I only recently came across some writings by Mortimo ‘Kumie’ Planno, a Rastafari teacher. As a Rasta it made me smile to read and so I’m sharing this bit of history that like some much of our history seems to have slipped through the cracks.
Mortimo St George “Kumi” Planno, (6 September 1929, Cuba – 5 March 2006, Kingston, Jamaica) A Rastafari elder, drummer and a follower of the back-to-Africa movement founded in the 1910s by Marcus Garvey.
A prominent Rastafari teacher in Jamaica in the 1950s, he helped found the Rastafari Movement Association as well as the Local Charter 37 of the Ethiopian World Federation. He also instigated the first “Universal Grounation of the Rastafari”, a drumming and chanting ceremony held in Back-O-Wall in March 1958.
Mortimo was part of the Jamaican government’s delegation of officials and Rastafari leaders sent to Addis Ababa in 1961 to meet Emperor Haile Selassie. Planno, Douglas Aiken Mack, and Fillmore Alvaranga were the three in the Rasta delegation.
Examples of their reports:
- 16 April 1961: “Later in the afternoon the Rases were invited to visit His Holiness Abuna Basilios, the Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church at his residence. We discussed H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie, being the returned Messiah. His Holiness the Abuna told us at the conclusion of the discussion that the Bible can be interpreted that way. We had tea and honey with him.”
- 21 April 1961: “The Mission was granted audience with H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I at the Imperial Palace, Addis-Ababa. We were introduced to H.I.M., by the Minister of the Imperial Guard. Emperor Haile Selassie I welcomed the delegation warmly. Speaking Amharic, H.I.M. told us that he knew the black people of the West and particularly Jamaica were blood brothers to the Ethiopians and he knew that slaves were sent from Ethiopia to Jamaica. H.I.M. thanked the delegation and presented each of us with a gold medal.”
- “All the rest of the delegation left His presence except the three Rastafarian Brethren (Bros. Fil, Mack, Planno, as we had presents for H.I.M.). Alvaranga presented H.I.M. with a wood-carved map of Afrika with a portrait of the Emperor on one side of the wooden case. The Emperor then spoke in English for the first time to us. He said, “That’s Afrika. Is it from the Rastafari Brethren?” (That showed that he knew us before). We said “Yes”. Brother Planno gave H.I.M. a woven scarf in red, gold and green. H.I.M. said “Is it you that wove it”. He said “Yes”. He said “Thank you again”.
The full story of the 1961 Jamaican delegation in Ethiopia is told in Dr. Giulia Bonacci’s book Exodus, Heirs and Pioneers, Rastafari Return to Ethiopia (University of the West Indies Press, 2015).