Kingston, April 20, 2021 – Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange has joined the celebration of Groundation Day, today, April 21.
It commemorates the 1966 visit to Jamaica of Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, when hundreds of Rastafari from all over Jamaica descended on Palisadoes Airport in Kingston to await the arrival of His Imperial Majesty.
“Although it happened 56 years ago, the memory and importance of the Emperor’s visit remains an anchor to the Rastafari community of their beliefs and their constant ties to Africa,” Minister Grange said.
“The Emperor’s visit gave Rastafari a new measure of respectability that was welcome, following the negative image that had led to the over-reaction of the State to the Coral Gardens incident three years earlier. As a result of the new relationship between the Rastafari community and the wider public, reggae music gained more interest and acceptance, leading to further global spread of the Rastafari movement.Today, Jamaica is proud of the contribution of Rastafari to the national cultural image at home and abroad, and as relationships continue to improve, my Government continues to play its part in all this,” she added.
The minister mentioned the Coral Gardens incident, also known as Bad Friday, which refers to a series of events that occurred from April 11-13 1963. Reports were that following a violent altercation at a gas station in Montego Bay, members of the police and military used brute force against Rastafarians throughout the island, killing and torturing many.
“We have taken steps to repair the damage done by the Coral Gardens incident. Prime Minister Andrew Holness apologised in 2017 as the first part of the process of providing reparations for this injustice. Since then, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport has established and contributed $102 million to the Rastafari Coral Gardens Trust Fund as reparations. Additionally, we have provided special housing support for survivors of the incident at an Elders Care Facility, working closely with the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society. More is still to come,” Grange stated.
She emphasised that as Jamaica celebrates 60 years of Independence, “the nation will continue adding more historic moments and contributions from the unique Rastafari community”.
Happy Groundation Day.