Category Archives: History

Emperor Menelik II: The Victory at Adwa

Emperor_Menelik_IISharing the same birthday as Marcus Garvey,
Emperor Menelik II (ምኒልክ) baptized as Sahle Maryam (17 August 1844 – 12 December 1913), was Negus of Shewa (1866–89), then Nəgusä Nägäst of Ethiopia from 1889 to his death.

The name Menelik was derived from the first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia, who is the son of King Solomon of  and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba.

Menelik’s fame is sealed in the Battle of Adwa, where the decisive victory his troops won over the imperialistic Italians established Ethiopia as a sovereign state, recognized by the West.

The story behind the Battle of Adwa goes something like this:

Menelik signed the Treaty of Wuchale with the Italians on May 2, 1889. Controversy soon emerged on the interpretation of article 17 of the treaty. While the Amharic text reads that Menelik could, if he wished, call upon the services of the Italian authorities in his communications with other powers, the Italian version made this obligatory, thereby making Ethiopia in effect a protectorate of Italy. Emperor Menelik denounced it and demanded that the Italian version be changed. Negotiations failed, so Menelik renounced the treaty, leading Italy to declare war and invade from Eritrea. After defeating the Italians at Amba Alagi and Mekele, Menelik inflicted an even greater defeat on them, at Adwa on 1 March 1896, forcing them to capitulate. Afterwards, Menelik returned to Addis Ababa leaving Eritrea as a protectorate of Italy. Menelik is believed to have said: “leave the Italians to rule Eritrea beyond Merab River”

A treaty was signed at Addis Ababa recognizing the absolute sovereign independence of Ethiopia.

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Ethiopia was transformed under Nəgusä Nägäst Menelik: the major signposts of modernization were put in place. Menelik II was fascinated by modernity, and had an ambition to introduce Western technological and administrative advances into Ethiopia. A Russian Red Cross mission arrived in Addis Ababa some three months after Menilek’s Adwa victory, and then the first hospital was created in Ethiopia.

Following the rush by the major powers to establish diplomatic relations following the Ethiopian victory at Adwa, more and more westerners began to travel to Ethiopia looking for trade, farming, hunting and mineral exploration concessions. Menelik II founded the first modern bank in Ethiopia, the Bank of Abyssinia, introduced the first modern postal system, signed the agreement and initiated work that established the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway with the French, introduced electricity to Addis Ababa, as well as the telephone, telegraph, the motor car and modern plumbing. Externally, his victory over the Italian colonizers had earned him great fame: following Adwa, recognition of Ethiopia’s independence by external powers was expressed in terms of diplomatic representation at the court of Menelik and delineation of Ethiopia’s boundaries with the adjacent colonies.

Remembering Marcus Mosiah Garvey

Hail Mi Irieites,

Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born this day in 1887. Here’s a short clip from our upcoming documentary that’s relevant today:

Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy to inspire a global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, including the Nation of Islam. In fact, some Rastas even view Garvey as a prophet. The intent of the movement was for those of African ancestry to “redeem” Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World entitled “African Fundamentalism”, where he wrote: “Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… to let us hold together under all climes and in every country.”

Although Garvey promoted Pan Africanism and the Back to Africa movement, one point does need clarification.  It was Reverend James Morris Web, a clergyman from Chicago and an associate of Garvey who said “look to Africa where a Black king shall be crowned he shall be the redeemer.” This prediction of H.I.M. Haile Selassie’s ascent to the throne of Ethiopia is often wrongfully attributed to Marcus Garvey.

In 1965, during a trip to Jamaica, Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King laid a wreath at Garvey’s shrine. It was MLK who said that Garvey “was the first man of color to lead and develop a mass movement. He was the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny. And make the Negro feel he was somebody.”

Two other interesting historical points:

Malcolm X‘s parents, Earl and Louise Little, met at a UNIA convention in Montreal. Earl was the president of the UNIA division in Omaha, Nebraska and sold the Negro World newspaper, for which Louise covered UNIA activities.FlagGhana

Kwame Nkrumah named the national shipping line of Ghana the Black Star Line in honor of Garvey and the UNIA. Nkrumah also named the national soccer team the Black Stars as well. The black star at the center of Ghana’s flag is also inspired by the Black Star.

