NOTE: I started writing this post the week of Memorial Day weekend, before the senseless and unjustified lynching of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. But for whatever reason and maybe the right reasons could not finish this blog post as intended. Since taking time to reflect and as I continue to reflect, I have found new meaning in this novel.
The Marvellous Equations of the Dreads, A Novel in Bass Riddim is a magical realism novel that weaves together the history of the Rastafarian religion. This novel will leave an impact on you.
The novel recounts many aspects of the life of Bob Marley who returns to Jamaica after his death in the body of Riva Man, a fall down angel who once guarded kings during lovemaking. Bob Marley upon his entrance to Zion realizes that he no longer has his ring; the ring he believes was once King Solomon’s, gifted to Marley by Haile Salaisse, the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, but is instead a replica of the real ring. Haile Salaisse (otherwise known as His Imperial Majesty (HIM)) believed to the Messiah returned in human form in the Rastafarian religion is, in fact, a god-like figure in Zion once Marley arrives there. And so HIM grants Marley 7 days to return to Jamaica in search of his ring.
In the body of Riva Man during his 7-day return to Jamaica, Bob Marley travels time and space as Douglass takes the reader on the journey through the history of Jamaica from the 1890s to the 2000s. Th Douglass highlights the cotton silk tree which once stood on Half-way Street in Kingston, the place where a young Jamaican boy was lynched and later replaced with a Victorian-style clock in 1913, meant to honor King James VII. During Marley’s 7 day journey, he cannot remember the purpose behind his return to Jamaica, despite having the real ring in his pocket, the pocket of Riva Man. We later learn that Riva Man slipped the ring off the finger of HIM, with every intention of replacing it before being cast out of heaven as a fall down angel. On his journey, the only person able to recognize Marley in the body of Riva Man is Lennah a deaf Jamaican woman who has spiritual sight. Lennah was Marley’s friend during his time alive. As Marey journeys through Jamaica in the body of Riva Man in search of the gate back to Zion he meets characters whose lives he impacts through his spiritual presence and becomes a member of a network of Jamaican ancestors tasked with awakening the souls of children to do Zion purposed work.
We, Jah-Jah Children
For we are the madman children. Who knows how many of us there is? But if each of us shine seven children shoes and each of those children shine seven more; soon we will have a whole army. And if each of us sing seven songs and each of this seven songs reverb in the four directions of the four faces of Half Way Tree, we will have a whole choir. Jahrithmetic does multiply that way. Turn and take a partner, tra-la-la-la-la-la. And if each of us tell seven stories and each of those seven stories fly, tearing full speed off the pages of our spiral books, the sky over Kingston will resound with such a twittering, even the Prime Minister, not even Mr. Barack Obama-self with his good all-lined-up-in-a-row teeth, will have to listen, tra-la. So help us, Jah.
In the same way that Bob Marley’s returned spirit and the spirit of Jamaican ancestors Marcus Garvey, the legendary chieftain Maroon Queen Nanny, the founder of the Rastafarian religion came to awaken the children of Babylon, may the spirit of Touissant L’Overture, Nat Turner, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Zora Neale Hurston awaken and sustain our spirits to continue to do the work to dismantle racism and its impacts on our individual and collective lives. In the same way Jah-Jah’s children sang seven songs and seven stories, may we also sing songs of redemption and victory and continue to tell the stories of Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, Ahmad Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and the countless stories of Black bodies claimed by the system of global white supremacy. May we not only tell the stories of how they died but also how they lived. While the media has stopped covering the uprisings of people of color all around the world do not cease to continue to contribute to the cause of racial equity and justice. A revolution does not always have to be televised for a revolution to continue. Keep the revolution alive in which ever manner you are most capable!