A post-hardcore rock star, community activist, and social justice intellectual offers an alternative look at countercolonial history through the lens of the Rastafari movement.
Clearly having developed into far more than his punk-influenced history suggests, Sullivan offers a vibrant examination of American and African history with an anti-colonial patina, colored by episodes from the lives of fascinating and often controversial figures in both the past and contemporary history. Not quite a manifesto and not quite a memoir, the book incorporates aspects of both into an unusual but compelling narrative that encourages cooperation for the greater good, cultural tolerance, and equitable relationships among all peoples—a process akin to “decolonizing our minds.” The author begins with some anecdotes that will be fascinating for those of us who remember the days of Minor Threat and Bad Brains in the D.C. punk scene. Sullivan (a self-described “racially ambiguous white kid”) recounts venturing out with his friend Johnny Temple (who would go on to found Akashic Books, among numerous other exploits) to see Toots and the Maytals, accidentally meeting Doctor Dread, and landing jobs at the famous RAS Records. From there, the author spins a culturally rich, spiritually uplifting history of the world that stretches from Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie, a central figure in Rastafari culture, to the abolitionist John Brown to Marilyn Buck, the violent revolutionary and poet whom Sullivan corresponded with until her death in 2010. Along the way, the author frequently returns to themes that are clearly important to him, including prison ministry and reform, the power of collectivism, the meaning of resistance, and the importance of unity among all peoples. It’s a messy story, with charged touchstones that some readers will find uncomfortable, but it comes together well, and Sullivan offers a strong argument for cooperative economics.
An engaging and challenging read.