A white Rastafarian church leader is addressing allegations of cultural appropriation and revealed plans to help the Black community at large in a peculiar way.
Jesse Schworck made headlines in April when he handed out cannabis as a sacrament in front of his storefront Rastafarian church, Lion Of Judah, House Of Rastafari, in Madison, Wisconsin. His seeming free rein to distribute marijuana and remain free from arrest, as well as his group’s anti-gay postings on social media, have earned him the ire of a local activist.
“These things have been blessed since the beginning,” he told the Wisconson-State Journal that month. “We just live life according to life itself. It’s what we know. We talk it and walk it. We are exercising inalienable rights.”
The incident led to a confrontation from community activist Dana Pellebon, who. She approached Schworck at his church, which was opened April 1, and called him out for his cultural appropriation.
The confrontation grew tense with Pellebon alleging a Black member “put hands on me” and she was shown the door.
“He wouldn’t stop,” Pellebon told Madison365. “I got angrier because black men are by far jailed in astonishing numbers because of marijuana and these guys are selling it right there. And so I went in there.”
However, Schworck, defended what occurred.
“We have a Jamaican brother over here that ran this lady out of here because she came in here real rude,” he said. “And angry and argumentative, immediately accusatory. And then she found a Jamaican Rasta brother in here that was not having any of that s–- and he removed her out of here because of it. … That lady came here when she first walked in accusing and yelling at everybody about cultural appropriation. She doesn’t even know her own culture. If she did, she’d be a Rastafari.”
Schworck also dismissed claims his church appropriates Black culture. In fact, he insisted he was Black on the inside. Specifically, he’s “black-hearted.”
“I know that I’m not a white man,” he said. “I’m not a white person. And you can sit and do all of these labeling games, everybody is mixed with black people.
“Black-hearted means that you hate white supremacy,” Schworck said. “For the last 20 years, me, personally, have been traveling to Jamaica over a dozen times, to Kenya over a dozen times. Me, personally, going over there and spending my money, my time, my life, my resources and to go over there and take interest in things that people should be interested in. … It’s not my fault that I happen to be the light for many people to go look into this themselves. It’s not my fault. So if nobody else was black-hearted enough to do it but me, that’s what it is. They have some other thing on their mind and it’s definitely not any black-hearted people that would be against me.”
He added that he’s given back to the Black community using proceeds from the church. However, he could not name any exact charities. But he did note he plans on buying slaves in Africa to free them.
“We want to do like certain fundraisers that we can take the money and use money to go buy slaves,” he said. “So we want to get a big, huge, bigger money and go buy slaves somewhere. … What we want to do with the slaves, we want to go buy the slaves and then we want to go free the slaves and go send them back to their countries. Go, somehow get into the market, different slave markets, whether it’d be Libya or other places and spend our money to go over there and actually free people from their circumstances in one way or the other. That’s something realistic we can do.”
Pellebon, a local activist, who also took with what she called sexist and homophobic Facebook and online postings by the church, did not speak on Schworck’s plans to go overseas but she did share her hopes for how she wants people to respond to what she describes as the leader’s cultural appropriation.
“What I’m hoping comes out of it is that I’m hoping no one goes there to buy weed. They’re feigning a religion,” she said to Madison365. “The police have been there. There’s articles about it in the [local media], I believe. So what I want is people to stop going there and stop giving them money because what they’re giving money to is harmful. They’re profiting off of black bodies. Not OK!”