PINNACLE: The Birthplace of the RasTafari Movement

It was November 2014 when I learnt that the Birthplace of the RasTafari movement was being sold in lots and new houses built on top of our heritage land while the government was in full knowledge of what was happening. There was never a second thought about why we need to fight to reclaim this stolen history. The question was now, what to do, how to do it, who would help, when would it happen, where these moments would lead us to. On January 31, 2014 a group of RasTafari youths and elders from many walks of life came together to Occupy Pinnacle in defiance and protection of the Legacy, Roots and Heritage that these lands represented.



Who is Leonard P. Howell?

A DSE Short film

This question has lingered on the lips of so many in recent weeks as the realities of the issues surrounding Pinnacle come to light. This question not only exposes the ugly underbelly of Jamaican history, but also that of the world at large.

How accurate are our history books if they contain no mention of a black man in Jamaica who acquired 500 acres of land in a time when blacks were prohibited from having significant land holdings? When the accomplishments of Pinnacle have been taken into account, this historical exclusion can no longer be seen as an act of negligence, but an outright act of conspiracy. But, who would conspire to suppress the truth about Jamaica’s only self-sustaining community, and what motivation could one have for such action?

A Pinnacle survivor, Sister Audrey shares a few thoughts and memories about the times spent at the birthplace of the Ras Tafari movement in Jamaica.

De-colonial Artivism in Jamaica

Presentation at the University of Bari Aldo Moro (Bari, Italy)

The "Occupy Pinnacle" tour to raise awareness for the situation around Pinnacle, the first Rasta community in Jamaica between the 1930's and 1954, took place from mid-October until mid-November 2014.

This clip shows footage from the event at the University Aldo Moro of Bari + more.
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Why Occupy?

A DSE Short film

A first hand account of members of the Occupy Pinnacle cause sharing their motivation for being apart of the now global initiative to save Pinnacle, the birthplace of Rastafari culture from corporate violation. Meet Suns of Dub Addis Pablo and Ras Jammy. Both have been actively involved with the occupation efforts from its inception and recently visited for an acoustic session at Pinnacle with a few of the resident drummers. Addis is the Son of world renowned ‘Mellodica and Dub King’ Augustus Pablo. Addis alongside producer/ selector Ras Jammy, who hails from Trinidad, the duo founded the Suns of Dub label and is quickly making a name for themselves, working on numerous projects with the likes of Inner Circle, Black Redemption and Rory StoneLove.

Self Sufficient Pinnacle

On May 23, 1954 the Colonial police under orders from Alexander Bustamante invaded and burnt Pinnacle, a self sustaining community founded by Leonard P. Howell, the first Rasta.

The colonial authorities saw Pinnacle as a direct challenge to the social order of the time. Historically, blacks were the cogs that kept the colonial machine operating. However, this newfound desire and realization of self-sustenance would lead to the eventual collapse of the colonial system. Just imagine what the result would be if there was a Pinnacle in each parish. The state would have to seek an alternate source of cheap labour, and this they were not prepared to do. This meant that Pinnacle, and anything resembling that idea had to be removed completely from the consciousness of the masses. 


- Leonard was born on June 16, 1898, thirty-three years after the 1865 Paul Bogle led Morant Bay Rebellion and 60 years after Emancipation.

- Leonard Percival Howell was born June 16, 1898. He was the first born of 11 children born to parents Charles Theophilus Howell and Clementina Bennett in Red Hills, Clarendon, Jamaica.

- Leonard Migrated to the U.S.A. in 1912 and joined the US Navy in 1916 and would travel the world for the next 6 years, always returning to New York as his home base.

Leonard's travels exposed to him to the sub-human treatment of blacks in every country he visited, this coupled with the Pan- African opinions of black leaders in New York planted the seeds for the revolutionary to be borne in Howell.

After working various jobs and eventually owning a tea room, he returned to Jamaica in 1932 following the depression caused by the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

African religious formations were on the rise in the 1930s despite opposition from colonial authorities because of the extreme economic hardships worsened by weak political leadership; it was against this background that Howell returned to his homeland and established this redemptive movement that catered to the material and spiritual needs of the population of ex-slaves.

The 1930 coronation of Ras Tafari as King Haile Selassie I was seen by many as fulfillment of the prophecy found in Revelations. The idea of RasTafari challenged the religious and political monopoly of the colonial order. Not only did this new school of thought preach the divinity of a black man but it also encouraged introspection among the peasants to begin questioning their lowly place in society, a direct result of slavery. In 1934 Howell was arrested in St. Thomas and tried for sedition along with his chief lieutenant, Robert Hinds and sent to prison.

On his return from prison he established the Ethiopian Salvation Society in 1939, the economic unit responsible for conceptualizing the first Rasta community- Pinnacle.

Pinnacle had over 4000 residents working and living in harmony with each other and the environment, utilizing the areas highly fertile land to grow a wide array of crops, including cannabis and hemp. The cannabis being used for spiritual/ religious and medicinal purposes while the hemp was used in numerous industrial ways.

By 1954, after years of terror from the authorities, Pinnacle was destroyed and the seeds of Rastafari scattered all over Jamaica. Today, what began as a small rural-based political-religious movement has disseminated its universal ideology of inity and oneness all over the world.

Howell became one of the most persecuted men in Jamaica, and the most neglected messianic force in New World spiritual tradition.

His contribution to the anti-colonial resistance cannot be overstated as not only did he orate a philosophy of upliftment and self- reliance for black people but he also dedicated his life to this cause, accomplishing feats that cannot be fathomed even by today’s standards.

Howell passed away on February 25 1981

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