An unprecedented event that occurred on April 21, 1966 when the Ethiopian Airlines plane decorated with the Ethiopian tricolour and the Lion Of Judah touched the ground of the Palisadoes airport in Kingston, Jamaica.
Tens of thousands of Rastafari brothers and sisters had been waiting for days in order not to miss an instant of what would have been an historical event of biblical significance.
Haile Selassie The First, Emperor of Ethiopia, the two hundred and twenty-fifth descendant of King David and King Solomon, the last ruler to sit on the throne of Israel, arrived to visit his people, the Rastafari.
We cannot forget that exactly three years earlier, in the same month of April 1963, the Rastafari people had suffered a ruthless persecution by the Government and Jamaican civilians. It was “Bad Friday” also known as the “Coral Gardens Massacre”.
The Rastafari had overcome that tragic event thanks to the awareness that the King of Kings would listen to their prayers.
The lyrics of the chant that they had wholeheartedly singing comforted their souls, reinvigorated their bodies.
“The Lion Of Judah shall break every chains”. It was not only a mere song indeed an anchor that prevented them from sinking into despair and desire for revenge.
Their spirits were sure that He, the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah would intervene and free them from the “lions’ den” just as had happened to Daniel, the Old Testament character who was thrown amongst the hungry lions but came out alive by God’s grace.
Here the visit of Haile Selassie The First comes just like the hand of the Almighty to rescue the Rastafari families from Babylon’s persecution.
The island of Jamaica had never witnessed anything like this; no head of state had ever been welcomed with such energy and enthusiasm, not even the Queen of England who had happened to be an official guest just a few months earlier.
It was indeed the largest public event in Jamaican history.
His Imperial Majesty’s visit to Jamaica was something of unprecedented greatness.
It was the first time that an African head of state had visited the Caribbean country and it was also the first and only time that a statesman had been received with such honour and enthusiasm.
He, the father of Africa, the inspirer and promoter of African independence, the champion of human rights, the symbol of freedom from colonialism and the protector of collective security, in the eyes of the world was coming to visit Jamaica.
A beautiful paradise on earth with a past afflicted by tremendous history and pain due to the African Slave Trade.
The expectation for this event was intense for the Jamaican population, but something special was present in this small island in the sun. Something unique that made this country different from the rest of the world.
It was the massive presence of the Rastafari faith.
Rastafari was born in the early 1930s as a spiritual movement, based on the conception of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie The First as divine person, more precisely as Jesus Christ returned in His second advent, God in flesh, the Power of the Holy Trinity.
He is, in the eyes of Rastafari the Conquering Lion of Judah, the Lamb returned as a lion to redeem the rest of Israel as the prophecies announced in ancient times.
That is why Jamaica had something very different from the rest of the world.
Because here, tens of thousands of people worshipped Him as God on earth, so His visit was seen as a divine event of biblical proportions, not as a mere official diplomatic visit.
It is also to be said that the Rastafari movement at that time was highly ostracized by the government and the creation of post-colonial Jamaica to the extent that the bredren and sistren were totally discriminated against and literally persecuted by the authorities.
They were marginalized by the system and especially by the elites.
The Rastaman was considered the least of society, an outcast, an untouchable, the illegal and marginalized one.
Rastafari people were seen as crazy visionaries and considered as shameful and scandalous by the racist and bigoted parts of society.
Politicians saw in the Movement a great threat to the system by which Jamaica was governed.
Almost 95% of the Jamaican population was in fact of African descent, yet ruled by a small elite of white, black or mixed race who unfortunately seemed to have lost their focus on their African roots.
Rastafari and their devotion to Africa, the repatriation slogans and, above all, the worship of a black God, were absolutely inconvenient for the institutions of the time.
Rastafari were seen as subversive and potentially dangerous for the delicate and deeply unfair class-system on which the island’s government and politics were based.
In the eyes of politicians, Rastafari was to be considered a dangerous threat because of their revolutionary message of black nationalism, but also of equal rights, justice and equality among all men.
Like the early Christians were a threat to the Roman empire so the Rastafari were for the dominant Jamaican-Commonwealth system.
But something in the Jamaican and World history was about to change.
