21 abr. 2013

Happy Grounation Day, Haile Selassie visit Jamaica on April 21, 1966

Rastafarians remember the date that Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian emperor who they believe to be the second manifestation of Christ, visited Jamaica. Called Grounation Day, Rastafarians typically chant, pray, feast and create music in celebration. As the sounds of reggae music rise from believers' households, the Rastas remind the world that they, too, are members of an Abrahamic religion.

To many Rastas, the drumming associated with reggae music is a tool used to immerse themselves in their spirituality, primarily during faith or "Reasoning" sessions. This type of music is referred to by followers as "Nyabinghi," a mixture of 19th-century gospel music and African drumming.

Marijuana also plays an important role in these Reasoning sessions, and Rastas regard smoking as a religious experience of meditation and deeper contemplation. Rastas even cite biblical encouragement of marijuana usage, such as this passage from Psalms 104:14: "He causeth the grass for the cattle, and the herb for the services of man."

Rastafarians take the long form of their name from the pre-regnal title of Haile Selassie: Ras Tafari. They generally claim to reject Western culture, and believe Western society to be a modern manifestation of Babylon's ancient excess. Still, it was Bob Marley who greatly spread the religion throughout the world, and Marley's music certainly became popular in Western culture. A famous reggae artist of today is Sizzla, a Jamaican native who tours frequently and speaks openly about his religion in his songs.

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Visit of Selassie to Jamaica

Haile Selassie had already met with several Rasta elders in Addis Ababa, and had allowed Rastafari and other people of African descent to settle on his personal land in Shashamane.

Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on Thursday, 21 April 1966. 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 Rastafarians celebrate that Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on April 21st.

When Haile Selassie's Ethiopian Airlines flight landed at the airport at 1:30 PM, the crowd surrounded his plane on the tarmac. The day had been overcast and stormy. After about half an hour, the door swung open and the emperor appeared at the top of the mobile steps. A deafening tumult was heard from the crowd, who beat calabash drums, lit firecrackers, waved signs, and sounded Abeng horns of the Maroons. All protocol was dropped as the crowd pressed past the security forces and onto the red carpet that had been laid out for the reception. Selassie waved from the top of the steps; some interpreters have claimed that he shed tears, although this is disputed. He then returned into the plane, disappearing for several more minutes. Finally Jamaican authorities were obliged to request Ras Mortimer Planno, a well-known Rasta leader, to climb the steps, enter the plane, and negotiate the Emperor's descent. When Planno reemerged, he announced to the crowd: "The Emperor has instructed me to tell you to be calm. Step back and let the Emperor land". He was then driven to the King's House, the residence of Governor-General Clifford Campbell.

As a result of Planno's actions, the Jamaican authorities were asked to ensure that Rastafarian representatives were present at all state functions attended by His Majesty, and Rastafari elders, including Planno and probably Joseph Hibbert, also obtained a private audience with the Emperor, where he reportedly told them that they should not immigrate to Ethiopia until they had first liberated the people of Jamaica. This dictum came to be known as "liberation before repatriation". At a dinner held at the King's House, Rastas claimed that acting Jamaican Prime Minister Donald Sangster had stamped his foot at Lulu, Haile Selassie's pet chihuahua, who, they swore, had responded with the roar of a lion.

Defying expectations of the Jamaican authorities, Selassie never rebuked the Rastafari for their belief in him as the Messiah. Instead, he presented the movement's faithful elders with gold medallions bearing the Ethiopian seal - the only recipients of such an honour on this visit. Meanwhile, he presented some of the Jamaican politicians, including Sangster, with miniature coffin-shaped cigarette boxes.

April 21, 1966 H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie Visits Jamaica - Part 1

April 21, 1966 H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie Visits Jamaica - Part 2