Current actions contradict roots of Rastafari, says Semaj
"Is it possible that Rasta has fulfilled its promise and is now a spent force?" questioned Semaj, as he addressed the recent Rastafari Studies, Conference, a four-day expose on the movement.
"This conference could be a critical catalyst in this corrective transition — if the kind of reasoning here will not just pontificate on all the great things but to point out all the things that are not working."
Panellists from around the world presented on the impact of Rastafari at the conference at the University of West Indies in Kingston.
Semaj, who up to recently wore locks, said that the movement lost potency up to mid-90s when the traditional theme of peace and love was usurped by fire burning.
"Rastafari had its greatest impact during the first 30 years using the soft power of peace and love. All the things with which Rasta made an impact on the world are the things that evolved out of the foundation of Rastafari using the soft power," he asserted.
Rastafari is a comparatively new religion which began in the 1930s — its followers worship Haile Selassie I, former Emperor of Ethiopia. During the first 30 to 40 years the movement received spiritual strength from the visit of Selassie to Jamaica and the rise of Reggae music via Rastafari including the Wailers and Dennis Brown.
"The consistent refrain of Rastafari over the first 30 years was peace and love, but then it transitioned to something else called fyah bun. It is the most common theme in the last 10-15 years for the Rasta man. How did we make that transition?," he asked.
Semaj agreed that fire can purify, but questioned whether the confrontation of fire has benefited the movement.
"What has fire created. Has it destroyed what has been created over the first 30 years. Rasta has to answer these questions," stated Semaj who is also the founder of The Job Bank a company that provides leadership and employment solutions.
Semaj who received a Post Doctoral Fellowship in psychology from Princeton University, has lectured at the University of the West Indies, Cornell University and Rutgers University. He has also been a columnist and commentator on numerous talk shows.