An attempt by reggae entertainer Sizzla Kalonji to unilaterally impose himself as the ‘president’ of Rastafari in Jamaica, and thereby seize control of the movement globally, has been vehemently rejected by a broad cross section of Rastafari organizations and individuals in Jamaica and internationally.
Miguel Collins, popularly known as Sizzla Kalonji, publicly announced himself to be the leader of the Rastafari movement following his ‘inauguration’ as ‘president’ on Oct. 21, 2012, at the Lion’s Club in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Some are hailing this development as a great step forward for the Rastafari movement.
But over the past two years the entertainer has been attempting to leverage control over the Nyahbinghi Ancient Council using a combination of money, influence and thuggery. He finally influenced six of the 24 elders on the Ancient Council to back his power play to become a ‘Rasta president’.
Sizzla claims to have been elected ‘president’, but the ‘election’ was only a media announcement. There were no other candidates and no vote was conducted. Further, Collins, despite claims to the contrary, does not have the official endorsement of the three major mansions of the Rastafari movement – the Nyahbinghi Theocracy Reign Order, the Boboshanti and the 12 Tribes of Israel.
The disturbing thing about Sizzla’s ‘Presidential Inauguration Speech’ was that it indicated the wide scope of his agenda. His prepared script included the following telling sentence: “We are now putting in place ourselves as the true Indigenous Government of Ras Tafari with a President Elect for the Black people in the Diaspora”.
This statement indicates what his long term goals are: Collins is seeking to become the legal/constitutional representative of the ‘indigenous’ people and culture of Jamaica – and he’s talking about Rastafarians and Maroons, not Arawaks. And, after he ‘conquers’ Jamaica, the Caribbean and the African diaspora are next.
Clearly there is a problem. The Rastafari movement is out of control of its own loyal, sincere and genuine members. And the leadership of the movement is up for grabs to the highest bidder, the power-hungry or the most dominant and intimidating. Some of the leadership of the movement can even be bought out for monkey money by foreign hip-hop artistes like Snoop Whatever.
What is undeniable is that there is a leadership vacuum in the Rastafari movement. That void is now being filled unilaterally by Sizzla Kalonji in an attempt to give him added credibility in his power grabbing crusade in Jamaica, and in his land grabbing crusades in Africa.
The Rastafari movement as a whole has never had a president, so for an entertainer with no qualifications other than fame and fortune to be unilaterally propelled into supposed leadership of the entire movement by devious and strong-arm means, is absolutely ridiculous.
Rastafari and reggae are two separate entities, although many people mistakenly believe that they are one and the same. Even more important, money, fame and popularity do not qualify anyone for leadership of the Rastafari movement.
So for those saying that Sizzla is popular and rich – so what?! Rastafari business is not conducted by popularity contests and is not influenced by intimidation, bribery or fraud. True Rastafari are not thugs or terrorists and do not disrespect the principles of the tradition as these would-be usurpers have.
Reggae maestro Bob Marley never controlled the Rastafari movement. Peter Tosh never controlled the movement. They left the serious organizing and the diplomatic and governmental representation of the movement to those better qualified to do so.
The current dilemma facing Rastafari is how to deal with this determined attempt to seize arbitrary control of the movement. Make no mistake about that: Collins is determined to get his way, so nothing ends here yet. Undaunted by the reproach and derision his actions have caused throughout the movement, the entertainer is moving ahead with his agenda full speed.
Does the Rastafari movement need to be controlled by a deejay with an ever present paramilitary entourage always at his back? Does the movement need to be represented by an entertainer who gives mixed musical messages – roots and culture sometimes, and slackness and badness other times? Does the movement deserve to be led by someone who operates as a dictator and resorts to intimidation and threats of physical violence to get his way? No, of course not!
Over the past two months, Sister Mitzie Williams, chairperson of the Theocracy Order’s Administrative Council in Jamaica, has been receiving threatening phone calls urging her to support the new ‘Rasta president’. That has never happened before in the movement’s history.
So if you really love Rastafari culture, don’t go jumping blindly on the Sizzla bandwagon. His agenda and methodology may not be in the best interest of the movement. As Bob Marley said: “…I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries!”