“So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
Nevertheless, I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory
Whom have I in heaven but thee? And if there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever
For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou has destroyed all them that go whoring from thee.
But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in Jah God, that I may declare all thy works.
Psalm 73: 22-28
I’ve come to the belief that I came into this world a Rasta man long before travelling to Ethiopia during the fall of 2015 and incrementally embracing the livity shortly thereafter. As a District-born Black man and son of two West African immigrants, I spent much of my childhood and adolescence overcoming insecurities about my West African physical features and heritage.
Though it was quite the struggle, my parents’ Liberian nationality, and the historical background of that country gave me some understanding of Pan-Africanism, despite the circumstances under which the American Colonization Society established Liberia. Peers who questioned my European surname of Collins got quite the lesson about how freed Black men and women from the United States returned to the Motherland in the early 19th century to establish a nation of their own.
That conversation, at times, often included ruminations about schisms that existed between the so-called Americo-Liberian minority and the majority Liberian population that represented 16 indigenous ethnic groups. Those divisions precipitated the 1980 coup that ultimately led to the civil war that popped off on Christmas Day in 1989, a couple months after I physically came into the Babylon System as Sam Plo-Kwia Collins, Jr.
By high school, when the second Liberian Civil War was underway, my peers, or at least those who cared to listen, learned about LIberian politics and how it affected my family, particularly my mother’s siblings and my older brother.
In those years, I also found myself around Black people from families hailing from various parts of the diaspora, including but not limited to: the United States, Liberia, Nigeria, Haiti, and Jamaica. Those formative years showed me that delinquency wasn’t only relegated to African people living in the United States, as I had been led to believe during my childhood.
As a matter of fact, my teenage years, during which I learned about my Liberian-born brother’s upbringing, immersed me in aspects of the Pan-African struggle, especially the obstacles that African people across the Diaspora overcome. The socioeconomic and spiritual struggle was the same anywhere one went around the world, as also shown to me by a good brother in Takoma Park, Maryland who often spoke about his childhood in Haiti.
Fast forward several years later, when at the age of 26, as a heavily degreed Black man, I still felt an emptiness inside of me that not even the escape from my neighborhood and the trappings of college life could fill. In embracing various strains of the global African struggle, Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism included, I gained a sense of self that I never felt before.
I felt more African, and more eager to bask in my Afrocentricity. However, it would be in a way that transcended European-made borders, timelines, and other schisms that have separated the Motherland from the Diaspora.
Black Man Redemption
Even with my newfound love for self, I needed to redeem myself for the mistakes of my past — a past in which I succumbed to forces in Uptown D.C., Takoma Park, Maryland, The George Washington University, and other venues that feasted upon my glaring lack of confidence.
Rastafari paved the way for me in doing that. Just as Psalm 68 told us that Ethiopia stretched her hands forth, and The Holy PIby called for unification of Ethiopia, what we call the African diaspora, I too had to become One with myself once again. I had to re-establish the nobility that I had in my past life.
I also had to find the confidence I had in my natural abilities and unique personality throughout my elementary and middle school years. Even with my classmates’ penchant for teasing me, and the way I would bawl out in tears after these incidents, I didn’t feel a need to portray myself as anything other than a scholar and gentleman.
Entering high school however proved to be a turning point. As was the case with other teenagers, I wanted to keep up with people who didn’t know any better. It proved no different at Banneker Academic High School, supposedly one of the best public high schools in D.C. where one could excel in the classroom without fear.
Even with that reputation, a lot of Banneker students, myself included, couldn’t quite remove ourselves from an urban environment designed to bring out the worst in us. In my case, my attempts at delinquency stemmed from a need to have a girlfriend, or at least garner the attention of young women who wouldn’t look my way otherwise.
Between 2003 and 2007, I found myself in one-sided relationships where I yearned to solidify bonds with women who wanted nothing to do with me. Instead of accepting that as fact, I continued to chase them and fall on my face. This happened as I attempted to adhere to my obligations to the male ego that taught me I had to physically conquer these young women and portray myself as a bad boy of sorts.
