On Saturday 2nd November 2019, Rastafari brothers and sisters internationally will be gathering to commemorate and celebrate the 89th anniversary of the coronation of Haile Selassie I in the land of Ethiopia.
To assist us truly understand what the coronation of this Ethiopian emperor meant to African descended people scattered in the diaspora, an article written by Martei Korley on the “Large Up” website is republished here for your edification.
On November 2nd, 1930, the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Menen ushered in a new wave of pride in the black world. Haile Selassie, whose name means ‘Power of the Holy Trinity,’ is the baptismal name of the child born Tafari Makonnen on July 23, 1892 in the Ethiopian province of Harrar, to Ras Makonnen and his wife Yashimabet. His Majesty (Or Haile Selasse I, R.R. as he wrote it himself) has cut an impressive, if controversial, figure and continues to mean a lot of different things to different people.
Adjectives abound when discussing the long-reigning monarch; his political legacy is complex. But even his detractors tend to credit him with, for better or worse, ushering Ethiopia into the 20th century.
Marcus Garvey at first glorified the African Monarch only to revile him after the onset of the Italo-Ethiopian war.
Political Science professors around the globe marvel at Selassie’s shrewd political genius and his address to The League of Nations in 1936 (The 1936 invasion of Ethiopia for the purposes of resettling Italian farmers in the large and fertile country by fascist Italy was Mussolini’s version of Hitler’s “Lebensraum” concept–arguably the root cause of World War II) is part of many curricula at campuses around the world.
Magazines repeatedly named him “Best Dressed Monarch” and, as such, he entered the minds of the international public in a way that no other African monarch had since Cleopatra. This is evident, for instance, in the US magazine covers on which he appeared decades before desegregation. Not even the election of Barack Obama can be compared in scope with the coronation: Ethiopia had at the time never been occupied by a foreign power and remained the only uncolonized territory on the African continent. The nobility of the Ethiopian court and the respect it commanded through the League of Nations–and the success with which its head negotiated the hostile waters of the international political scene post-WW I–was lost on few.
National Geographic published an issue with the coronation as the cover story and lavished accolades onto the monarch in a way that was unprecedented in talking about Africans. Indeed, many attempts were made by media to discredit Selassie’s “blackness”–after all he was a descendant of King Solomon!
Even Rastas vary greatly in their perceptions of Haile Selasse’s divinity. Some see him as God incarnate while eschewing the European ideal of Jesus Christ, others as the greatest teacher and reformer with the oldest of bloodlines, Christ in his second coming. All, however, study the political history of Selassie and celebrate his works and writings.
With the rise of post-colonial independence in Africa following the independence of Ghana in 1957, Selassie became the founder of the Organization of African Unity, focused on development and countermeasures to the effects of colonialism and post colonialism. The mere fact that so many new heads of state entered the political landscape (Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and Abdel Nasser to name a few) shifted some of the focus from Ethiopia, although internationally Selassie was still regarded as “The Father of Africa.”
As a result of the political legacies of both his predecessor, Menilek II, and the Italian government, internal conflict with Eritrea became a blight on the monarchy in the eyes of many. Western media jumped at the opportunity to rebuke the Emperor during a 1968 famine, notwithstanding the fact that WWII blanket bombings with mustard gas by Italian fighters had deforested large tracts of land, rendering them infertile. Internal ethnic prejudices also exacerbated the situation and Selassie repeatedly rebutted accusations of favoritism towards the Amhara ethnic group.
“Misguided people sometimes create misguided ideas. Some of my ancestors were Oromo. How can I colonize myself?”-Haile Selasse I
In the end, the dissent which toppled his government came from the same group of elite intellectuals to which he had afforded support and education, contrary to the hegemony of feudal tradition.
Custodianship of the popular opinion of Haile Selassie has gradually moved towards the Rasta movement, as the movement itself has gained more freedoms, not least through the spread of reggae music. This tradition has proved very efficient in disseminating basic knowledge of Selassie into popular conscience, especially in the Caribbean. Just as old Ethiopians swear on Selassie as Janhoy (meaning the Elephant, as in the Emperor who is greater than the King of the jungle, the Lion), throughout the English-speaking parts of the region it is common to substitute “God knows” with” Selassie I know.” Iconic images of His Imperial Majesty can be found virtually anywhere. In fact he far surpasses any other regional icon: Che Guevara and Castro hardly register on the scale, while Obama would surely covet the adulation.
As a political and historical event, the coronation is not to be taken lightly; it was epic in scope and took seven months to prepare. And indeed it was true when Rastas in Jamaica would say: Seventy-two nations bowed down before the Lion of Judah. All governments had their representatives in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, for the occasion. As Burning Spear sings: “The Lion was crowned the King.” Or to be exact: The Kings of Kings of Ethiopia, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, Elect of God and light of the world, Haile Selasse I, Rightful Ruler.
ORDER OF THE NYAHBINGHI THEOCRACY REIGN … UPCOMING ACTIVITIES
Please note that you are invited to a reggae house lime “Red Light Congo Night” that will be hosted by the AHF and Nyahbinghi House. This is a fund raising activity that will assist with the repairs to the Nyahbinghi tabernacle and assist with future developmental plans to national cannabis advocacy for the legalization of the plant. The lime starts at 7pm and ends at midnight. The venue is the AHF’s headquarters “Liberty House” that is located on Upper Two Mile Hill. St. Michael. You can call or whatsapp 260-4795 for more info on this activity.
Apart from some homemade wine, this activity is alcohol and flesh free. Donations – $10
Join the FB event page https://www.facebook.com/events/2603124386397114/
Nyahbinghi Ises: November 1st – November 7th. Tabernacle location – Love City, Shorey Village, St. Andrew. Starting time each evening is 7pm and continues until 6am the following day.
A dress code is in effect:
Sisters – No wearing of pants or skirts above the knees. Skirts and dress preferably should reach ankles. Head must be totally covered. Back and shoulders must be covered.
Brothers – No wearing of short pants, sleeveless shirts or vest. Head must be uncovered.
No drinking of alcohol,smoking of cigarettes or eating of flesh is allowed on tabernacle grounds also refereed to as the Nyahbinghi City
All are welcome.
Paul Rock (Ras Simba)
Founder and President of the African Heritage Foundation.