Rastafari icon Mortimo Planno passes on
BY BASIL WALTERS Observer staff reporter
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
MORTIMO St George Planno, an influential Rastafarian icon, is dead. He died on March 5 at the University Hospital of the West Indies.
PLANNO... was all that was good
He was a founding member of the Rastafari Movement Association, which held the Ethiopian World Federation Charter 37, and was the driving force behind the first Universal Groundation (Assemble) of Rastafari in Back-O-Wall (now Tivoli Gardens) in 1958.
Brother Kumi, as he was affectionately called, was born in Cuba on September 6, 1929. His mother May Parks and father Miguel Planno, a Cuban tobacconist, took him to Jamaica when he was three years old.
After the family landed in Jamaica in 1932, they lived in "Back-O-Wall", where Planno grew up and came to national prominence in the early 1950s through his articulate and defiant advocacy of the Rastafarian Movement, then in its second decade.
He was also instrumental in many other initiatives involving the advancement and the establishment of what is today a worldwide movement. These include the 1960 University of the West Indies (UWI) Report on the Rastafari Movement in Jamaica; the 1961 Fact- Finding Mission to Africa (on which he was a member of the delegation); the visit of Emperor Haile Selassie I to Jamaica in 1966; the mentoring of Bob Marley and the Wailers; the repatriation of several families and individuals to Shashamanie, Ethiopia throughout the 1960s; the arrival of the Ethiopia Orthodox Church in Jamaica in 1970; and the 1978 Peace Concert.
Planno had been connected to the university community even before the time of the report on the Rastafari Movement, through the extra-mural department where he actively participated. He was well known for his letters to the press and his famous autobiographical text "The Earth's Most Strangest Man:The Rastafarian".
He toured Africa on three separate occasions representing the Rastafari Movement, visiting a total of 15 countries. He has also been invited to give lecture/tours in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
In 1998, the Faculty of Social Sciences through a one-year fellowship, made Brother Kumi its inaugural Folk Philosopher and during that period he continued his writings. Planno was subsequently attached to the Institute of Caribbean Studies, which facilitated the organisation and preservation of some of his archives and his accessibility as a key consultant for scholars researching the Rastafari Movement as well as his continued engagement with the wider University community.
Mortimo Planno may best be remembered for the calming role he played on the occasion of Emperor Haile Selassie I's visit to Jamaica, when he restored order where state protocol was said to have disappeared.
"He (Planno) is perhaps most of all, the Rastafari ecumenical leader extraordinaire as his command predated and transcended the differences represented within the various mansion/houses (organisations) of Rastafari," said Jalani Niaah, coordinator of the Rastafari Studies, UWI, which has provided much of the information on this key Rastafari figure for more than 50 years.
Junior Manning, publisher of the magazine Rasta Vibes, said "Planno was one of the most outstanding Rastaman who stood up for the faith and was recognised by His Majesty. Planno was all that was good - the physical connection between His Majesty and the rest of I and I, who advocated for a new faculty. Any man who disrespect Planno, disrespect His Majesty," Manning argued.
And prominent poet/broadcaster, Mutabaruka remembers Planno as someone who always inspired and encouraged him. "He was the first man who introduced me on a stage, and I find it to be a great honour," Mutabaruka said.