Strong historic,cultural and spiritual ties have existed between African descendants in the Diaspora and Ethiopia for many centuries. In the folklore of African descendants of slavery in the Americas and Caribbean, Ethiopia’s rich history has forged a strong sense of identity, purpose, destiny and hope. In fact, apart from oral traditional history, the only historic document available to Africans in the Diaspora during the era of slavery and immediately afterwards was the Holy Bible. In the very first Book of the Bible, Genesis, reference was made to Ethiopia as the land being encompassed by the Ghion, ( the River Nile of which Ethiopia is its source), as one of the four heads of the great river that watered the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:13).
The prophet Moses was recorded as marrying an Ethiopian woman (Numbers12:1) and the Psalms predicted that Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto GOD (Psalms 68:31) and that Princes would come out of Egypt. The Queen of the South who visited King Solomon is identified by many scholars as the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba, Queen Makeda.
These references to Ethiopia in the Bible were a source of great pride and consolation for Blacks under colonial rule who were marginalized, and oppressed culturally and who could not readily find any literature at that time available that encouraged a positive self-image. After the European scramble for Africa in 1896, the only African country to successfully resist the colonial invaders was Ethiopia, which was had been conquered or colonized. Ethiopia became not only a symbol for independent Black Churches, but a symbol of resistance and of political independence.
The coronation of Ras Tafari Makonnen as Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1930, King of Kings of Ethiopia, with the titles preceding his name ” The Lion of Judah has conquered” and revealed to the public as leader of one of the oldest Christian nations in the world, representing the worlds oldest Biblical Royal Dynasty as the 225th King descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, added more fuel to this fervor of a movement that became coined as Ethiopianism.
Against this background of strong ties to Ethiopia came the Italian invasion of 1935. This was a second incursion following the defeat of Italy at the renown battle of Adowa in 1896 which was the initial spark that ignited the Pan African movement. Immediately after the 1935 invasion there were mass demonstrations, riots and protests by Blacks in the Diaspora against the violation of their last remaining symbol of pride, freedom and independence. Many in the U.S. even volunteered to go to Ethiopia to fight in her defense. Blacks throughout Africa, including their Black Churches in the U.S., Caribbean, and South & Central America rallied their congregations, supporters and resources in assistance to Ethiopia and her exiled Emperor.
After the successful liberation of Ethiopia and the triumphant return of her Emperor in 1941, the generosity and goodwill shown by Africans in the Diaspora was to be rewarded. In a gesture of appreciation to Blacks who rallied in support of Ethiopia’s just cause, Emperor Haile Selassie1 in 1948, on behalf of his government and people, granted 500 acres of fertile land in Shashamane to the Black People of the West . This acknowledgement and gift of land was granted to the people through the Ethiopian World Federation, which was founded in New York City in 1937, under the auspices of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I and his personal Physician Dr. Malaku Bayen a graduate from Howard University.
HISTORY OF REPATRIATION OR MIGRATION.
From 1952, several families migrated to Shashamane from the West, in acceptance of the land grant. The majority of these pioneering settlers were from Jamaica, W.I., but a few also came as naturalized citizens of the U.S. and also from other Caribbean islands. In 1975, the new Provisional Military Government of Ethiopia issued a land reform proclamation, which nationalized all lands in Ethiopia including the Shashamane land grant. However, owing to a petition from the settlers through the Jamaican Embassy in Addis Ababa, a portion of the original land grant was restored.
By 1976, less than 100 acres was returned and divided among the Settlers. Between 1974 and 1991, these pioneers had survived 17 years of communist rule, revolutionary coups, wars, famine and numerous other untold hardships.
A change in Government in 1992 ushered in a period of peace and stability and a call for development and community involvement. In response, the Jamaica Rastafarian Development Community (JRDC) was inaugurated, to play its role the community’s development.
Repatriate community representatives, Shashamane, Ethiopia.
Today in 2020, the Settler population has grown exponentially, with children born on the land representing 65% of this community. The Settlers have integrated into the Ethiopian community through birth, marriage, language, economic and cultural relations. The JRDC Kindergarten & Elementary School, the Educational project of the JRDC, is an important contribution to the development and progress of Shashamane, with more than over 90% of the students and 95% of the teachers and staff being native Ethiopians. GOD bless the ties that bind.