Birthday of Haile Selassie I: Rastas party hardy around the world

Artwork of dark-skinned figure in elaborate crown and robe with red, yellow and green flag in back

Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, a key figure in the Rastafari religion. Photo in public domain

TUESDAY, JULY 23: Bashes commence from Barbados to London, from Las Vegas to Tokyo as Rastas worldwide celebrate the birth anniversary of Haile Selassie I. The Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, Selassie—born Ras Tafari Makonnen on this date in 1892—is a messianic figure in the Rastafari religion. (Wikipedia has details on his life.) Rastafari hold that Ethiopia is their spiritual homeland, and that Selassie will lead those of the African Diaspora into a future Golden Age of peace, righteousness and affluence.

The central concept of Rastafari began 10 years before Selassie was even crowned, with a Jamaican-American nationalist leader known as Marcus Garvey. When Garvey began preaching of a “black king” and “the day of deliverance” in 1920, his words were interpreted as prophesies when Ras Tafari was crowned emperor in 1930. The Rastafari movement began almost immediately, with the additional support of Selassie’s family—who identified him as a descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Today, followers debate beliefs about Selassie and the nature of divinity, but he remains a revered, sacred figure. The religion claims between 200,000 and 800,000 followers today. The majority of Rastas reside in Jamaica.

IN RASTAFARI NEWS: REGGAE SUMFEST AND COAST-TO-COAST PARTIES

Jamaica is in the midst of a weeklong Reggae Sumfest on the birthday of Haile Selassie this year, as artists hit the stage for this annual show. Meanwhile, Rastas in cities around the world beckon celebrants for Haile Selassie’s birthday, with concerts, drum fests, stage shows and more in London, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Barbados, California and New York. (Get a full list of events here.)

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(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an online magazine covering spirituality, religion, interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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