Canadians and Americans of African descent owe their presence on this continent to forced and voluntary immigration. For the month of February we will be exploring the hows and whys of this complex and controversial experience.
One of the many African nations with an interesting connection to this side of the Atlantic is Ethiopia. Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia (1930-1974) had declared a land grant of 500 fertile acres for the “Black people of the west” who wanted to return to Africa. A number of Jamaicans, amongst others, took him up on his offer and came to settle in the town of Shashemene. However, the people didn’t live happily ever after; poverty, changing governments and attitudes of the locals made this a transition fraught with trouble.
The other major connection that Ethiopia has with Jamaica is also through Haile Selassie. The black pride and return-to-Africa movement that transpired in Jamaica in the 1920s and 30s had Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican orator and activist, declaring:
“Look to Africa, for there a king shall be crowned.”
It was Haile Selassie’s name prior to his coronation in 1930, Ras Tafari (Makonnen) that became the title of a practice commonly associated with Jamaica. Practitioners of Rastafari can be found in various countries around the world.
Link on Rastafari:
Did you know?
- The lyrics of Bob Marley’s song War, were adapted from a speech given by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie in his address to the United Nations in 1963.
- Ethiopia is one of only 2 African countries to have never been colonized. Liberia is the other one.