Leonard P. Howell was the founding father of Rastafarianism, a path that blended elements of African spirituality with Judaism and Christianity. Raised in an Anglican family, Howell traveled to New York City in 1932, and when he returned to Jamaica a year later, he announced the anointing of Haile Sellassie as Emperor of Ethiopa represented the return of the true messiah as foretold in the Old Testament.
There were a few other early preachers of this faith, but Howell is considered as the founder and he spent much of his adult life in conflict with the Jamaican authorities.
The community he founded in Sligoville, Jamaica, known as “Pinnacle,” was razed in 1954 when it had nearly 4,500 residents, who endured intense persecution, mostly for their devotion to marijuana. Eventually, in the 1960s, the exportation of marijuana into Florida became the island’s major source of revenue, and once sufficient bribes were paid to the right people, this illicit trade exploded until the DEA forced a shutdown.
Howell died in 1981, and last year his home at Pinnacle (see photo above) was declared an historic site by the Jamaican government. However, a developer now wants to build on land surrounding this home, land considered sacred by Rastas.
Donisha Prendergast, Bob Marley’s oldest granddaughter has joined thousands of Jamaicans who are protesting this proposed development, a story that began unfolding over what would have been Bob Marley’s 69th birthday. The Rastas living on the building site have already been officially evicted, although most are holding their ground in what could become a long and protracted stand-off.