community. Now thatwe have addressedthe internalcomponentsof identity for RastafariandNationof Islammembers. less managedstyle of dress andbodily care. 139) arguedthatthe care with which we adorn our bodies.) The researcherfound the responses among the membersof the Nation regardingtheir identity to be interestingin that the Black respondentsinterviewedreferredto themselves either as Blacks who are Muslims or Blacks with a knowledge of self with the exception of one memberwho answeredthe researcheremphati- cally thathe was an Asiatic Black man from the tribeof Shabazz. the clothing is more likely to be of a casual natureand the . thatis. in Nation of Islam terms. The researcher observedhow closely knitthe membersof the Miamimosquewere.

Barrett.the opposite. Barrett.with a rejectionof worldly vanity and crass materialism.The particularindi- viduals areunderstrictdiscipline. thatmany Rastafarimembersdo not cut theirhairand have an aversionto Westernsuits andthe wearingof ties thatareassoci- ated with Babylon. the most notablebeing religious devotees.at this point. that they have given up a significantdegreeof personalchoice in deter- miningtheirown conductanda significantdegreeof theirindividu- .It shouldbe noted.exist in effect outside of the common society. Barrett(1991) described in his treatiseon body symbolism.if beard and moustachesare grown they are more likely to be shaggy than carefully cropped (R.If one examines the situationsin which people shave their heads or have them shaved in Westernsociety such as the army. 140). Givingup the hairserves as a symbolic statementby the entrantsto the organization. Theirrejec- tion of worldlyvanityandmaterialcomfortssuggests thatthe con- ventionsof society areirrelevantto them. considerthatthe disregardfor a groomed appearance. and what they all apparentlyexpress. completely shavedheads. Barrett(1991) commendablynoted thatif long andunkempt hairrepresentsfreedomfrom social control.so too do theyowe it a partof theirmoralbeing. who are characterizedby their shorthaircutsand. in many cases. Rastafariadherents.just as the reli- gious devotees detailed by R. In addition. We may. obedient only to Jah the Almighty. p. Barrett. Haile Selassie I. He furtherarguedthatvarioustypes of individuals.that characterizesmany of the Rastafaribrethren(if not the sistren)suggests an outrightrejectionof many of the soci- ety's norms and values and a strong correlationwith the proto- typical religious devotee that R. is that they obey a higherlaw.andjust as they have sacrificeda partof theirphysicalbeing to the organization.1991.for diverse reasons. thus. which is closely croppedor shornhair. endeavorto express their alien- ation from the society. What these religious devotees all have in common.888 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 hairis commonly wornlonger and less restrainedthanthe prevail- ing style of the society.the symbolismis clear.or even by the entrantsto the outside world.is often a sign of strictobedienceor conformity. R. A similarcorrelationcanbe madefor the male membersof the Nation of Islam.arguedR.

or as in the case of the Fruitof Islamguards.thenthe behavioris constrainedin some way. Barrett(1991.) In addition. the membersof these highly disciplinedinstitutionstend to place their bodies in uniform. Barrettinsightfullypointedout that if the body is held in check.women are requiredto have their heads covered when in public. In an interview with the researcher.personalinterview. with shorthair and shaved faces.of the Rastafarimovement.R.April 16. The men are either requiredto wear suits with bowties or suits with ties. women of the Nationof Islamarenot allowedto weartrousersjust as is the case of the Rastafarimovement.Ronald Muhammad (April 16.this model of haircuttingand the wearingof uniformsas symbols of institutionalizedconformity correlateswell with the distinctivelyorganizedstructureandopera- tion of the Nation of Islam. April 30. (In the case of the Nyahbinghimansionandthe Boboshante mansion.Notably. 2000. and the individualis likely to behavein a predictablemanner (i.which are strikinglymilitaristicin appear- ance. the men are expected to be clean-cut.e.encouragedstrictadherenceto the rules of the Nation. 143) furtherarguedthatit is highly significantthat in conjunctionwith having their heads shorn.. however. if it is symbolicallyharnessedby virtue of a uniformandshorthair. in a uniformmanner). . 2000) mentionedthata sense of structureanduniformity and conformityof the memberswas an importantcharacteristicof the Nationof Islam. RonaldMuhammad. p.when out in publicthe Nationof Islamwomen areencour- aged to cover their heads.This. He contendedthat the uniform is perhapsthe ultimateexpressionof the harnessedbody. in turn. In all instances. 2000). For him.personalinterview.this is ultimatelyoptional for them. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 889 ality andthatthey arewilling to abideby the strictruleswhich ema- natefromthe organization(RasulMuhammad.R.uniforms. In addition.He told the researcherthatbeing clean-cutwas importantin reinforcinga sense of discipline and orderamongthe members. The women of the Nation of Islam are also requiredto wear a specific uniform as members when they attend the Mosque. it is emblem- atic of a regimentedorderand signifies thatthe individualis at the service of the organization.

