Jamaica's Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ''Babsy'' Grange and Barbara Blake-Hannah, the ministry's cultural liaison, are now members of the Imperial Order of the Star of Honour of Ethiopia, the highest possible award of the order.
The two women were recently invested with the high Ethiopian honours at a special event which took place in Washington, DC, United States at the command of His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie, president of the Crown Council of Ethiopia and grandson of late Emperor Haile Selassie.
Minister Grange was invested as a Dame Grand Cross of the Order, while Blake-Hannah received the rank of officer for the "leadership, kindness and diligence with which they enabled the recent formal visit to Jamaica of their Imperial Highnesses Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie and Princess Desta Saba".
Major General Gregory R Copley, marques of Tana and strategic advisor to the Crown Council of Ethiopia, informed the two Jamaicans of the recognition in a letter, following the visit of the prince and princess in October 2022, thanking them for "their great friendship with the Crown of Ethiopia that has contributed materially to the improvement of Jamaica-Ethiopia ties".
Blake-Hannah was also recognised for facilitating an earlier visit of Prince Ermias to Jamaica in 1997. The investiture ceremony took place during the annually held Victory of Adwa commemorative dinner marking the Victory of Adwa, when Emperor Menelik II defeated the invading Italian army in 1896. "We are celebrating this evening the 127th anniversary of the Battle of Adwa, which took place in 1896. And we can't think of any more honourable persons to reward on this occasion, than Minister Grange and Barbara Blake-Hannah from Jamaica, who worked so hard to make our visit in Jamaica possible," said Prince Ermias.
"The importance of the Battle of Adwa was the victory that, yes, we can do. And it was the first time an African army was able to defeat a European army and thereby preserve our nation's sovereignty, which became an inspiration to people of African descent and oppressed people the world over," he added.
In her acceptance speech, an obviously emotional Minister Grange accepted the award on behalf of Jamaica, and particularly the Rastafarian community, saying: "Today is truly a very special day for me. I've always dreamt of the day when I would feel very much a part of the continent of Africa.
"In addition to recognising that my ancestry is predominantly African, the fact that I have been recognised by a nation in Africa, the continent of Africa, and particularly Ethiopia, the Crown Council of Ethiopia is something that has made me so overjoyed and so overwhelmed.
"I'm pent up with emotion becauseâ€¦ I grew up hearing about Ethiopia because of the Rastafarian faith; because Haile Selassie has been that symbol of black royalty, and for me today to be recognised by the Crown Counsel and to be bestowed with the Dame of the Grand Cross by His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie's grandson, Prince Ermias, is something that I would not have ever dreamt would happen," Grange said.
For her part, Blake-Hannah, who is also head of the Rastafari Secretariat in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, said the award meant a lot to her because it represented three persons.
"First, Emperor Haile Selassie, who it honours through his grandson, Prince Ermias. It represents Priest Abuna Yesaq, who the emperor sent to Jamaica to introduce the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to those who looked on him as divine. And through him, I've been blessed with a superior knowledge of Ethiopian Christianity.
"And that is the link that has brought me here today. Those are the links, those three persons, the emperor, the archbishop and the prince that have inspired me to continue working for Ethiopia, to continue making Ethiopia as great as it was when Menilek won the battle of Adwa," she said.
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