Friday, 7 September 2018

Black British Bus Driver And Rasta Queen Marcia Carty Is London’s Rosa Parkes.

Mary Carty 10 years driving London buses.
54-year-old Londoner and Jamaican, Marcia Carty has worked at Metroline buses for the last 11 years; she is part of the much talked about, magnificent, Windrush generation, a Jamaican woman who has lived in the UK since she was a child. 

The recent, deplorable and illegal deportations of black British pensioners is indicative of a change in atmosphere, a change in the mood music, here in the England. Post the Brexit referendum, black people across the country are reporting seeing huge increases in hate crimes and this is further validated by a massive upsurge in the anecdotal reporting of increased racism targeting black British people. 

Whether it's immigration officials, police officers, schools or employers, black people are witnessing their rights constantly being undermined, ignored or simply taken away. This is particularly galling when one considers the enormous contribution of the Windrush generation and our fore-parents, contributed to the making of modern Britain. 

Marcia is part of that golden generation and is a proud Rasta Queen. She has worn her head wrap and Rasta colours of red, gold and green, now for over a decade, whilst working as a public servant as a London bus driver. Eleven years of good service, wearing her head wrap and her colours, and all without any problems, that is until now. 

I recently met her, and her brother, on a busy summer afternoon in central Brixton. I wanted to hear first-hand, her story. What promoted this meeting was the fact that Marcia so you are a lover, had over the last few weeks, been featured in several news articles, after her trade union, Unite warned the Metroline Bus Company, to end, what it called ‘religious discrimination’ against 
her and potentially other London Rastafarian bus drivers. 

Mary Carty and brother.

Typical of that generation, Marci of all and her Rasta brother, are hard-working, law abiding people, both polite and with a quiet, modest, but steely determination to secure her religious rights and the rights of all fellow Rastafari in London, to practice their spiritual faith, without undue and discriminatory, interference or intimidation from wider society. 

Rastafarian’s have long been a part of British culture and thankfully, gone are the days when dreadlocks were seen as unusual, however the status of this spiritual movement has, routinely met with resistance and dismissal from British society at large. 

From the days of slavery, to the fight against British colonialism, and coming right up, to the Windrush scandal today, Rasta has always been at the centre of our historic resistance and rebellions against against racism and oppression.

Organised ‘religion’ is an rejected by the Rastafarian faith. They believe all Africans are born Rasta’s and that his Imperial Majesty, Haillie Selassie I, is the one true living God, Jah Rastafari.  Dreadlocks are also deeply symbolic, in a complete rejection of western aesthetic, norms and values; dreadlocks can also be, like a Nuns habit or the hijab, an outward sign, of inward piety and devotion. 

While Britain loves Rasta Mouse, and most are more than happy to have funky dreads on their MTV flat screens, they often baulk, when real Rasta turns up at their school or work place.  

It’s long been argued by westerners, that Rasta does not constitute a ‘real religion’, and as a consequence does not enjoy the protection of Human Rights legalisation that seeks to protect, only those ‘traditional’ faiths, considered to be the worlds mainstream religions.  

Marcia, surprised at being asked to remove her red, gold and green head wrap, after a decade of no complaints, responded to management instruction to stop wearing the colours, offered a compromise solution. She suggested she wear a blue head wrap, requested by the company with a small red, gold and green coloured badge. After being approached several times by her manager demanded she remove her colours, Marcia was forced to take time off with the shear stress of the situation.

Marcia sensible compromise was refused by Metroline, so Mary appealed the management’s decision and that appeal was heard in recently, and sad to say. that appeal was rejected. The situation today is that Marcia has to stop wearing her colours or face future disciplinary action. 

Of course, the obvious problem here is that historical development of international and domestic law and jurisprudence on the issue of religious freedoms and universal human rights, has always been an exercise in maintaining the status quo and confirming the total marginalisation of Africans' around the globe. 

There is not one, original spiritual African faith recognised as a major world faith, anywhere in the world. This reality simply reflects, the deep racism and prejudice that exists right across the spectrum of Western legal, political and theological thinking, the legacy of which we still discern today, and can be seen reflected in Metroline’s decision to demand that Maria remove her Rastafari colours. 

For those with little or scant understanding of the movement, I shall explain the significance of their colours to Rastafarians and black people worldwide. 

These colours adopted by the Rastafarian movement and many African nations are seen as being deeply symbolical of the central tenants of their faith and pan African politics. 

