SATURDAY, APRIL 21: The Rastafarian religion already basks in the spotlight with the recent release of “Marley,” a documentary based on the Reggae legend (scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray in August). Today, Rastas celebrate Groundation Day. On this date in 1966, Rastas flooded the Palisadoes Airport in Kingston when their alleged Messiah, Emperor Haile Selassie, touched down.
This was Selassie’s only visit to Jamaica. However, for Bob Marley’s wife, Rita, this trip would be the turning point when she whole-heartedly converted to Rastafarianism. It was during Haile Selassie’s trip to Jamaica that Rita says she saw a stigma on Selassie’s hand as he waved to the crowd.
Despite the emperor’s denial, Rastafarians believed (and still believe) that Haile Selassie was the Messiah; Selassie was a devotee of Ethiopian Orthodox. When Selassie visited Jamaica in April of 1966, it’s estimated that 100,000 Rastas from across Jamaica swarmed the airport to welcome him. (Wikipedia has details.) When the day’s storm clouds made way for bursts of sunlight—just as Selassie’s plane touched down—almost the entire crowd knelt down. Today, Groundation Day is met with music, chanting and prayer.
Groundation Day 2012 comes hot on the heels of the film about Bob Marley. As his family has always kept a tight hold on archives, a film has never before been made about the Reggae superstar; that’s changed, though, with the release of Kevin Macdonald’s “Marley.” The 2.5-hour film is the biography of a man who was raised nearly penniless in a shack in Jamaica. (Read film reviews from National Public Radio and the New York Times.) By the time of his death at age 36, Bob Marley had gone from penniless to international icon—still recognized and influential around the world more than three decades after his death. Not only was Marley praised for his music, but he also exercised enormous influence on Jamaican politics; on an international scale, Marley popularized Reggae and brought the Rastafarian religion to the world.