Run-in With a Rasta

“What’s the meaning of your dreads,” a man asked in an accent I couldn’t place.

It’s a question I get all the time. But whenever the asker bears a foreign accent, it’s almost always a trick question. One that regardless of the reply, seems to be deemed faulty or frivolous.

Not that I don’t have my reasons. It is the manifestation of my Black pride, my finger in the face of everyone who denounces nappy hair something that must be flattened and otherwise altered to be acceptable. But most importantly, it is the ultimate commitment of the noncommittal woman.

  My life has been peppered with short-lived stints. As a kid, I was known for singing, a hobby I now only employ within the confines of my shower and on the occasional karaoke night. I toyed with paint in high school but only recently have begun to explore it once more. I acted in college, a passion I now live vicariously through watching others on stage. I dabble. I tinker. I am willing to try almost anything once. And then, when I grow bored, I abandon it for the next big thrill. So doing something as drastic as locking my hair, a hairstyle from which the most practice means of hitting ‘undo’ was was cutting them off altogether, was a weighty consideration. 

I had longed for locks for years before I actually had the nerve to grow them. In fact, this is my second pair. My first I started in my sophomore year of college, when my fling rocked locks as well. I promptly cut off my hair and straightened about that semester. Long story short, I tried it again six months later as proof to myself that I was capable of committing to something I wanted.

I simply stared at the man as he repeated his question.

“I’m not a Rasta,” I began. “I don’t do it for religious reasons,” I replied bluntly.

Before I started my second set of locks, I did my research. I learned that many Rastafarians feel offended when others don what they deem “bathroom locks.”

“Is it for style or culture,” he pressed.

“Both,” I offered.

“It is not a style,” he countered.

Here we go. I sighed and launched my thoughts about anyone being entitled to wear dreads.

“It is not a style,” he insisted. “It is a lifestyle.”

I took a long look at the ebony gent with a neatly cropped hair.

“I have dreads in my heart,” he offered, noticing my curious stare. To him, the tangled coifs represented love, peace and unity, love for mankind.

You can’t argue with that. He was a Rasta. The first I had ever knowingly encountered.

He suggested I read deeper into the religion that everyone has heard of, but few understand.

The inevitable encounter I’d always dreaded turned into one of the best and most humbling lessons I learned.

5 thoughts on “Run-in With a Rasta

  1. Mao's Army says:

    This a cool post. I like the cultural lesson it gave. I feel this post isn’t just about a lesson you learned, but your also educating ignorant people like me who knows nothing about dreads. What I’m curious about is how the guy you met feels about Chinese people rocking dreadlocks? Can there be Chinese rastas?


    1. lcooksmarketer1 says:

      Thanks Hao. I think his issue was with anyone wearing locks for fashion without a deeper meaning. In the book I read about locks, a Chinese family, all donning dreads, was taken in by Jamaican Rastas and became Rastas themselves. From my research, It seems that the Rastari religion was inspired by Marcus Garvey, and held the hatred of whites as one of its founding principles. But when its leader, Haile Selassie spoke out against racism of any type, that part of the culture subsided. So yes, it seems there can be Rastas of any color or background. Check out this link when you get a chance:


  2. bajanpoet says:

    I was looking for a picture to go with the poem I am writing about the significant event of cutting off one’s locks – inspired by a friend of mine who did just that this weekend … and stumbled onto this post. This is beautifully written, and I totally connect with the guy’s statement of having locks in his heart… Most of my friends are Rastafari in belief or inclination and being around them I’m gaining more understanding.

    May I use your pic for my poem? If yes I’ll link back to this post 🙂


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