April 2016 marks 50 years since Emperor Haile Selassie visited the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and received an Honorary LLD degree. The Emperor of Ethopia was in the Caribbean on a tour that included Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago.
The Honorary Degree citation stated, in part:
“His Imperial Majesty combines and reconciles in himself and his achievements some of the most diverse strands and conflicting notions of our common Christian heritage. Heir to the Solomonic tradition of Ethopian kingship and ruler of an ancient African kingdom which for centuries has been isolated by geography and circumstance as much from the continent in which it lies as from the currents of world history, he has with enormous patience, heroic devotion and sheer genius so transformed the status of his country and its government that they have become a symbol of dynamic yet prudent progress and a beacon of hope to resurgent Africa, as indeed to the whole world. Small wonder then if many in our own day see in His Imperial Majesty a living clue to that paradox of time and history which ever and again restore the old, transmuted, to serve and resolve the purposes of the new…”
A programme of activities is being put in place to commemorate the tour, including a 50th anniversary photographic exhibition at the UWI Museum through a collaboration with the Anniversary Commemoration Committee and Rootz Foundation Inc. The exhibition is scheduled to run from April 22 to May 19. The exhibition is also relevant to an occasional focus on ‘UWI & the 1960s’, being undertaken by the Museum and the Social History Project of the UWI Mona Campus’ Department of History & Archaeology.
The Selassie visit brought special attention to Jamaica’s Rastafarian community, which reveres the Ethopian Emperor.On April 21, 1966, thousands of Rastafari converged on the airport to greet him and Jamaicans of all faiths and classes came out to see him as he toured the city or Kingston and parts of Jamaica. Rastafarian leaders, often previously at odds with officialdom, were present and visible during the Emperor’s visit.