Members of San Quentin’s Universal Rastafari Community focused on overcoming prejudice and building a greater human community at its 2016 coronation celebration of founder Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I.
The celebration was the recognition of Selassie being crowned emperor of Ethiopia on Nov. 2, 1930. That day gave birth to the Rastafarian way of life. Selassie’s name means power of the trinity.
“We must become bigger than we have been, more courageous, greater in spirits, larger in outlook; we must become members of a new race,” said Father George Williams, the Catholic chaplain, quoting Selassie. He continued, “Overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellows in the human community.”
Father Williams said Selassie’s words are still relevant today. Then he recited the words of Pope Francis, “First you pray for the hungry and then you go feed them,” adding, “This banquet is to feed both spiritually and physically.”
“A lot of people confuse Rastafarians with being a Jamaican thing,” said Ras Jahfi. “Its origin comes from Ethiopia and started on the Nile River. We trace Haile Selassie’s lineage to King Solomon in the Bible; he was the 225th king in that line.”
Amid the sounds of reggae music and tribal drums, 45 men of different faiths and ethnicities attended Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Chapel for the banquet.
“How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity and love,” said Garyon Nettles as he read the opening prayer. “It’s like the precious ointment that runs from the head to the beard.”
“As a Rastafarian it’s in our traditions to show good will; that’s why we invited others from the prison community to come and join us. We didn’t come here to talk about politics or who our enemies are; we’re here to talk about the love of God,” said Nettles.
Bobby Robertson added, “We came here with an open mind and to get educated on the Rastafarian faith and way of life.”
Robertson read Psalms 127, 117 and 100 from the Bible before the food was served.
The men were treated to a delicious meal of chicken, fish and cheesecake, followed by the documentary film “Whose World Is This?” and music by K-Salaam and Beatnick. The thought- provoking film on today’s social issues featured hip-hop artists Dead Prez, Saigon and Papoose.
“This faith connects us to our heritage,” said Ras Jahfi. “It brings humbleness and peace. We are going to answer one day to that Greater Power or Higher Being for our sins and conduct.”
Jahfi noted that the Rastafarian way of life has spread around the world due to legendary singer Bob Marley picking up the banner.
“We can see how his lyrics/words have become prophetic,” he said.
Aaron “Showtime” Taylor closed the gathering with a spoken-word piece called “12 Jewels,” connecting 12 common themes that affect all mankind.
Taylor listed freedom, justice, equality, food and clothing, shelter, love, peace and happiness among the jewels.
He was accompanied by the soothing sounds of the jazz band “Just Us,” featuring drummer Paul Oliver, bassist Terry Slaughter and guitarist Charlie Spence.
“No matter your religion, non-religion or irreligion, you should strive for knowledge, wisdom and understanding,” said Taylor.
The July 9 event served as a bridge of faith and education that fed brain, stomach and soul.