286) arguedthatthe Nationof Islamis not a politicalmovement.890 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES/ JULY 2006 CORRELATION OF THE TWO GROUP IDENTITIES In termsof whetherthe two types of groupidentityfor bothinsti- tutionscan be correlatedpositively or not. A SOCIAL MOVEMENT PERSPECTIVE ON THE RASTAFARI MOVEMENT AND NATION OF ISLAM Another key point. He claimed (p.In this respect.the Nation of Islam may be consideredto be . though a tenacious one.noris it a revolutionaryone. is the degree to which the Nation of Islam and the Rastafarimovement may be regarded as political movements. In addition. 287) that the political ideology of the Nation of Islam amounts to no more than a rationalizationof the existing distributionof political power between Blacks and Whites in the United States. In the case of the Nation of Islam members. the researcherconcluded that there is a positive correlationof these aforementionedgroupidentities. Essien-Udom (1962.which is at the very core of the ide- ologies of both movements and is the main reason why both of them devote so much energy to developing and articulatinga par- ticularidentity in the first place.the consensus seemed to be thatthe Rastafarimovement lacked structureand discipline and did not have a specific programof action. Thus. in the sense that the iden- tities institutionalizedby each movement are directedtowarden- couraging Black unity. When we consider the reasons why membersjoin one move- ment as opposedto the other.the consensus of the Rastafariadher- ents was that the Nation of Islam was too Arab centeredand not Afrocentric enough. For him. offering nothingmore than an eschatology that predictsthat the judgment of the world will gratify the oppressed. one should note thatin realitythereis a greatdeal of subjectivismhere.The attainmentof Black Power is relegated to the interventionof Allah sometime in the future. p.Forthis researcher. it is the conceptof Black unity. it is apolitical. Rastafariansthought that the Nation of Islam was too rigid and constricting.

Barrett(1997) arguedthat in considering the movement as it stands at present there is a distinct millenarian orientation with its considerable emphasison divine interventionas the path of salvationfor righ- teous Black people.manyRastafari still do not advocatedirect political agitationagainst mainstream social structuresof the Westernhemisphere.preferringinstead to disconnectthemselvesfromBabylon andto aspireto live a livitical (naturalandrighteous)lifestyle. as Ras Sam Brown (personal interview. "The Nation is about a revolution of the mind.A. arguedthat the Rastafari movementneededto place moreof its energieson politicalissues if the movementwas to effect real social change.L.In addition.he arguedthat the movementis in fact a revolutionaryone. from this perspective. Ratherthan trying to effect social change by attemptingto change the social structureof soci- ety.some moredefinitivelines of actionhaveyet to materialize.)at FloridaInter- nationalUniversity in November 1999.A. This is all well andgood. it arguablycompromisesthe potential of the movement. Also pressure to bring about the completelegalizationof marijuanais still being maintained. Marcus Garvey's formerpolitical party. 2000) put it. specifically by the RastafariLegal Council. in the fight for reparations.however.having said this.As Minister Ronald Muhammad(personalinterview.has been restartedand revampedby Rastafaribrethrenin Jamaica.I. they are primarilyconcernedwith changingthe attitudeof the individual.R. the Rastafari .How- ever. Thus. So far as the Rastafari movement in Miami is concerned.such as the filing of lawsuits againstthe British governmentvia the Jamaicangovern- ment.F. Ras Don Rico Ricketts. E. 1998) com- mented.Admittedlythere are political initiativespresently underway in Jamaicaby Rastafariadherents."In this regard. however.at a lecturehostedby The Associationof AfricansReclaiming(their)Identity(T. the Peoples Political Party. April 16. particularlythe political one. at the beginningof the 21st century(andthe end of the 20th centuryon the Ethiopiancalendar). although the desire for political activity has been expressed by some of the members.August 19. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 89 1 an expressive social movementratherthan a revolutionarysocial movement as many people presume.

