Category Archives: History

Centennial: Emperor Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia

Emperor Menelik II.png
100 years ago on December 12, 1913 Emperor Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia passed from the Earth. Emperor Menelik II, baptized as Sahle Maryam, was Negus of Shewa, then Nəgusä Nägäst of Ethiopia from 1889 until his passing.

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM De slag bij Adua TMnr 5956-2.jpgEmperor Menelik II gained great fame and respect for defeating the Italian colonizers. The Battle of Adwa (also known as Adowa, or sometimes by the Italian name Adua) was fought on 1 March 1896 between the Ethiopian Empire  and the Kingdom of Italy near the town of Adwa, Ethiopia. It was the climactic battle of the First Italo-Ethiopian War, securing Ethiopian sovereignty.

Unfortunately, he was also the first black African King to engage in slavery of white European war captives held as slaves inside Ethiopia.

After defeating the Italians, Emperor Menelik II also expanded his kingdom to include areas that were previously not a part of his kingdom. He was also passionate about modernizing Ethiopia and introduced several western technologies to the country. After his transition, he was succeeded by his eldest daughter Empress Zewditu I.

Love Over Hate: The Life and Struggle of Nelson Mandela

Hail Mi Irieites,

The sad day has finally come where President Zuma had to make the announcement that South Africa’s biggest icon and one of the world’s most prolific activists towards Justice and Racial Equality, Nelson Mandela, has passed away.  Now all nations across the entire planet are in mourning.

In this modern day era of ours Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, whose life dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century, had ideals that will forever stand the test of time.  Because as long as the world continues to have struggling and disenfranchised masses throughout, there will always be room for this energy of “survival and freedom” that this man perpetuated.

As most of us know, life was no easy road for our hero, who finally gave into death after a long battle from a lung infection.  It was only five months ago that Steel Pulse was commemorating his efforts for reaching age 95.  In terms of cricket, that’s what one would call an excellent innings.

Mandela was born on July 18th 1918, in a Xhosa village called Mvezo, in South Africa.  As a child and also coming from a lineage of royalty, Nelson herded cattle for his family, a chore that was not uncommon in those days where humility built one’s character.  By the mid 40s he gained a Batchelor of Arts degree and went on to pursue a career in politics and law.  It was towards the end of that decade where South Africa’s colonial past took a drastic change (1948).  In 1964 he was imprisoned for life by the South African ruling powers of the day for the crusade he embarked upon against “Apartheid”… an ideal that was running similar, if not parallel to the laws of segregation that was quite effective in the southern regions of the USA at that time.

A good portion of his life sentence was served on Robben Island.  But it was the efforts of so many around the world spearheaded by his wife Winnie Mandela that brought Nelson’s “hidden away” incarceration to centre stage.  With the sanctions from many countries and boycotts by many celebrities’ worldwide as well as general public rallies and outcry, Mandela was finally “Let Out” after spending 10,053 days (ten thousand and fifty-three), from Victor Verster Prison on February 11th 1990.  [Incidentally, Mike Tyson was “Knocked Out” on that same day also… ]

Within three years of his release, the one time integral member of the ANC and “convicted terrorist” was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1993).  By 1994 he became the First Black President of South Africa until 1999.  His works, efforts and influences had him receiving more than 250 honours during his lifetime.  This included a US Presidential Medal of Freedom (at least three current US Senators voted to keep him behind bars only four years before his parole, in1986).  Mandela went on to serve his country in so many ways of which one in particular was the launching of his company called “46664”; a number in reference to the number that he wore on his prison uniform whereas ‘466’ was his actual number and ‘64’ stood for the year he started his jail term.  This number is now a symbol of all the things that Mr. Mandela represented that encompassed the challenging fight against HIV/AIDS.

In 2005, Mandela retired from public service to make more of a presence with his family.   Then there was the untimely death of one of his grand daughters that unfortunately continued to make him absent from the limelight at a moment when South Africa were the host to the epic event, better known as the World Cup, a few years ago.  This was the first time the World Cup was ever featured on the continent.

Mandela will continue to be remembered in films plays and novels that depict his character in the most profound way.  But let us not forget the endeavors of all the “soldiers” before and during his lifetime that made notable indentations and contributions with their lives to stop the menace known as racism.  Stevie Biko, Desmond Tutu and Winnie Mandela; just to name a few.

Finally, we – Steel Pulse – are deeply saddened by all of this because for the first time after so many desperate attempts over the years, we are scheduled to be in South Africa for a few shows early 2014.   There goes another individual of the highest stature that we have never had the pleasure to cross paths with.

To the family of Madiba, our sincere sympathies as we pay our respect and tribute to such a legend and “Father of the Nation.”  (July 18th 1918 – Dec 5th 2013); a man that will make so many cry, yet was unable to cry himself due to having his tear ducts removed while imprisoned.

