KINGSTON, Jamaica– Culture Minister Olivia Grange Wednesday celebrated Groundation Day with members of the Rastafarian community – a day which commemorates the 1966 visit to Jamaica of Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia.
“That April 21 was an unforgettable day in Jamaican history when 100,000 Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Palisadoes Airport in Kingston playing drums, smoking chalices, and chanting Nyabinghi songs as they waited for His Imperial Majesty.”
In a statement, Grange noted that although it has been 55 years – the event has not faded from the memory or importance to the Rastafari community, at home and abroad.
“The Emperor’s visit was a significant moment in the development of the Rastafari religion. Having been treated as outcasts by Jamaican society, the respect and attention the Emperor gave them caused Rastafari to gain a measure of respectability for the first time. Building on that, the Rastafari’s Reggae music gained more interest and became commercially viable, leading in turn to the further global spread of the Rastafari movement.”
“I am happy to see that Jamaica has finally come to accept the positive presence of Rastafari citizens in our nation and their contribution to the development of our country. Our relationships continue to improve, hard barriers have softened, and broken fences been repaired,” said Grange.
On April 21, 1966, Haile Selassie visited the island, where he was met by over 100,000 Rastafarians at the Palisadoes airport.
The Rastafarians, who came from all across the country, believed that Haile Selassie was the Messiah.