EMPEROR SELLASSIE'S MEETINGS
WITH RASTAFARIANS

 


The Emperor first met Rastafarians when a Jamaican mission visited Ethiopia and other African states in 1961 to arrange for Repatriation. In the mission there were three Rastafarians, Rastas Alvaranga, Planno and Mack. The Emperor Welcomed them as "brothers of one blood and race" and told them that Ethiopia would always be open to people of African origin, who lived in the West and wanted to return to Africa. The Rastas presented the Emperor with gifts of carvings, paintings and photographs and they likened their visit to that of the Biblical story of the three wise men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to Christ.

In their own words they said "when we presented our gifts to the Emperor, before we could tell him who it was from he said, "is it from the Rastafari brethren?" We told him "yes." That shows H.I.M. knows of Rastafari brethren. H.I.M. also gave each member of the mission a gold medal for their work fulfilling in their words "Biblically equality cometh for all." Only the Rases presented gifts to H.I.M. and the rest of the mission left us in the palace, probably fulfilling the parable of the ten virgins, five had oil in their lamps -- five had none."

In 1964, two of the Rases who went on the earlier mission, Alvaranga and Mack together witha third, Clayton went on a fifteen month tour of Africa of which six were spent in Ethiopia. While in Ethiopia, the Emperor gave them ready and frequent audience, treated them kindly and paid the
cost of their visit.

The Emperor's next meeting with Rastafarians was nothing like the first two. The newspapers head lines after he arrived in Jamaica on April 21st, 1966 read "Wild Welcome for Negus", "Airport Overwhelmed with Rampant Crowds", "Savage Joy Swamps Palisadoes formalities", and "Multitude surges and surrounds plane". The reception he got was the largest welcome ever given to any person coming or leaving Jamaica and put questions over the country's nationalism, as the crowd included many non-Rastas. When the Emperor's plane landed due to the size and enthusiasm of the crowd he was unable to come out and he shed tears openly. it was Ras Planno from the first mission who was called to order things. The officiality of the government had been swept aside by the joyful love of the Rastas and they were forced to play minor roles. Things were even worse at a function later on in the National Stadium as Rastas completely took over. Jamaican official was alarmed but withheld their feelings due partly to lack of attention paid to them, and the reality of human feelings.
In fact, a Senator later filed a motion that the Emperor be made King of Jamaica and that they do away with Queen Elizabeth II. For the Rastas, their day had come as they rubbed shoulders with the governing and upper classes and that period marked a turning point in their relations with the rest of society.

In 1948, the Emperor, who was noted for his stately, noble and spiritual appearance gave the following speech concerning the direction of the movement:"Rastas" progress must be moral. It is important that spiritual advancement keep pace with material advancement. When this comes to be realized man's journey towards higher and more lasting values will show more marked progress, while the evil in him recedes into the ground. Knowing that material and spiritual progress are essential to man, we must ceaselessly work for equal attainment of both. Only then shall we be able to acquire that absolute inner calm so necessary to our well being."

Although the Emperor is said to have refuted the notion that he was God, Rastafarians take this as evidence of the Emperor's divine humility, who although human in form was born to David's root to fulfill prophecy. He is, they say, omnipresent and like Christ he can never die, so Jah Rastafari (God Sellassie) lives. While the Emperor was willing to help the Rastafarians he was restricted by the fact that he could not deal with them on a government to government basis.