Hail Madiba – the true Sun of Africa.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela

Give Thanks and Praises

Hail Mi Irieites,

While the US are “giving thanks” with Thanksgiving, where everyone is gathering from all over the country to be with their loved ones, we must not forget those who are without – without family, friends, food or even a home.  May you also continue to pay homage to the original ancestors…

Peace and Love, continually!!!

In the meantime, because of the positive response towards H.I.M Hail Selassie I and his attendance at the funeral of JFK, we would like to mention a few key points of fact in regards to the mode of thinking JFK might have had prior to that time.

H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie 1st stayed at the White House during his short visit to Washington DC, before going on to New York. The dates are highly significant. It is more than likely that H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie 1st encouraged the young American President to heed the message of his forthcoming speech at the United Nations, about universal human rights, and the danger of perpetual war. Kennedy knew very well that in the United States, the richest country in the world, there were “first and second class citizens,” and a “philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior.”

On October 2, 1963, President John F. Kennedy met with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor, who had just returned from Vietnam. That evening, the White House announced that it would begin withdrawing ‘military advisors’ from Vietnam.

On October 3, Emperor Haile Selassie 1st left Washington D.C. for New York City.

On October 4, 1963, the Emperor delivered his ‘War’ speech to the assembly conference, speaking in the ancient Ethiopian language of Amharic.

On October 5, 1963, JFK announced his formal decision to withdraw from Vietnam, beginning with a withdrawal of 1,000 of the 16,000 ‘military advisors’. Historians disagree about JFK’s true intentions about Vietnam. Yet the historical record shows that he first announced the decision to end the conflict while Emperor Haile Sellassie 1st was present in the White House. His Majesty and the American president were sending the world a sign of solidarity.

Six weeks later on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

The Courage of Ruby Bridges

Hail Mi Irieites,The-problem-we-all-live-with-norman-rockwell

From Wikipedia:

In spring of 1960, Ruby Bridges was one of 6 black children in New Orleans to pass the test that determined whether or not the black children would go to the all white school. She went to a school by herself while the other 5 children went somewhere else. Six students were chosen; however, two students decided to stay at their old school, and three were transferred to Mcdonough. Ruby was the only one assigned to William Frantz. Her father was initially reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to “take this step forward … for all African-American children.” Her mother finally convinced her father to let her go to the school.


The story of Ruby Bridges reminds us all to never take anything for granted. And today, in a time when voting rights are once again being threatened, let us think about her courage and her parents’ willingness to stand up for the good of all.

After all these years, we still have a long way to go.


Farewell Ms. Alvera Coke

Hail Mi Irieites,

AlveraCokeMs. Alvera Coke, the mother of the late Peter Tosh has passed away.  Here is the statement from the estate of Peter Tosh:

The Peter Tosh Estate with great sadness acknowledges the passing of Alvera Coke. Born in Belmont Jamaica May 25, 1917- she passed at the same home in which she grew up, in her bed today. As the matriarch of the Tosh family she leaves behind the great legacy as the mother of Peter Tosh and grandmother of ten. Her grand spirit and guidance will be missed.

Ms. Coke, we give thanks and praises for your love and inspiration. Your son got up, stood up for justice and was the voice for the voiceless.  I and I are forever thankful for your grace.

The Netherlands Never Let Us Down!

Yes Mi Irieites!

With only one more show to go, Eindhoven, we performed our second to last show in Amsterdam at the Melkweg, last night.  And if the truth were known, the crowd was electrifying as ever.  Please allow me to rephrase that; the “Nether Lands” has “Never Let us down.”

Incidentally, Al Anderson came backstage with his family.  We had no idea he was there or else we would have presented him on stage for old time’s sake.  Least we not forget that it was here in Holland that we shared the same stage with Al when he was one of the lead guitar players for Bob Marley and the Wailers, 35 years ago! Fret not, we hope to feature him for a brief moment in our long over due documentary.  We hope that your wait will be significant..

On another note, I found time to check the Anne Frank museum here in Amsterdam and although the queue was halfway around the block, it was worth the wait, believe me.  At first, I was feeling quite agitated, knowing that the tour bus would be leaving midday, sharp.  I am already known for my lateness.  But finally, we, (Rande the merchandise guy) and I got in viewed managed to view all; enlightening and forever memorable.

Anne Frank was Special.  Her energy during those time will remain with me, forever.


30th Anniversary – Maurice Bishop (29th May 1944 – 19th October 1983): The Fight Against Fascism Continues

Yes Mi Irieites,

ADN-ZB Häßler 11.6.1982 Bez. Dresden: Maurice Bishop, Vorsitzender des Politbüros des ZK der Neuen Jewel-Bewegung und Ministerpräsident der Revolutionären Volksregierung Grenadas, besuchte die LPG in Niederkaina, Kreis Bautzen. Hier bei einem Meeting mit Genossenschafstbauern und Arbeitern der LPG.It appears that October has been a landmark for many a revolutionary.  First it was Hugh Mundell, then Thomas Sankara and now the Right Honorable Maurice Bishop, the second Prime Minister of the island of Grenada.

