MONTEGO BAY, St James — His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, the grandson of late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, was presented with the key to the city of Montego Bay on Saturday and described it as a great honour that he will treasure for the rest of his life.
“It is a lot of responsibility but, nonetheless, it’s also a surprise and a big honour,” Prince Selassie said as he thanked Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Montego Bay Mayor Leeroy Williams, culture liaison in the ministry Barbara Blake-Hannah, and the people of Jamaica at a ceremony inside the St James Municipal Corporation building.
The Prince, who is a special guest of the Jamaican Government for National Heritage celebrations, was on an official visit to the city, and the Rastafarian community there gave him a warm welcome.
“The visit of His Imperial Highness is a monumental occasion for us because, you know, we hold to the highest esteem His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, his grandfather, and this is almost like the return of The King himself,” Gregory Taylor, chairman of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolence Society and educator, told the Jamaica Observer.
“This is the only family known to have the royal family of England bow to them, so this is really a monumental occasion for us,” stated Taylor.
“We have been asked to host His Imperial Highness — that is one of the greatest requests ever made of us. Having hosted him today will be one of the greatest accolades to our name in the future,” added Taylor who teaches information technology at Cornwall College in Montego Bay.
Earlier, Grange thanked the mayor, his councillors, and the organisers of the the event.
“I want to thank the mayor for offering to give the Prince the key to the city, so he will have his own key — just come open the door and come look for you, right? No permission,” Grange said.
Mayor Williams, in welcoming the Prince, said the key to the city was being presented to him “for his outstanding contribution to the educational and humanitarian development of the people”.
“With this symbolic gesture may you always feel welcome to our beloved city of Montego Bay,” added the mayor.
He said that similar to Haile Selassie, “Prince Ermias is a dear friend of the Jamaican people and is admired and beloved by Jamaicans, particularly the Rastafarian community.”
In response, the Prince said, “Today, I would like to thank the Government of Jamaica, Minister Grange, Barbara, and his worship the mayor for this honour. Today is also a very major religious holiday [Feast of Abune Gebre Menfes Qidus] in Ethiopia so it’s no coincidence. We gather to share, to pray together, to understand each other, and to have hope for the future.”
“I think it’s very important to honour our history, to honour our heroes. Heroes come in all forms — they come as kings, and they come as common people… And I’m particularly grateful to the Rastafarian community who have held up our flag and our heritage high when nobody was standing beside us,” the Prince remarked.
Blake-Hannah, who was appointed by the minister in 2018 to foster a better relationship between the Government and the Rastafari community, described the event as a blessing, adding that a lot of hard work went into making the visit happen.