Many Rastas throughout the world can be heard, in nearly every breath, shouting the name "Selassie I!" and "Rastafari!" It is an expression used in greetings, in music, in the everyday vernacular of those who follow or support the philosophy and movement of Rastafari. Often times it is habitual and people never really stop to check and learn about their namesake, H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I. Besides the declarations of his name, his image is equally pervasive. It can be found everywhere, on stickers, on clothing. Even if people may not know exactly who he is, I am sure they have seen his image. Today, July 23rd, is the Earthstrong, or birthday, of King Selassie I. Instead of writing another blessed but sometimes clichéd tribute, I thought I would briefly share why I personally sight up Selassie I. I will not be speaking about why, as a Rastaman, I love H.I.M. but as to how the world can plainly see his greatness. Put aside the prophecy, theological, mystical, and the legendary traditions of His Majesty, I will keep it basic.
So, why would I, a Caucasian male of Italian ancestry, choose to follow King Selassie I and identify myself as Rastafari? For me it is a relatively simple answer. Mankind has always looked to find a leader who embodies a spirit kindred with that of God's, or what others may call a "higher power", and a leader who inspires others to follow in his wake. When Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned as Haile Selassie I (The Might of The Trinity) he truly was a living testimony to his coronation title and its adjuncts, "King of Kings"... "Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah"... "Elect of God" and "Defender of the Faith". The Ethiopian royal family also traces its roots to Israel, to the loins of King Solomon, and for those who believe, this history certainly is another divine attribute added to the character of King Selassie I. Yes, there have been kings on this earth since the beginning of human civilization, and many also have claimed an ancient lineage worthy of praise. However it was never on the merit of this history or these titles that made Haile Selassie I great. His trod on this earth was his testimony:
He was progressive. H.I.M. Haile Selassie I modernized his country and promoted education. By working to economically develop Ethiopia, he helped meet the basic human needs of the poor and helped to restore their dignity. Ethiopia became the standard-bearer for the Africans who had suffered poverty because of the policies of others. Selassie I helped restore African confidence... and instill an African conscious in people of all nations worldwide.
He was not a warmonger. Even after Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and the blood of thousands was shed, Selassie I did not cry out for blood in return, but for justice, and fought to expel the fascists from his ancient country with righteous conviction and not vengeance.
He was ecumenical. Selassie I was a devout follower of the ancient Christian tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Despite his strong beliefs, he worked to build unity between the Christian churches and build friendships with other world faiths. Instead of creating more friction with Islamic countries surrounding Ethiopia, he helped organize peaceful dialogues with their leaders. He even built a relationship with Vatican City, a topic of much taboo for most Rastas.
He was a wise leader. Selassie I helped create the OAU and fought for the liberation of all Africans, at home and abroad. He spoke a message to the world at the UN conference in 1963 which is still absolutely pertinent to what is happening today in the African continent and to other nations fighting the ghost of colonialism. His Majesty was a living symbol, the black King from the East, the cradle of humanity, and showed that Africans at home and abroad were also kings and queens in their own right.
He was an ambassador. His Majesty met with leaders from all over the world, many nations, many creeds, many colors. He asked that they learn more about his people, the Ethiopians, the Africans. That the world, and the great powers such as America, learn more about their backgrounds, their culture, strengths, weaknesses, hopes and desires. Selassie I called for the cooperation of all nations of the world and believed everyone shared in universal principals. He was strongly adamant against the aggressive behaviors of those who chose to use their resources to oppress and exploit other countries.
He was a man of faith. Selassie I had the Mind of Christ. This is profound and could mean many things to many people. In the very least it is a testimony to his spirituality and his connection to God. It was evident in his words, his teachings, and most significantly in his character and his actions. Selassie I loved the wisdom of the Bible and saw relevance for its application in the world. His love for God, and for the human family was a gentle and righteous love. It is no wonder why Rastas magnify Selassie I's name.
These few examples that I provided above do not require any mystical epiphany or some deep reasoning with an elder Rastaman. These are examples recorded in history, found in any honest schoolbook, and patently obvious in the many speeches, photos and footage available to the public. These are the works of H.I.M. Haile Selassie I, a monument to his name. Why do I love King Selassie I? Look at the world today, look at the politicians, the religious leaders, the heads of governments. Look at all these warmongers, these supposed godly men, these tricksters. Tell me, who can even come close to embodying everything His Majesty did? Who in this time has had the same amount of respect and reverence shown to him by people all throughout the world? The way King Selassie had Christ in his consciousness is the greatest example to the rest of the world. Many would argue Selassie I is the most visible example of the Spirit of JAH since over 2,000 years, worthy to be called King of Kings, a new name and a new hope for JAH children everywhere. He was a man of modest physical stature, but his words are echoes of the voice of JAH, his character a reflection of His divine spirit... both the lamb to the slaughter, and the conquering lion. How I sight up His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I is not important, what is important is how I share with the world all that He has taught me. I follow His Majesty because he has proven himself worthy to bust the seven seals, to teach the world, and I love Selassie I because I truly see the manifestation of JAH within him. Some believe that H.I.M. has passed on, but I know that he has not, because he lives within my heart, and each utterance of the Rastaman brings him to life in the minds and hearts of the hungry, the naked, the aged, the infants, the naked. Who is like unto thee oh Haile Selassie I? The world shall see... JAH Rastafari!
Blessed Love & Happy Selassie I Earthstrong,