It’s not often that you’re given an opportunity to meet royalty. So when that opportunity came through the likes of a book signing at Waterstones earlier this year, I took the opportunity to not just meet Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, the great-nephew of the late Emperor Haile Selassie I, and have my copy of his book signed, but propose a similar event – organised by Diversity Matters!
Black history Month in the UK was born out of the the frustration of the invisibility and erasure of black presence in Britain, as well as contribution to World history. In recognition of this struggle, though challenging the notion that Black History should only be celebrated in October, Diversity Matters hosted Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate to give a talk on “The Era of Emperor Haile Selassie I, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), His legacy in the 21st Century and Challenges of African Migration”, at University of the Arts London (UAL). It was an opportunity to discuss history from a afrocentric perspective, which many institutions still lack in addressing.
‘King of Kings: The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia’ published in 2015, gives a detailed and intimate narrative of one of the most mis-represented figures in world history, as well as the factors that influenced his reign, and ultimately led to an upheaval of the Ethiopian political, social, and cultural landscape.
Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate is a descendant of the Imperial ruling house of Ethiopia and is the great nephew of Emperor Haile Selassie – the last imperial ruler of Ethiopia. Haile Selassie, named Tafari at birth, titled Ras – Prince, later becoming Emperor, is a messianic figure for the Rastafarians, many of whom were present at the talk.
The event drew in a diverse crowd of students, staff, guest and members of the Ango-Ethiopian society. Delina Ethiopian Food offered a delicious buffet post lecture which allowed for extended conversations and networking.
“Ras Asfa-Wossen was as objective and honest as u can possibly be when speaking about your uncle, including in his opinion the fact that Selassie should have stepped down after the 1st coup and handed the throne to his son. He also spoke of his admiration for the Rastafarian community who, in his opinion, are the only group of black people still carrying the strong message of Pan africanism. Although he and his family do not believe in the divine status given to his uncle, he openly encourages Rastafarians to petition the Ethiopian church to make him a saint, “as all saints are human”. – Petra Warner
Written by Kai Lutterodt
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