Trevor Dube, a secondary school teacher, moved to Tower Hamlets two years ago from Zimbabwe, where he was born. Now 40, he became a Rastafarian as a university student in Harare. Here, he talks about what it means to follow his faith in Tower Hamlets and how his beliefs influence his daily life.
What’s the best thing about your faith?
It gives me the sense of identity I need to feel centred while giving me the freedom to develop in different directions. My beliefs also give me the strength to fulfil my role as a father and a friend, a son and a husband.
How close are you to other members of the Rastafarian community where you live?
Arriving in this country from Zimbabwe was quite a culture shock. Meeting other Rastas helped me to get over it. Without their support, I doubt I would have settled so quickly. Although most of the Rastas I know were actually born in the UK, they are familiar with the immigrant experience. Like me, they also have close ties to another country. This gives them an instinctive understanding of the way I am feeling and the support I need. Fortunately, my job has enabled to expand my social circle very easily, but I still hook up with other Rastafarians on a regular basis. I always come away feeling stronger, calmer and more focussed. The Rasta community has become a second family to me.
How do your friends and colleagues react when you talk to them about your faith?
In general, they’re fascinated although reactions do vary according to people’s race and backgrounds. Black people are often very keen to know about Marcus Garvey, particularly his teachings on Black empowerment. White people are often surprised to learn that you don’t have to be black to be a Rastafarian. I must be honest and say that not everyone is convinced Haile Selassie was a living god. But I always take time to explain that he is one in a line of saviours that began with Moses and continued through Elijah and Jesus to Haile Selassie.
What is the biggest misunderstanding you have heard about your faith?
If I had a pound for everyone who has asked me whether I grow my own ganga, I would be a very wealthy man!
Which Rastafarian you’ve met has had the biggest influence on your life?
Without a doubt, my grandfather. He was a modest man of such amazing dignity and wisdom. From an early age, he taught me the importance of knowing where I was going by knowing where I had come from. He didn’t preach. He simply made it clear in very gentle ways that fulfilling my potential meant discovering my roots – for myself, by myself.
He was among the very first people in Zimbabwe to discover Rastafarianism. It happened during our country’s liberation war, when he was sent to Ethiopia to train as a guerrilla fighter. Without spelling it out, he approved of my conversion to the faith. His blessing meant the world to me. Somehow, he knew that my faith would be the key to discovering my identity and my vocation. As it turned out, he was absolutely correct.
Is there anything you listen to when you’re looking for inspiration?
Anything by Bob Marley, but particularly his song Zimbabwe! When I was about 16, Bob Marley played at Zimbabwe’s independence ceremony in Harare. It was a defining event in our country’s history and has become part of our shared heritage. In those days, Zimbabweans were riding high on a wave of optimism. We felt anything was possible. That night, Bob Marley became an honorary Zimbabwean for life. Sadly, it was the last time he ever performed in public, but he remains a national hero back home.