The Secret Black Language That Ties Us All To Africa

two black men standing together with dreads
Via Flickr
Adé Hennis
April 10, 2024

When you first hear the term “Dread Talk,” you may think of dreadlocks. But Dread Talk isn’t about hair; it's a connection to the roots of African culture.

Tired of speaking the English of their British colonizers, Iyaric, or Dread Talk, was established by the Rastafari in the late 1930s. This new language not only resisted Eurocentrism, but also created a new vernacular rooted in African culture.

Iyaric is a mixture of English, Jamaican Patois, and African languages including Yoruba, Bantu, and Twi. It is aspirational; for instance, instead of saying “back to Africa,” or “back home,” Iyaric speakers say “forward to Africa” and  “forward home.”  Forging ahead to a better time and place is preferable to going backward.

A core concept of Dread Talk is the use of the letter I as a prefix, because I was associated with the divinity of Jah. For example, the word “vital” it would be “ital,” “unity” would be “inity,” and “children” would be “idren.” It was a language that ”inited” the Rastafari in embracing their roots.

There is no other language in the world like Dread Talk, but you don’t have to speak it to understand the language of celebrating African culture. Much of the slang we use in the U.S. also evokes African culture. No matter where we are from, our shared experiences always give us reason to raise our voices in unity and solidarity.

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