Bishop became Grenada’s Prime Minister after seizing power from his predecessor Eric Gairy in a coup, while Gairy was out of the country on business (March 1979).

In the course of his administration Bishop had formed several organisations: the People’s Revolutionary Government of Grenada (P.R.G.G), People’s Revolutionary Army (P.R.A), New Jewel Movement (N.J.M), just to name a few.  This development was triggered while studying in the UK.  And although he majored in the subjects of Law and Economics, it was during this period that he got heavily influenced into campaigning against racial discrimination in Britain as well as being proactive with the Black Power movement of the USA.

So in the eyes of the Grenadian Population, things were looking positive and bright for Bishop once he took charge, until he aligned himself with Cuba.  This initiated an alliance where various projects were to be carried out that he thought would benefit the island.  One of the projects involved was the construction of a new international airstrip that was to be located in the southern region of the island.  This was a project that was once proposed by the British while the country was still colonised.  However, it did not favour well with the US, who, as far as they were concerned, believed that it was a plan to be served as a landing strip to accommodate Russian military aircraft, etc.

As well as US opposition, Maurice was also getting a hard time with those within his own administration who thought that these projects and organisations were a waste of the taxpayer’s money. A proposal for joint leadership was refused by Bishop.

It was in the first week of October 1983, when things grinded to a halt.  Bishop, was placed under house arrest by the Deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard.  His incarceration didn’t last very long once the people got news as to what had happened.  The protesting got to such a height that he was immediately released.  But within two weeks of the protest, Bishop, as well as close family members and a part of his administration, were rounded up once again and taken into custody.  They were all placed against a wall outside of where they were confined and got massacred by a firing squad later that day.  Finally, an invasion by the US ultimately took place October 25th, stopping all Cuban participation on building the airport strip.

Maurice Bishop will rise up in history as the bravest leader the Caribbean has ever had in recent times.  His stance in favour of working class rights, women rights, and education as well as his stance against racism, Apartheid and sex discrimination has already been noted by those of us who are conscious and concerned in the affairs of the diaspora.

Come to think of it these ideals are a carbon copy of Thomas Sankara’s blueprint policies to elevate all of Africa.  Unfortunately, we are living in times where all great revolutionary thinkers get cut down in their prime by their peers, especially peers that are suppose to be working with you side by side, each day.  The airport was built and was named Point Salines International Airport but was renamed in honour of the New Jewel Movement leader, “Maurice Bishop,” in 2009.

Here’s a an excerpt from a speech on fascism by Maurice Bishop:

“… the extremely undemocratic, repressive and corrupt nature of the puppet Regimes carefully trained and promoted from among local professionals and bureaucrats by Imperialism to maintain their presence on the backs of our people, is a very consistent Caribbean condition.”

And with only four months to go for Grenada’s 40th anniversary of Independence, here is Steel Pulse’s tribute to the “Real Spice” of Grenada.

Maurice Bishop, Ya Big!!

Incidentally, this is also the 30th anniversary since the Pulse embarked on our first Caribbean tour.

PS -  a Happy Birthday to another icon and revolutionary: Peter Tosh!

Thomas Sankara: Dec 21, 1949 – Oct 15, 1987

Yes Mi Irieites,

Once again we take time out to pay homage to who, as far as we’re concerned, one of the greatest African leaders of all time, Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara, the leader of Burkina Faso, who was assassinated in a coup d’etat on this day October 15th 1987.

As a matter of fact it was only 2 months ago that this African president had reached his commemorated milestone of 30 years since he took power (August 4th,1983), at the age of 33.  On taking power he renamed the once colonised “Upper Volta” to Burkina Faso, meaning, “Land of Upright People.”

Whilst Sankara’s ideals were a good template for all of Africa, there was that faction of the elite within his country and administration that were not supportive of his policies, consequently, toppling him from authority to ultimate murder.   This is an excerpt from a speech he made a week before his untimely demise;

“While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered you can not kill ideas.”

So here’s a tribute to a great leader, and may I add, a blossoming musician, whose name and credibility I have honoured so much that I named one of my sons after him for it to be a continuation of my reverence.

In Remembrance of Hugh Mundell

Yes Mi Irieites,

It’s a truly welcomed and deserved “day off”  for the entire Steel Pulse entourage on this European tour.  However, we take time out to remember Hugh Mundell who was murdered this day 14th October, back in 1983.   The 30th anniversary of this reggae legend should not be forgotten.

In the earlier years of Steel Pulse’s presence in the Bay Area of San Francisco, we bumped into Hugh quite a few times.   We were shocked when we learned of his death soon afterwards.  For quite sometime in the early 80′s Hugh Mundell’s career became quite dormant.  After a long hiatus friends advised him to return to Jamaica and produce the classic songs he was capable of composing.  It was on taking such advice he met his death in JA.  It was said to have derived from some kind of family dispute.

Hugh’s hit album “Africa must be free by 1983,” contained a lot irony, if you get my meaning.  I’m sure his own spirit of freedom was what he was referring to.

Jah Bless another legend….