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April 21, 1966, marks an important holy day for Rastafari… Grounation Day (aka Groundation Day). At 1:30 pm on this day, Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie I, made a historic visit to Jamaica, when his Ethiopian Airlines flight landed on the tarmac at Palisadoes Airport in Kingston. He was greeted by over 100,000 Rastafari who had descended on Palisadoes Airport to witness and welcome the Ethiopian leader whom they revered as divine.
The crowd waved signs, beat calabash drums, lit firecrackers, and sounded Abeng horns of the Maroons to celebrate Haile Selassie I arrival to Jamaica. As the Emperor of Ethiopia’s plane sat on the tarmac, the crowd pushed past the security forces and onto the red carpet that had been laid out for the reception.
A half an hour passed before the plane’s door opened and His Imperial Majesty appeared at the top of the mobile steps waving to the crowd. The roar of the crowd was deafening.
Emperor Haile Selassie I returned to the plane, disappearing from sight until the Jamaican authorities requested well-known Rasta leader, Ras Mortimer Planno, to negotiate the Emperor’s descent from his plane. When Ras Mortimer Planno reemerged from the plane, he announced to the crowd to step back and be calm so that the Emperor may land.
Ras Mortimer Planno escorted the African monarch down the steps. Haile Selassie I refused to walk on the red carpet on his way to his waiting limousine (hence the Iyaric term ‘grounation’ – the Rastafarian equivalent of grounded and foundation). Haile Selassie I was then driven to the King’s House, the residence of Governor-General Clifford Campbell, the first Jamaica-born Governor-General of Jamaica.
Grounation day is widely held by scholars to be a major turning point that shifted worldview of the Rastafari movement.
Considered society’s outcast, the Rastas gained a measure of respectability for the first time. Their acceptance paved the way for the further global spread of Rastafari.
To Rastafarians, Grounation Day is celebrated as the second holiest holiday after November 2, the Emperor’s Coronation Day.
The ‘Abu Ye! Abu Ye Abu ye! Abu ye!’ chant is an important element of Grounation Day festivities.