Red; to symbolise the blood of our people, those alive today and our ancestors who suffered the indignity and brutality of 400 years of slavery and colonialism. 

Green; to symbolise the earth, the glory of natures bounty and and the necessity for humanity to live in harmony with the natural environment. 

Gold; to represent the sun and all its life-giving properties. 

Consider these colours as equivalent to the Jewish Star of David or the Cross in Christianity. These colours are believed to provide a link to our past and given related to African independence, the optimism of the future. 

But, first let's distinguish the wheat from the chaff. There is a Rasta; a spiritual movement, a grounded in faith and spiritual belief around the tenants of ‘one love’ and repatriation to Africa, and then there are people who wear dreadlocks, but who are not practising Rastafarians, everybody from follow fashion, funky dreads to Christafarians. 

Tube driver Harvey Mitchell wearing his red, gold and green tam. 
Its important you know the difference, because the wearing of dreadlocks for purely religious reasons is a fundamental human right, whilst wearing dreadlocks to look cool, is not. Marcia Carty is a devout Rasta, and there are many Rasta’s and supporters working on London’s public transport day in day out.  

Remember Tube driver Harvey Mitchell the tube driver that stopped his tube, on the anniversary of the Grenfell fire. Harvey halted his tube on Latimer Road Bridge, North Kensington, London to wave his green Grenfell flag in salute of the Grenfell fire victims? 

Other London bus companies or London Transport do demand that Rasta’s hidden their colours. In these companies Rasta’s are free to wear their colours with pride and without fear.

In a multicultural city like London, the prevailing culture is one of live and let live. London Transport and the Mayors Office need to intervene now and instruct Metroline to fall in line with other London bus companies, and allow Marcia to wear her colours.  

It is unacceptable in 2018, in a multicultural city like London, that a worker who otherwise has an impeccable record of professionalism and public service, should be threatened with losing her job simply because her  particular faith is not recognised  or valued by this employer. 

Marcia however is not the 1st to feel the backlash against Rasta. From police harassment, to school exclusions to workplace disciplinary’, Rasta’s have being the subject of abuse and oppression. That cannot continue or at the next generation and all Rasta’s must be respected as any other religion working on London transport systems.

In 1993 Trevor Dawkins was refused a job as a van driver after being told to cut his dreadlocks. Trevor refused and won his case after the employment tribunal ruled that Rastafarians constituted a distinct ethnic group. This decision was appealed by the Department of Environment, in the Court of Appeal.

Lord Meston, representing the government, was reported in the Independent newspaper as saying, in open court that Rastafarians were no more than  a relatively short lived “sect, cult or movement” with “quasi political and religious tenants.”

Then, much more recently, there was the case of Chikayzea Flanders a 12-year boy who was told, by Fulham Boys School, to cut of his dreadlocks, as reported in the Metro.

And,  more, recently, in the House of Commons. Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) MP, Anne McLaughlin, whose partner is a Rasta, called for Cannabis to be legalised in recognition of the importance and sacrament of Marijuana in Rasta faith. 

Surley in a modern, multicultural, democratic city like London, we should be leading the world  on innovative equality policy.  

Thankfully, this a simple matter that can be resolved at the stroke of a pen by the Mayor of London. 

All that Sadiq Khan has to do, is issue an instruction to Transport for London to instruct  Metroline, to change its policy or lose its contract. It's that simple. We are asking that you sign, share and support this petition, to the Mayor demanding equal rights and justice for Rasta's  working for London.

And surely in a progressive, modern city like London, we can reflect the reality of our hyper diversity by ensuring, that as far as practical, employment policies in London should not seek to discriminate, marginalise nor opppress public sector workers who choose to express their faith. 

This law already applies, to various other mainstream religions including Muslims, Sikhs and Jewisih ardherehts to the faith.  There is no reason why a policy accommodation cannot be made for the thousands of public sector workers, many of them working on London Buses and Tubes, are either Rastafari themselves, or, have Rasta in their family or are sympathatic to Rasta faith. 

This case has the potential to become a huge problem for the Mayor and Metroline. In many ways in refusing to take off her colours, Mary is echoing the definiant resistence of black women from Nanny of the Marrons and more recently, Rosa Parks. 

I believe this case cannot stand and good sense should prevail, to that end we are asking you to sign a petition in support of Marcia and requesting the Mayor to intervene.  We hope you will stand with Marcia and defend Rasta livity. 

One Love.

Lee Jasper 
Momentum Black Caucus.