Mortimer Planno

Revered Rastafarian leader


Mortimer St George Planno, spiritual leader: born 6 September 1929; married (two sons, one daughter); died Kingston, Jamaica 5 March 2006.

Mortimer Planno was one of the most revered figures of the Rastafari movement. Crucial to the early development and propagation of the faith in Jamaica and acknowledged as the man that indoctrinated Bob Marley, Planno was also admired for his oratory and literary skills.

The youngest of four children born in Cuba to a local tobacconist and his Jamaican wife, Planno spent most of his life in the slums of western Kingston, where his mother moved the family in the early 1930s, just as the Rastafari movement began its initial stirrings. The faith sprang up in Jamaica after preachers interpreted a statement attributed to Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican radical who founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, as being prophetic; in 1927, Garvey is said to have proclaimed, "Look to Africa, for the crowning of a black king, he shall be the redeemer."

So when Ras Tafari Makonen was crowned Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 - taking the title of Negusa Negast: the Elect of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah - the downtrodden of Jamaica took note and emerging religious leaders began to galvanise support for a new faith centred on Selassie's divinity, proclaiming that God was black and that the rightful place for black Jamaicans was Africa.

Planno's articulate rhetoric saw him become one of the movement's most prominent leaders during the 1950s. He was a founding member of the Rastafari Movement Association, which established Local Charter 37 of the Ethiopian World Federation on Salt Lane, in the heart of one of Kingston's most notorious ghettos; and he instigated the first "Universal Grounation of the Rastafari", a drumming and chanting ceremony held in the slum of Back-O-Wall in March 1958.

Then, after repeated harassment by the authorities and ostracism by the Christian public, Planno and his colleagues approached the University College of the West Indies to request an official study of the movement, in an effort to establish a better relationship with the wider Jamaican society. The in-depth study led to Planno and nine other prominent Rastas' being sent on a "fact-finding mission" to Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and other African countries in 1961. During the trip, Planno met Selassie in person in Ethiopia. Five years later, when Selassie made an official state visit to Jamaica, Planno was instrumental in calming the crowd that gathered at the airport, allowing Selassie officially to greet the bulk of his followers for the only time in history.

During the late 1960s, Planno gave religious instruction at his home on a government housing scheme in Trench Town. Bob Marley and the Wailers, who lived nearby, were some of his most noteworthy students. Planno even briefly managed the group - producing their obscure single "Selassie is the Chapel" in 1968. He was later involved in the One Love Peace Concert, an event headlined by Marley in 1978.

From the late 1990s, Planno was attached to the University of the West Indies as a resident "Folk Philosopher".

David Katz

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable