Rastafarians mark anniversary of Selassie I’s visit to T&T

By Rumi Samuel Published on April 19, 2022
Rastafarians mark anniversary of Selassie I’s visit to T&T

As the country celebrated Easter Monday as a national and religious holiday, members of the local Rastafarian movement commemorated an important day in its history—the 56th anniversary of former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago.

On April 18, 1966, Emperor Selassie I landed at the Piarco International Airport and was greeted by former Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams and hundreds of members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

He stayed in the country for two days, visiting several areas, including Arouca, Arima and Sea Lots.

Apart from meeting Dr Eric Williams, he also met political and union leader Tubal Uriah Butler, religious leaders and familiar people.

However, for local Rastafarians, the day doesn’t simply celebrate the visit of an African king, but the visit of a Lord and the physical representation of God, as prophesied by Marcus Garvey.

“We are commemorating the day to bring back a remembrance to the people, especially the young people, to show that we as black people held, and hold, prominent positions and we have important people in our race,” Bobo Ashanti High Priest Imsley of Zion said.

“As Rastafari, we come to bring back that pride and respect of self in one community and by even highlighting his Imperial Majesty’s visit—such a mighty man, King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords…we want to use that in this time to highlight the significance of prominent black people.”

According to Priest Imsley of Zion, the Emperor, in his speech to the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament, urged the government to be tolerant of criticism from its people.

The Bobo Ashanti leader said such a message resonates even today as many foreign governments seek to rule over their people through oppression and tyranny.

“(Part of the Emperor’s message) was for people to respect the government and the government to respect the people,” Prince Imsley of Zion said.

He called on Rastafarians, Afro-Trinidadians, and all Trinbagonians to find pride in their identities and to love themselves for who they are.

According to Nyabinghi High Priest Bongo Grease, Haile Selassie I’s visit to Trinidad was a historic moment for the local Rastafarian movement.

He said the Emperor, during his visit, urged the country to go beyond the confines of sectarianism and embrace national, regional and international interests.

Bongo Grease urged youths to use Haile Selassie I’s legacy as an example in their lives.

“His Majesty was always a man of peace and love, and the message to all Trinidadians is to treasure diplomacy and the ability to reason because that’s the reason his majesty was so honoured,” he said.

“He clearly showed that man service is service to God, and today on the 56th anniversary, we look at the Majesty’s visit’s impact on the Rastafari movement. The impact today is much. Today's impact is we look at our Rastafari nation and try to understand how we can formalise our economic strategy to better the movement.”

According to the Acting Chairman of All Mansions of Rastafari, Afro-Trinidadians and Rastafarians must help build each other economically and speak with one voice.

“I think the speeches of his majesty are so vital because today people are so stressed out, people are so lost, and they are so edgy that diplomacy is no longer used in handling situations, but it’s merely violence and violence and violence, and that will not solve problems or take us anywhere because together we aspire, together we achieve,” Bongo Grease said.

The Rastafarian movement will celebrate the occasion at a function at the San Juan Promenade on Sunday, April 24.

According to the leaders of the movement, all public members are welcome.

The event will consist of Rastafari prayers, chants, music and food.

The former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I also visited Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and Haiti during his 1966 Caribbean Tour.

He served as Emperor from 1930 to 1974.


Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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