The First Rasta?

Submitted byJeeraik009 onSun, 06/19/2011 - 17:01


This past weekend a conference held in tribute to Leonard P. Howell took place at the University of the West Indies, Mona, hosted by the Rastafari Studies Initiative. Over two days, scholars and members of Rastafari explored the life and times of the elder whom they consider a patriarch. Howell like the other famous Jamaican pan-africanist Marcus Garvey, was a traveller and although his journeys were not as well documented as Garvey's, we know that during the 1920s as a seaman, he too visited South America and Africa and he also ended up in Harlem where he honed his activism. Garvey was deported to Jamaica in 1927 and Howell followed in 1932 initially trying to establish himself as a speaker at Garvey's Eidelweiss Park but eventually giving up the city to develop his popularity in the countryside. He is famous for the establishment of a rasta settlement in St Catherine called Pinnacle where thousands gathered to live a communal lifestyle and worship HIM Haile Selassie emperor of Ethiopia, as their God incarnate. Pinnacle was dismantled by the colonial government of that day displacing its followers who fled to the already overcrowded slum areas of Kingston and added to the creative ferment that would produce musicians such as The Wailers. A controversial figure during his lifetime, now it seems that Howell is finally being given his due as one of the founding fathers of a movement that helped to raise the consciousness of black people throughout the African Diaspora. The subject of a book, many articles and even a documentary internationally, it is heartening to finally see Howell honoured as a prophet in his own country.