During the Summer of 1965, three years after he led Trinidad and Tobago to independence, Dr. Eric A. Williams took a tour of nine African countries one being Ethiopia. During his time there he invited His Imperial Majesty Qidamawe Haile Selassie I to come to Trinidad and Tobago. Once agreed, Dr. Williams then coordinated a Caribbean tour for His Majesty which began on April 18, 1966 when he arrived in Trinidad and was greeted by thousands along the airport route. Trinidad was no stranger to our Ivine Majesty as it was home to the first Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) outside of Ethiopia and Israel. St. Marks EOC was established in Trinidad and Tobago in 1952. Mathematically speaking, thirteen years prior to His Majesty’s monumental visit. Today Trinidad and Tobago are the, home to four EOC’s, HQ-12 Tribes of Israel (1978), HQ-EABIC, EWF Theocracy Reign Order of the Nyabinghi, Rastafarian Corporation, Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, and Universal Love.
I am confident that many of these organizations resulted from the impact His Majesty’s visit had on the twin island republic. I interviewed a bredrin that has been “trodding Rastafari” for almost 50 years. His name is Ras Imande. He is the Proprietor of a Health Food store in Queens, NY and he recalls the very moment His Majesty passed in the motorcade that historic day in April 1966. Ras Imande, like most of his contemporaries, was a schoolboy of age 11 yrs. He enjoyed all the activities that youth man enjoyed, pitching marbles, playing a variety of ball games, reading, and school holidays. He did not know of His Majesty prior to the visit but recalls being joyful that a black king was coming to his country. Schools were closed and with the permission of his parents, he went out to the Main Road along Cocorite Highway to witness Istory. Etched in his eternal memory is the very moment his eyes met the eyes of Haile Selassie I. knowing what he knows now, he admits that everyone present would have had a similar experience because of His Majesty’s amazing ability to see every being in the midst. Yet, he wholeheartedly believes he was chosen by His Majesty on that day to fulltake in this Rastafari Livity. He told I, in his hour of need, he can relive that moment in 1966 and he is reassured of the victory.
After the visit, life returned to normal. He began preparing for the Common Entrance Exams which he would soon sit. He passed for the prestigious Queens Royal College (QRC) which is the oldest secondary school on the island and boasts Alumni such as C.L.R. James, Sir Vidia Naipaul, and Dr. Eric A. Williams. He completed his five years and finished in good standing but recalls how he and others from his class revolutionized the school to an extent. They began wearing sandals which were contrary to the very strict dress code. They vehemently eschewed the consumption of non-Ital foods, purchasing only fruits and coconut water from a nearby street vendor. These actions, though subtle, would have been viewed as radical for this student body.
If his remembrance serves him well, The Queen “Elizabeth” came to visit Trinidad soon after His Majesty. Schools were once again closed to accommodate the occurrence. Ras Imande’s recollection of her is not memorable. He recalls that there was no joy felt in seeing her. An unambiguous difference from that of His Majesty’s visit a month prior. Rastafari had claimed him so many years prior and his path was now made clear. In 1971 he moved to NY where he met a group of likeminded Ones and he fulfilled his calling in 1974 and said RasTafari. He is assured that his life was changed when he witnessed Jah in the flesh on April 18, 1966.
Chanting………. I have seen I King on the road, I have seen I king, on the road to Zion I, I have seen I King on the road.