Today would have marked the 128th birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia who reigned from 1930 to 1974.
He died on 27 August 1975 at age 83 following a coup d’état in Ethiopia.
McKoy’s News takes a closer look at his life and his connection to Jamaica and the Rastafarian movement.
Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on Thursday, April 21, 1966. Disregarding the inclement weather on that day, some 100,000 Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Palisadoes Airport in Kingston, having heard that the man whom they considered to be God was coming to visit them. They waited at the airport playing drums and smoking large quantities of marijuana. Today, the Rastafari celebrate that Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on April 21, and refers to it as Grounation Day.
Haile Selassie’s visit had a dramatic effect on the Rastafari movement. Since the man they worshipped as an incarnation of God was feted by politicians and given the keys to the capital city, the faith was awarded its first inkling of official recognition, giving credence to the beliefs of Jamaica’s most ostracised citizenry. A mere three years after the Coral Gardens Massacre, in which dozens of Rastas were killed by security forces, the incredible welcome accorded Selassie strengthened the determination of the faithful and helped swell the movement’s ranks. The transformation was acutely evidenced in the island’s music scene; if not for Selassie’s visit, the spread of Rastafari through reggae probably never would have taken place. The King of Reggae, Bob Marley made reference to Selassie in his song One Drop when he sang: ‘ Give us the teachings of His Majesty‘.
During his visit, the Emperor visited Gordon House and the University of the West Indies Mona.