However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t wipe the love and discipline of my household off of my aura. My father’s style as a disciplinarian kept me in line, even as I walked through the streets with young men who adopted a criminal lifestyle.
Additionally, the love with which my mother showered me blinded me to how fickle teenage girls could be. I saw myself fall for the trickbag time and time again, basically out of a desire to give these women the love I showed my mother, even if they didn’t return the favor. Through it all, my mother was right there to jokingly laugh at me, and sometimes scold me, when I proclaimed my love for these young women.
In this life, we all make choices, and the people we meet are a reflection of what we need to correct within ourselves. During those formative years, I needed to stand up for myself, and love myself, so much so that people wholeheartedly understood what I wouldn’t tolerate. Fear of rejection was a disease that I had to eradicate in order to separate myself unto the Most High. As an employer, in speaking about me, brought to my attention nearly a decade prior to this article, I am only in the world, not of it.
Through establishing my nobility, I would be better able to reject the ethos of people from whom I’ve struggled to separate myself. I’m speaking about being at peace with the fact that I’m a different man in a different time with a different vision. It means having so much love for myself that I would work my best to connect to Spirit, and abstain from the substances, groups, and material things that kept me from fulfilling my potential, not only as a professional, but a husband, future father, and most importantly an African man.
With that being said, being at one with the Most High never felt so good!
Depending on the Most High, and feeling the power of the Most High through my conscious interactions with nature, animals, and other people has restored my faith in self. There’s no feeling greater than being able to stare your emotions in your face, come to grips with your imperfections, and overcome the hurdles preventing you from ascending to the next level.
It’s a lesson that African people across the globe can learn.
Rastafari as MY Pathway to Universal Pan-African Nationalism
Before I continue, let the record show that, as a Rasta, I take very seriously the concept of not having any attachment to a church or religious institution. The livity is my guide, and as such my goal as a Rasta involves reaching my highest form, mentally and spiritually stepping into a time before the Babylon system confused Our people.
Although many Rastas look at His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I as Christ in His Kingly Character, I consider him only a highly esteemed ancestor and figure in a real-life Afrofuturistic novel about the modern–day redemption of the African woman and man.
As a matter of fact, when I speak about November 2, 1930, I acknowledge not only Emperor Selassie, but Empress Menen Asfaw, the Omega to the Alpha and the feminine aspect of the oneness that we as African people must embrace if we are to see Babylon fall. If one reads it with newly Africanized eyes, they will see that the “good book” lays out the significance of the Selassie and Asfaw coronation.
That’s why I hold the events of that day in high esteem, more so than Selassie, though I read his utterances and do my best to act in the ways that he espoused. This viewpoint in some form or fashion deviates from what many Rastas believe. As a matter of fact, some stalwarts may find my viewpoint questionable, which is totally fine with me.
As is the case with any spiritual system, the goal is to attain oneness with the Most High energy. Rastafari is how I found the Most High; even though I don’t regard Selassie as a deity, he pointed me in the direction of the Most High energy. Case in point: one statement of Selassie’s that’s mired in controversy centers on the notion that he didn’t consider himself a deity.
While Selassie didn’t necessarily reject the notion held by many Rastafari people that he was the African messiah, he did acknowledge the Most High as the end all be all. Just as he is beholden to the power of that omnipotent source, so are we as African men and women. Tapping into that energy means loving and accepting one’s self, and practicing a type of universalism endorsed by the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey in which one sees God in themselves and strives to reach that source by attaining knowledge about the world around them.
That’s why, as a Rasta man, I do my best to break out of the confines of the Abrahamic faith that keep us mired focused on the omnipotent being, and not the forces of nature through which it expresses itself. In going back before a time before Babylonian captivity, we will see that practitioners of traditional African spiritual systems followed this mindset.
In adopting Universal Pan-African Nationalism as a Rasta, I accept and acknowledge the lineage in spiritual development that highlights the similarities between the Rasta livity and that of those who practice various spiritual systems throughout the Diaspora.
