On May 28, 2018, the Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora (SEED) held its annual awards dinner during which it recognizes with financial awards as well as public recognition, outstanding young Ethiopian Diaspora Students who excel academically and in extra-curricular activities of various types. I was very privileged to attend this year. They also customarily award other Ethiopians for prominent accomplishments. This year, along side the five student awardees, SEED decided to give it's highest recognition to what it called "The Magnificent Five" monarchs of Ethiopia, and presented awards to their descendants. These five were credited with transforming the country, defending it's independence, and reigning gloriously over their country in a way that has left their people proud and grateful. The monarchs were honored, and their descendants received the awards on their behalf, and attended as guests of honor. They were as follows:
- Emperor Tewodros II (1855-1868) represented by his great-grandson Lij Meshesha Kassa
- Emperor Yohannes IV(1871-1889) represented by his great-grandson, His Highness Leul Ras Mengesha Seyoum
- Emperor Menelik II (1889-1913) (his great-great-great grandson Lij Sayem Osman was unable to attend and the award was received by a memorial foundation)
- Empress Zewditu (1916-1930) represented by her second cousin twice removed, His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie (the Empress had no direct heirs and was succeeded by the Prince's grandfather who was her second cousin).
- Emperor Haile Selassie (1930-1974) represented by his grandsons His Imperial Highness Prince Beede Mariam Makonnen and His Imperial Highness Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie (the Emperor's granddaughter Her Imperial Highness Princess Mariam Senna Asfaw Wossen had been slated to join her cousins in receiving the award but had to cancel for unforeseen circumstances with her apologies).
- Each of the above Imperial descendants spoke at the event.
Tribute was paid to the five monarchs in turn through scholarly speeches, song, and poetry. The Mistress of Ceremonies was veteran Ethiopian Actress Alem Tsehai Wodajo wearing a blue cape glittering with gold embroidery, once the traditional court dress of Ethiopian nobles. Poems composed for the event extolled the greatness of the monarchs, and one in particular, about the monarchy itself which moved me deeply the title of which translates to "Behind the throne". Among those that spoke in tribute were the following.
Singer Shambel Belayneh also sang patriotic songs extolling the virtues of each monarch, and Mahmoud Ahmed sang a nostalgic song after his speech as well.
- Professor Mamo Muchie
- Professor Daniel Kinde
- Famed Ethiopian Singer and former Imperial Guard Mahmoud Ahmed
- Dr. Dawit Zewdie, Vice Chairman of Emperor Haile Selassie I Memorial Association (EHSIMA)
- Mr. Neville Garrick, singer Bob Marely’s Art manager
In addition to the Imperial descendants who were guest of honor listed above, many other members of the Imperial family attended. Among them were Their Imperial Highnesses, Princess Mahizente Hapte Mariam (widow of Prince Sahle Selassie Haile Selassie, daughter-in-law to Emperor Haile Selassie, and mother of Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie), Princess Saba Kebede (wife of Prince Ermias), Prince Yoel Dawit Makonnen (great-grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie), Princess Adey Imiru Makonnen (widow of Prince Dawit Makonnen Haile Selassie, grand-daughter-in-law of Emperor Haile Selassie, mother of Prince Yoel), Princess Ariana Makonnen (wife of Prince Yoel), Princess Seble Desta (granddaughter of Emperor Haile Selassie), Emebet Debritu Kassa (daughter of Princess Seble, great-granddaughter of Emperor Haile Selassie), Emebet Kokeb Kassa (daughter of Princess Seble, great-granddaughter of Emperor Haile Selassie), Lij Yohannes Mengesha (son of Leul Ras Mengesha Seyoum Prince of Tigre and great-great-grandson of Emperor Yohannes IV, as well as great-grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie through his late mother Princess Aida Desta) as well as the three young children of the late Emebet Menen Mengesha (thus great-great-great grandchildren of Emperor Yohannes IV and great-great grandchildren of Emperor Haile Selassie).
It was especially gratifying when the audience rose and ululated for the Imperial family as they entered the hall.