The crowd had been gathering for days, who had arrived on foot or who had found a place in the many trucks loaded with Rasta men, women and children who came from the most remote parts of the island. Preparations had begun months earlier, banners and signs with biblical quotations announcing the return of the Messiah had been prepared with accurate precision.
There were those who had spent weeks preparing new garments or green yellow and red scarves for the event, those who had repainted the drums for the Nyah Binghi sacred chants and those who had cut the palms from the trees to greet the Messiah on his arrival.
All this brought to mind the pages of the Gospel when Christ entered Jerusalem in glory.
The crowd was immersed in a collective joy, there was a contagious euphoria, and even the non-Rastas had rushed to see the arrival of the King of Kings.
The chanting had started early in the morning and the wait became increasingly full of enthusiasm.
The overcast sky filtered a timid light through the clouds. The rain started and the mass of people found themselves singing under a drizzle that tasted like baptism, an ecstatic happiness was on the faces of those present … and it was only the beginning.
Suddenly lightning ripped tremendously through the leaden sky and a thunder of voices boomed in the space.
The people’s faces rose upwards and thousands of arms vigorously pointed beyond the clouds.
Well yes, the plane with the Lion of the Tribe of Judah appeared and the crowd intensified their chanting.
The drums sounded like they had never done before.
To the amazement and wonder of those present, the rain stopped and, as if by a miracle, everyone dried in the blink of an eye.
The Redeemer was next to the arrival and the hearts of many were filled by the remembrance of the Scriptures: “As the lightning comes from the east and shines to the west, so will the coming of the Son of man (Mt 24,27) “.
The atmosphere was electrically filled with a magnetism that many witnesses will then refer to as the deepest joy they had ever experience during their entire existence.
But the surprises were not over.
When the plane’s trolley got off and the wheels finally touched the Jamaican ground, the crowd broke the barriers and overcame the barricades in a rush that left the police incapable of any containment.
Thousands of Dreadlocks Rastafari were now under the belly of the aircraft chanting with their hearts in flames of joy waiting for the door to open and for HIM to come out.
The Messiah who came to “gather the people from the islands of the sea” as they had read countless times in the book of the Prophet Isaiah.
Here finally appeared His Imperial Majesty not by chance dressed in military uniform; He had in fact come to seal the battle against Babylon that had oppressed the Rastafari.
The eyes of those present could not believe they were truly in the presence of the Lord of Lords, the One of whom everyone spoke in Jamaica, nobody had the slightest intention of moving and miss that epic scene.
It had been necessary to call Mortimo Planno, a well-known person among the West Kingston Rastafari, in order to be able to break through the crowd so for the Emperor to come down.
Now God was finally walking among His people.
It was “Grounation Day”, the palms were stirred in the air and incense was burning.
Haile Selassie The First’s official visit to Jamaica was about to begin, it would last three days in which extraordinary events would take place for the Rastafari brothers and sisters.
Nothing would have been like before after the permanence of the King of Kings in Jamaica, the fate of the Rastafari Movement would have definitely changed and history in general would have taken a different direction.
Haile Selassie The First’s visit brought freedom to the Rastafari and triggered the take-off of Rastafari culture across the ocean through Reggae music and the “Black Liberation Struggle” which would, in a short time, reach the West.
It is also worth noting that among the Jamaican elite there was a great deal of hope that His Majesty, once in Jamaica, would publically declare that He was not God as the Rastafari believed instead.
The objective was the final dissolution of the Movement.
This was a real problem and a pressing obsession for the elites who were sure that with this visit the senseless Rastamen would be totally deceived by Haile Selassie’s position and statements.
Newspaper such as ‘The Star’ falsely declared before the visit that His Majesty ardently desired that all Rastafari discarded their belief that He was God’.
His Imperial Majesty, the Root of David never pronounced those words and in truth never once denied his divinity.
During those three days, His words and above all His actions were to the Rastafari the ulterior confirmation that yes, He was the Power of the Holy Trinity, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Elect of God, the Light of this World, the Earth rightful ruler.
As 2000 years before Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem, the birthplace of Chrstianity, so in the 20th century He was walking through the streets of Jamaica, the birthplace of Rastafari Livity and doctrine.
Grounation is Liberation.