Yes, I can read portions of the Selassie version of the Holy Bible, and still find the power of the Most High in elements of nature just as has been done by those who practice traditional African religions, cyrstal work, and other spiritual systems deemed witchcraft. The Holy scriptures speak about this connection, in numerous verses, though many choose not to acknowledge it.
Yes, the Rastafari movement comes out of Abrahamic religions, but I’m not a Christian in any sense of the word. Rastafari is my socio-political livity, but, once again, I identify as a Pan-African universalist. If one wanted to compartmentalize my religious framework within the context of modern-day society, they could point to the Beta Israel, the ancient Hebrew group hailing from Northwest Ethiopia.
Those brothers and sisters, as far as I am concerned, are the true standard bearers of the Hebrew faith, not the European Jews who speak Yiddish, remain oriented in the Talmud, and perpetuate Zionism through their creation of the Balfour Declaration and subsequent pillaging of the West Bank after World War II. The Beta Israel are the ones who’ve adopted Menelik I — the son of King Solomon and Queen Makeda of Sheba — as their leader. They are also the ones who’ve protected the Ark of the Covenant once Menelik brought it to modern-day Axum.
Over the last 400 years or so, as has been the case for colonized and enslaved Africans, the Beta Israel have also faced persecution at the hand of the Ethiopian government, especially after King Ezana adopted Christianity. Because of their refusal to adopt the Christian faith, the Beta Israel had their land taken and the powers that be relegated them to the bottom of a caste system highlighted in the derogatory name of Falasha given to them.
Even so, the Beta Israel maintained their faith and retained customs. My only qualm with their situation involves the fact that some of them who have scattered took the Ashkanazi Jews on their offer to make the Zionist state of Israel their home.
For those who are unaware, the Israelite allegory as outlined in the Old Testament bears a striking similarity to the story of African people living in this modern-day system, mainly because of our collective failure to accept and follow through on a covenant established by the Most High. That covenant, outlined in the Books of Exodus and Duetoronomy demands that we observe the Sabbath on Saturday and restrict our diet, among other actions that establish good faith with our fellow men and women.
This covenant has origins in the 42 laws of Ma’at, which hints at its everlasting power throughout the generations and the sustainability of what we as African people have created. Somewhere along the way, we forgot that. To some degree, we allowed Europeans to enter the African continent and kidnap our brothers and sisters. Within our communities, African continue to destroy other Africans, many times on behalf of external powers.
Just as has always been the case, many modern-day Africans across the Diaspora continue to suffer for lack of knowledge and belief in that higher power. With that being said, just as Hebrew people don’t designate Yeshua ben Yosef as the messiah, I don’t look at His Imperial Majesty as anything more than a prominent example of African royalty and manhood in modern times.
So no, I’m not beholden to what some may describe as dogma, even as they appear in the restrictions of the livity that I’ve grown to love and respect. Oftentimes, the Abrahamic faiths, as much of ours as they may be, make us shun the creations of the creator rather than embrace them as tools in our spiritual advancement. How could I not seek justice and unity for African people, if not through an understanding of what we lost through colonization, and what we’re working to regain?
“One God, One Aim, One Destiny!”
Recognizing and relishing in the oneness of the Most High requires that I respect all aspects of the African experience, even those that my ancestors, and some of my Rastafari brethren and sistren, might reject.
In closing, as I trod along my path to spiritual enlightenment in the Babylon System, I do so knowing that I am a manifestation of the Most High, an androgenous being that manifested in many forms of use to me. In relying on the sun, moon, stars, animals, plants, and so forth and so on on my spiritual journey, I am embracing the Most High.
This makes me no less a Rasta man than any other because, by the end of the day, I am becoming one with myself and the universe to the point where I’m overcoming the isms and schisms that have kept men apart from their female counterparts, and African people at large fighting over spirituality and other highly sensitive topics. In redeeming myself, I am opening my mind, body, soul to the principles of the universe by following the Most High however it appears in my life.
By the end of the day, it’s just like the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey said when he called for the unification of African people: “One God, One Aim, One Destiny!”