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Jamaica 1966, fulfill Manner of Living

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Time Zone: EST (New York, Toronto)
Messenger: jah_cedes Sent: 2/4/2012 2:53:24 AM

All Hail the King of Kings, the Lion of Judah, the Almighty One, Ye shall break every chain again and again...

Text of a welcome banner held aloft at Montego Bay's civic reception for Emperor Haile Selassie I, April 23, 1966.

THE HEAT that rose from the tarmac of Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport was nothing compared to the level of expectation that was seeping through the thousands gathered on the tarmac that 21st day of April, 1966. The day was declared a public holiday in honour of the Emperor and people had started arriving from Wednesday night from places near and far, to form the largest crowd to have ever assembled at the Norman Manley International Airport. They came to the airport any way they could by car, by truck, by bus, by bicycle, by foot. Drum beats and chants were heard almost non-stop, providing an almost hypnotic rhythm. The smell of ganja wafted through the air completing a welcome unprecedented in size and expectation for the Emperor on his first state visit to Jamaica.

Interpreter at right translates the speech of Emperor Haile Selassie, given in Arabic, as he addressed both houses of Parliament at Gordon House. On the throne with His Imperial Majesty is Governor-General Sir Clifford Campbell. Seated at left is Lady Campbell.

Brother George Huggins of Accompong, explained the enthusiastic welcome, "it is hard to put in words what seeing this man, this great man, the Lord of lords, in Jamaica meant to us in the Rastafarian community. We had heard so much about him for so long." On the tarmac, some waved palm leaves, some red, green and gold Ethiopian flags, and some blew the Maroon cowhorn known as the abeng in welcome. Everyone kept their eyes on the sky wondering when the plane carrying His Imperial Majesty from Trinidad and Tobago would arrive. Rain began to fall and the crowd continued to wait, hoping even for just a glimpse of the plane through the thick clouds that had formed.

When the insignia of a roaring lion and stripes of red, green and gold finally came into view, the rain stopped. People shouted, "See how God stop de rain." The sound from the crowd was deafening as masses of people rushed to get closer to the island's distinguished visitor. The crowd simply broke down any barriers that stood in their way in their eagerness to position themselves as close as possible to the "King of Kings." But the Lion of Judah did not appear immediately as expected. Instead the plane stood there, silent in a sea of activity and sound. No movement could be seen from within the cabin. The door to the plane finally opened forty-five minutes later, close to 2:15 p.m., and His Imperial Majesty came to the top of the stairs to deplane. The crowd responded with a roar that "was louder than the sound of thunder rolling, louder even than an explosion" recalls Mitsy Seaga who accompanied her husband, Edward Seaga, the then Minister of Development and Welfare. Seaga himself remembers the event as awesome in every sense of the word.

Messenger: jah_cedes Sent: 2/4/2012 2:57:36 AM

Start of the stampede of Rastafarians who surrounded the Emperor's plane. Their enthusiasm kept the door from opening for forty-five minutes.

The sight must have surpassed even the Emperor's wildest imagination, as tears came to his eyes as he held up his hands in what could have been half a royal gesture and half a call for calm. The crowd, thrilled beyond reason, continued to cry out, " God is with us. Mek me touch his garment," paying no heed to the call for calm.

Mr. Mortimer Planno, A Ras Tafarian leader, mounted the landing steps at the request of officials, bowed to the Emperor and also beseeched the crowd to be calm and let the Emperor pass. With assistance from the military and the police, the Emperor, his daughter and the rest of his entourage were able to leave the airport. They were whisked away to a 5 p.m. civic reception at the National Stadium where another large, excited crowd awaited. The Ethiopian and Jamaican National Anthems were played and the Emperor was presented with the keys to the city by then Commissioner of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), Mr. Eustace Bird. The Emperor was welcomed by acting Prime Minister, Sir Donald Sangster. The Emperor replied in Amharic calling the visit the fulfilment of a lifelong desire, and thanking the people of Jamaica for their outpouring of affection. The ceremony was, however, marked my human rights protestors bearing large placards with anti-government slogans. The Emperor later attended a state dinner at Kings House where extra police were placed on duty, in response to the enthusiasm of the people of Jamaica.

The next day the Emperor embarked on a packed schedule that included visits to downtown Kingston where he would lay a wreath at the War Memorial in what was then King George VI Memorial Park and attend a sitting of Parliament, again speaking through a translator. He told a small gathering of the press at Kings House that he was particularly happy to be in Jamaica so soon after the island had gained independence. That afternoon the Emperor also visited Vale Royal to see an exhibition of local craft by the Rastafarian Brethren Association which he was advised were his to take back to Ethiopia should he so desire, and that evening he received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of the West Indies in a special ceremony.

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Haile Selassie I