The UNIA red, black, and green flag has also been adopted as the universal Black Liberation Flag.

Garvey’s message of unity lives on:

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

“Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men.”

“There shall be no solution to this race problem until you, yourselves, strike the blow for liberty.”

“I know no national boundary where the Negro is concerned. The whole world is my province until Africa is free.”

“The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness.”

“Intelligence rules the world, ignorance carries the burden.”

“If you haven’t confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.”

“The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity.”

As Marcus Say: “Rally Round the Flag!” Check the opening song at 2:09 >>

Postcard from Port De Saint Nazaire, France

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Hail Mi Irieites,

….Still on our European festival tour and loving it!!

Here’s an image from Port De Saint Nazaire, Les Escales, at the of the “Festival des Musiques du Monde” (The Music of the World Festival).

It beats me why after 22 years of being active, this has been the first time that Steel Pulse has ever performed here.  It was a wonderful and honourable experience.  Behind me is a monument that was made in memory of the slaves that were transported from Africa.  The ships had  docked here and the slaves were generally transported to Nante, a nearby major city.  We give maximum respect to the efforts of advocates such as Victor Schoelcher, who went to drastic measures to put an end to the slave trade.

Saint Nazaire, was also a important entity during World War II, for the making of ships and any other types of water vessels.

And to the children of Saint Nazaire: keep strong and continue to grab education.  It would be good to start a communication network between you that can interlink with the UK and other nearby countries to spread more harmony and positivity around the world.  Thank you for your presence.

Oh, and a Happy Birthday to Ed, our tour manger, President Obama and my good good brethren, Jah B….

Stranger Cole at Garance 2013

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Yes Mi Irieites,

As we embark on the first date of the European summer tour, I had the pleasure to chill out briefly with one of reggae’s original veterans, Mr. ‘Ruff and Tuff” himself: Stranger Cole.

There I was, rushing to get out of what was a slightly cold night (well for me it was), after an extremely hot day, and now fighting off a sore throat because of this drastically mixed weather, I stumbled across Stranger, sitting in our van waiting for the rest of his band members.   We both are at one of France’s biggest reggae festival, Garance.

It beats me why every time Stranger re-introduces himself he makes it a point that he is the father of Squiddly Cole, one of Jamaica’s best drummers.  But with no disrespect to Stranger, I believe he has carved a very chunky-size niche, within the industry.  Stranger was one of the acts that we use to shuffle dance to when my eyes were at my knees.

I am still reeling in disbelief that there is only an eleven-year difference between us.  He started his career in 1962.

So Stranger, don’t be a stranger.

Juror B29: “George Zimmerman got away with murder”

One of the first comments I made in regards to the Trayvon Martin shooting, was within days of the incident.  I stated that American justice will be in the balance, whatever the decision.  I was also hoping that what ever decision made was based on “truth and rights,” as oppose to the cunningness of lawyers.

As the story unravels itself, another juror has come forward now saying that “Zimmerman got away with murder.”  She went on to say that she held on to her decision as long as she could for a second degree murder conviction.

Amazing…

Happy 95th, Nelson Mandela!


Yes Mi Irieites,

I did promise that I would get back to you on this.  Time has ticked away, but no second has passed without us having thoughts for Nelson Mandela in our hearts.

At the beginning of the month, I received a few phone calls pertaining to Mandela being in hospital and his condition on “being hopeless.”  At that time I was asked by a few close friends to put something together for him before he goes.  I made reference of getting back to them on the issue but never did.  My reason? I had this deep belief that if Nelson survived all the turmoil the way he did for all those years, there was no reason why he would not be unable to gather that well known inner energy he has to be around for his 95th birthday.

My instincts paid off and I feel good about that.  So here is one more tribute to Madiba himself; Nelson, you served us well.  We are honoured to be witnesses and beneficiaries of your achievements in life.

Neither will we forget Winnie.

As the struggle continues, we wish you all the best on this special day, 18th July 2013.