Essien-Udom. Lincoln. (1974). Deburg.just as in the case of the Nationof Islam. W. Message to the Blackmanin America.E. I. TheRastafarians.Belmont.FloridaInternationalUniversity. Hill. (2000). Barrett. Chevannes. althoughit mustbe acknowledgedthatit is still incorporates many of the characteristicsof an expressive one. M.New York:New YorkUniversityPress. Cultureand conduct: An excursion into anthropology. Kingston. M. ChildrenofEzekiel. . however. (1991). (1998). (1997). C. (1996). (1989). Campbell. E. Gardell. It has also fielded several of its members as candidatesin nationalpolitical elections in the Caribbean. NJ: Africa New WorldPress. is undisputedlyagitatingfor social changein termsof its advocacyof reparationsfor all Black people and repatriationfor all those Blacks in the Westwho desireit. Europeand Africa.E.it has initiatednumer- ous "legalizationof marijuana"campaigns globally. Geiss. Barnett. L.H. In addition.NC: Duke UniversityPress.Havingsaidthis. (1962). Afrocentricity. (1994).as a whole. Muhammad.. Howell and millenarian visions in the early Rastafarianreligion.M. Rastaand resistance:FromMarcusGarveyto WalterRodney. (2001).Trenton. 2. K.NC: Duke UniversityPress.L.this authormust point out that the Rastafarimovement.Therefore.M. In the name of Elijah Muhammad:Louis Farrakhanand the Nation of Islam. REFERENCES Asante.B. Black Nationalism:A searchfor an identityin America. Durham. (1969). Unpublisheddoctoraldissertation.Chicago:Muhammad'sTem- ple No.Miami. (1965). E. (1987).NJ: Africa WorldPress. R.Trenton. TheBlack Muslimsin America.Boston: Beacon. Durham.R.Boston: Beacon. Chi- cago: Universityof Chicago Press. U. Lieb. Rastafarianismand theNation of Islamas institutionsfor group-identity formationamongBlacks in the UnitedStates:A case studycomparingtheirapproaches. (1997). Sr. New York:AfricanaPublishing. Syracuse.an argumentcan be madefor the Rastafarimovement approachingthat of a revisionarymove- ment. Dread history: Leonard P.NY: Syracuse University Press. Modern Black Nationalism: From Marcus Garvey to Louis Farrakhan.892 JOURNALOF BLACK STUDIES / JULY 2006 movementmay be consideredto be an expressivemovement. CA: Wadsworth. van. Barrett.. The Pan-Africanmovement:A history of Pan-Africanismin America. Rastafari:Roots and ideology.Jamaica:Miguel Lome.

Michael Barnettis currentlya professor at the departmentof sociology and anthro- pology at Florida InternationalUniversityin Miami.W.N. Pinkney. Barnett/ BLACK SOCIALMOVEMENTS 893 Murrell.New York: CambridgeUniversityPress. MD: WritersInc.D. Spencer. D.In N.Kingston. Williams.).A. McFarlane (Eds.BlackNationalismand slavery:A detailedhistory. S. 349-362). Nicholas. Murrell. in sociologyfrom Florida InternationalUniversity. (1976). Introduction. Rastafari:A way of life. Kingston.A. 16-22.Rastafari Caribbean Quarterly Monograph.& A. Philadelphia:TempleUniversityPress.Y. ( 1968). (1995). Red.pp.blackand green:BlackNationalismin the UnitedStates. T. 10. . Tafari. Talmon.Jamaica:Great CompanyJA. (2000).A. A Rastafari view of MarcusMosiah Garvey. New York:Macmillan. New York:Anchor.Florida. 1-19). Dread: TheRastafariansof Jamaica.Doubleday. J.Jamaica:Sangster.InInternationalencyclopediaof thesocial sciences (Vol. Islam. Rashad. Chantingdown Babylon(pp. Owens. and his Ph. S. The seven principles of Rastafari. Millenarianism. (1998).Beltsville. J. A. He receivedhis M. (1976). (1979).I. (1995). pp. W.