No 'junjo', No lice! Rastafari community protests discrimination

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No 'junjo', No lice! Rastafari community protests discrimination

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James— Placards displaying their disgust at the words 'junjo' and 'lice' which were used in the court ruling to refuse the daughter of Mr and Mrs Virgo to continue at Kensington Primary School in St Catherine, was the reason behind the protest of the Rastafarian community in western Jamaica today.                                                                        

The group was  seeking to dispel the notion that only dreadlocked hair was prone to carry 'junjo' – the Jamaican word for mildew or fungus, which may develop a bad odour – and lice.

They were also seeking to have government pass a law which disallows the discrimination of Rastafari in schools and the workplace.

Speaking at the protest today, Lewis Brown, treasurer for the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society says that the Rastafari community has taken great offence at how locked hair is perceived in Jamaica's society.

"Our heroes, the Rastaman of old that coming from way back then, dem nuh have lice and 'junjo' inna dem hair so we are offended by that and if the Ministry of Education address it in the right way then you'll find that principals in schools cannot pass their own rules and regulations.                    

“Also, we have a 13-point recommendation that we put to the government when we met in 2016 where we were encouraging the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour to tie in a law that balances in a way where, when these things happen, the person can hold to book (law) because to we, that discrimination should be an offence and we should have the Public Defender to defend the cause. We need them to pass this law so that this doesn't happen again,” Brown said. 

The Coral Gardens Benevolent Society member said issues related to wearing locks surface every year about this time. 

“In 2017, the Prime Minister apologied to the Rastafarian community and what he said that he would do is to see how best he can repair the damage that went on in the past so, based upon that, we need some form of address in Parliament stating that all schools and all workplace don't discriminate against Rastafari with locks and anyone with locks. 

“It reach a point now where it's not only Rasta alone wear locks, citizens out there wear locks all when dem nah defen' Rastafari so we can't have the teacher saying that 'junjo' and lice inna Rasta head. We are offended by that.  The outside world is looking in and it nuh look good. The government need to address the discrimination against all aspects of Rastafari," Brown continued. 

Joseph Bernard, who is also known as Bongo Joe, revealed that he thought that the discrimination had lessened based on a similar experience he had when he tried to enroll his daughter in primary school in Montego Bay 33 years ago.

"I go through this same situation in 1987. Dem turn out I and I child outta school seh dem not taking dem because of di locks. Wi haffi get wi lawyer and dem mek it compulsory seh dem have to tek dem because it was a primary school, which is a government school. 

“So mi tink seh dat did finish. What we are defending is the locks because nuff people wear locks and dem a nuh Rastafari. Dat is total discrimination," Bernard argued.                                                  

-Onomé Sido

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