SATURDAY, JULY 23: It’s a Rastafarian-style birthday celebration today, as Rastas worldwide mark the birth anniversary of Haile Selassie I. Born July 23, 1892, Selassie—originally Tafari Makonnen—was Emperor of Ethiopia for 44 years and is still heralded by Rastas as the returned Messiah. Rastas believe that since Selassie likely descended from King Solomon, he is the incarnation of God. (Learn more at Rastafarian.com.) It’s held that he will unite all Africans of the Diaspora and lead them to a golden age.
Haile Selassie I helped Ethiopia become a charter member of the United Nations and supported multilateralism; he was condemned for thwarting the modernization of his country, although Rastas in general reject Westernization. (Wikipedia has more on Selassie’s life.) The Bible’s Old Testament is central to Rastafarianism, as are ways of life such as an appreciation for reggae music. What began in Jamaica in the 1930s has led to a worldwide religion with an estimated 700,000 to 1 million members.
Haile Selassie’s birthday remains one of the holiest days of the Rasta year.
NEW DOCUMENTARY RAISES CIVIL RIGHTS DISCUSSION IN JAMAICA: “Bad Friday” is not available to American audiences, so far, but the documentary is prompting headlines in Jamaican media. The film looks at a crucial clash with police in the early 1960s as a watershed in the struggle for Rastafarian civil rights. ReadTheSpirit will bring you news about “Bad Friday,” when it does become more widely available—much like we did in our reporting on PBS’ “Freedom Riders.” Care to read more about “Bad Friday” now? Here’s a news story from Jamaica’s Gleaner newspaper on the documentary’s opening in Jamaica.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.