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Title : H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia Visits Jamaica April 21, 1966
Description : H.I.M. Haile Selassie I April 21,1966 State Visit to Jamaica


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H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I visited Jamaica on April 21, 1966, and approximately one hundred thousand Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Palisadoes Airport in Kingston, having heard that the man whom they considered to be their Messiah was coming to visit them. Spliffs and chalices were openly smoked, causing “a haze of ganja smoke” to drift through the air. Haile Selassie I arrived at the airport but was unable to come down the mobile steps of the airplane, as the crowd rushed the tarmac. 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. Planno re-emerged and announced to the crowd: “The Emperor has instructed me to tell you to be calm. Step back and let the Emperor land”. This day is widely held by scholars to be a major turning point for the movement, and it is still commemorated by Rastafarians as Grounation Day, the anniversary of which is celebrated as the second holiest holiday after 2 November, the Emperor’s Coronation Day.

From then on, 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 Rastafarian elders also ensured that they obtained a private audience with the Emperor, where he reportedly told them that they should not emigrate to Ethiopia until they had first liberated the people of Jamaica. This dictum came to be known as “liberation before repatriation”.

Haile Selassie defied expectations of the Jamaican authorities, and never rebuked the Rastafari for their belief in him as the returned Jesus. Instead, he presented the movement’s faithful elders with gold medallions – the only recipients of such an honor on this visit. During PNP leader (later Jamaican Prime Minister) Michael Manley’s visit to Ethiopia in October 1969, the Emperor allegedly still recalled his 1966 reception with amazement, and stated that he felt that he had to be respectful of their beliefs. This was the visit when Manley received the Rod of Correction or Rod of Joshua as a present from the Emperor, which is thought to have helped him to win the 1972 election in Jamaica.

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