emp_selassieFor many Rastafarians and others around the world, July 16, the day the first constitution was implemented in Ethiopia by Emperor Haile Selassie I and his birthday July 23 are important days for honoring the great ruler. Once named one of the Top 25 Political Icons in history by Time Magazine, Emperor Haile Selassie I, who ruled Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, is still venerated as the Divine Incarnate by adherents of the Rastafari faith. Time Magazine even referred to him as King of Kings, Conquering Lion of Judah and Elect of God.

In addition to giving Ethiopia its first constitution, Emperor Selassie is also credited with convening the earliest meeting of the Organization of African Unity. For many years, he was the only black ruler and the only ruling monarch of an independent African state. Emperor Selassie was deposed by a military coup in 1974 and passed away on 27th of August 1975. The emperor’s cause of death to this day is still surrounded by controversy.

 

It is from Selassie name Ras Tafari that the name of the religious movement stems. Ras is an Amharic term equivalent to duke or lord. And Tafari Makonnen was the family name of Selassie. Many Rastafarians believe in the Holy Trinity along with God's incarnation in Jesus and in Emperor Selassie. July 16th commemorates the implementation of Ethiopia's first constitution by Emperor Selassie in 1931. Although Emperor Selassie retained supreme power and authority, the constitution instigated a Parliament and the appointment of a number of deputies. July 23rd is a day of observance on which Emperor Selassie was born in 1892. On these two days in July, many Rastafarians celebrate the history of Ethiopia and the rule of Emperor Selassie.

 

Part of the celebrations includes Nyabingi sessions to honor the importance of Ethiopia and Emperor Selassie. The term Nyabingi refers to religious gatherings of Rastafarians where they "praise Jah" and "chant down Babylon," to drumming ensembles and African-derived drum dancing.  Reggae, known as Rasta-inspired music, reflects the basic rhythmic influences of Nyabinghi drumming and other African Jamaican musical traditions. With roots in Jamaica, reggae music has since developed an international following in Europe, the United States, and on the African continent. Many people in addition to Rastafarian communities commemorate July 16th and 23rd with the celebration of reggae music.

selassie_and_rossevelt

Photo: Emperor Haile Selassie and Eleanor Roosevelt in Hyde Park, NY (1954)

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