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Marley and Ganja: the popularization of Rastafari

Dr.+Sam+Murrell+discussed+how+he+met+Bob+Marley+in+1976%2C+and+his+experience+with+the+Rastafarian+movement.++Murrell+met+the+King+of+Reggae+at+his+Smile+Jamaica+Concert+in+Kingston%2C+Jamaica.++Photo+courtesy+of+Jordan+Behan
Dr. Sam Murrell discussed how he met Bob Marley in 1976, and his experience with the Rastafarian movement.  Murrell met the King of Reggae at his Smile Jamaica Concert in Kingston, Jamaica.  Photo courtesy of Jordan Behan

Dr. Sam Murrell discussed how he met Bob Marley in 1976, and his experience with the Rastafarian movement. Murrell met the King of Reggae at his Smile Jamaica Concert in Kingston, Jamaica. Photo courtesy of Jordan Behan

Dr. Sam Murrell discussed how he met Bob Marley in 1976, and his experience with the Rastafarian movement. Murrell met the King of Reggae at his Smile Jamaica Concert in Kingston, Jamaica. Photo courtesy of Jordan Behan

Jordan Behan, Contributing Writer

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The Rastafarian movement began 40 years before Bob Marley propelled it to an international scale, said a philosophy and religion professor Dr. Sam Murrell in a presentation held at Bear Hall.

“The culture was spread through Marley’s music, but it was Marcus Garvey who created the spark,” said Murrell, an expert in Caribbean religions.

As a black-nationalist and Pan-Africanist, Marcus Garvey sought to bring back a 150-year-old ideology from Ethiopia, which focused on celebrating one’s African origins.

After being removed from the United States on embezzlement charges, Garvey was sent back to Jamaica, where his students would then combine his philosophies with a Judeo-Christian background to create Rastafari.

Garvey’s students sought after a prophet, whom they found in the form of Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia. Described as the “Black-Messiah,” Selassie was the final piece in solidifying the movement.

It was not until 1970 that Bob Marley utilized reggae music to spread the Rastafarian culture worldwide. His influence made Rastafarianism transform from a little-known religion in Jamaica, to an international movement that could be practiced by anyone.

The movement has maintained a following from the days of Bob Marley and has spread to younger generations. “I’ve practiced Rastafarianism for about a year now, and Bob Marley was a big influence in my transition,” said Grant Campbell, a junior at UNCW.

Rastafarian movement follower, Grant Campbell, speaks about his transition from Atheism to Rastafarianism. Bob Marley was an important influence on his new beliefs.
Photo courtesy of Jordan Behan

“I was an atheist for most of my life, but after submersing myself in the culture and ideologies Marley spoke about, I’ve found it to be very self-rewarding.” said Campbell.

An important aspect of the Rastafari traditions is a practice called “reasoning,” where one sits down with others who follow the movement to discuss philosophies and grievances.

“Reasoning is where minds can connect without judgment or fear, to help discover our true selves,” explained Campbell. This belief in finding one’s true self is an essential theme of the Rastafari culture.

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Marley and Ganja: the popularization of Rastafari