Bless!

Aime Fernand David Cesaire: 100 Anniversaire

One more thing Mi Irieites,

afdcToday, June 26th 2013 is a special tribute to Aime Fernand David Cesaire, the Martinican poet, author, historian, politician and activist, who was born exactly 100 years ago, (26th June 1913 – 17th April 2008).

Aime Cesaire, who was also a teacher and strong influence on fellow native Frantz Fanon, was and still is Martinique’s pride and joy.

He has been noted to be the primary force that challenged the French authorities for Martinique to gain its cultural identity as black Africans subjected to colonialism.  At one point in the 1940′s Cesaire, like many others back in the day, aligned himself with the principles of Communist Russia, but later retracted these beliefs.

Some of his best written works have been “Discourse of Colonialism,” (1950), that denounced colonial racism, “Toussaint L’Ouverture,” (1960) a book based on the life of the Haitian Revolutionary Leader and “The Tempest,” an adaptation of the Shakespearean play, geared for a black audience (1968).

In 2001 Cesaire retired from his active duties.  He had held many positions including the Mayor of the capital, Fort De France as well as the President of the Regional Council of Martinique.

One of his last controversial stances was the snubbing of the President to be, Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2007.  Apparently, the French government was looking about imposing in the schools and textbooks, the ideology of ‘French colonialism’ being a “positive role.”    The Martinicans  protested intensely.  After a series of heart problems, Cesaire died on 17th April 2008 and was given an honorary State funeral.  Sarkozy, now President of France, attended but made no comment.

The national airport in the town of Lamentin has been renamed after this fearless individual.

Thank you Aime Cesaire, one of the greats of the Francophone Black Diaspora, for sustaining Martinique’s  heritage.  In other words, “You Big!!”

Leon Spinks: the only man to take a title from Muhammad Ali in the ring

Yes, Mi Irieites,

First of all, I thank each and everyone for my birthday shout out.  The support gets bigger and bigger each year.  And I am still overwhelmed by it.

Secondly, For all the fans at “Reggae in the Desert,” Las Vegas and the “River Bend Festival,” Chattanooga, TN, we thank you for coming along.  There were many that said they have not seen the band perform live in over 20 years.  Don’t be a stranger – from now on!

Today was a historical day in regards to boxing.  This day June 18th 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the great Muhammad Ali being knocked down for the very first time in his career by the British Champion boxer, Henry Cooper.  Cooper knocked Ali down in round 4.  Ali  was saved by the bell.  Muhammad came back in the following round to stop Cooper with a severe damage to his right eye.

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And guess who we got a chance to meet while in Vegas?  Another legendary boxer: Leon Spinks.

Leon was the first boxer to literally take the title from Ali in the ring. Ali’s other losses were non-title contests or bouts where Ali was the challenger. The only time before that was when Ali was stripped of his title by the US government for refusing to fight in Vietnam.

Sid and I teamed up with Leon at a bar at the Hilton Hotel (the very place the Spinks vs Ali fight took place, just over 35 years ago).  With excitement I was naming and recollecting the Spinks/Ali first encounter to Leon, saying that the fight took place in 1978.  But Spinks fired back at me saying “no the year I beat Ali was in 1975.”  I said, “No because Ali had not too long beat George Foreman.”  But Leon insisted it was 1975.  So as puzzled as I was, I accepted his challenge.  After all, it was HE that was tangling with the then Champ back then, not me.  He ought to know….. so I thought.

As we were getting ready to watch the play called “Raiding the Rock Vault” (a great play by the way), we saw someone that remembered hosting the fight and said to me, ‘IT WAS 1978, right here.”  Wow!  So there you go Leon, if you get a chance to read this.  Well, it was great meeting, a really humble individual who’s looking pretty good considering what he use to do for a living.

Stay blessed Leon, and a “Happy 60th year to you, Sir.”

P.S  Thanks Rande, for making this happen…
P.P.S.  Another boxing history note: When Leon’s brother Michael Spinks defeated Larry Holmes for the IBF heavyweight championship in 1985, they became the first brothers to have held world heavyweight championships.