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Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage

Posted by Sista Irie 
Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 29, 2013 03:48PM
I wanted to share this editorial I recently wrote and felt compelled to post on Facebook. It was the result of a trip to Kingston in early December where I visited the Pinnacle site and attended an urgent meeting with Donisha Pendergrast, granddaughter of Bob Marley, held at the Bob Marley Museum. Chronixx, Kelissa, and other interested artists attended and the movie The First Rasta, story of Leonard Howell was shown. Two Rastafari from Pinnacle attended and spoke of the past and current situation at Pinnacle.


"I've Been to the Mountaintop" is the title of Martin Luther King's final speech delivered a few days before his assassination. In this emotionally charged moment, King reflects on the overwhelming greatness of the civil rights struggle, stating once he reached the mountaintop, he saw the PROMISED LAND. I heard Martin Luther King speak at the National Cathedral the Sunday before his death. His words, burned into memory, came to mind when I recently climbed the heights of a spectacular panorama in the misty mountains outside Kingston, Jamaica. This area, PINNACLE, was the first RASTAFARIAN settlement, and founded by Leonard Percival Howell, aka the First Rasta.

As a thirty year Jamaica resident and reggae photojournalist, I have long overstood the importance of PINNACLE as the birthplace of the Rastafarian movement and a contributor of Rastafari in Jamaican reggae music. The integrated association of Rastafari with Jamaican art acknowledges the influential roots of a displaced African society resulting in one of the world's most intensely rich subcultures.

The idea that a Maroon-like society so powerful and unique could be discredited, ignored and purposely erased by the government is intolerable and should be loudly contested within and outside of Jamaica. Intellectuals, educators and preservationists of world cultures MUST speak up before it is too late. The recent eviction of RASTAFARI people from Pinnacle lands is nothing less than a travesty. This misguided act reflects a lack of consciousness and respect by a backward, uneducated government spiraling in supreme ignorance while disregarding the long term value of a globally treasured heritage. Bob Marley, the world's most famous Rastafarian, is revered by societies across the world, influencing their music, spiritually and artistically. Bob introduced Rastafari to the world resulting in global recognition and philosophical influence.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) describes world heritage as 'our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.' UNESCO's role globally supports the preservation of cultural heritage through universally applied grants and programs. The UNESCO World Heritage Convention, to which Jamaica is a signatory, recognizes that deterioration or disappearance of any item of cultural heritage constitutes a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of all nations of the world. The Convention also clearly states that parts of the cultural or natural heritage are of outstanding interest and therefore need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.

Rastafari is a belief system reflecting roots of African ancestry while simultaneously implementing a unique society reflected in the artistic documentation of Jamaican history. The government and people of Jamaica must therefore seek to adhere to the aims and objectives of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in its treatment of Rastafari culture.

A valid testament of global recognition was demonstrated by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC promoting an exhibition entitled "Discovering Rastafari."

"Featuring rare photographs, artifacts, and ephemera, this exhibition moves beyond the popular Jamaican music known as reggae to explore the origins and practice of the Rastafari religion in Jamaica and the movement's subsequent spread across the Caribbean and around the world." Smithsonian Magazine, January 2008.

The eviction of Pinnacle's Rastafari is reminiscent of the sad and unethical treatment of Native Americans in the United States. Although, Native Americans are recognized as an important part of American history, their mental, physical and spiritual well being have been relegated to poverty with few resources allocated to improve their quality of life. Is this the future of Rastafari in Jamaica? Will Jamaican society recognize the importance of their heritage including the rich history of Rastafari and reggae music and promote a long term vision that enhances what is already global acceptance?

I climbed the Pinnacle mountaintop a few weeks ago and what I see is impending disaster. The Rastafarians of Pinnacle established a vibrant community and economy many years ago only to be devastated by government forces. Isn't it time now to ethically preserve and protect a very vibrant and universally loved aspect of Jamaican culture and support the right of Rastafarians to live in peace and equity with their Jamaican bredren and sistren?

~ Sista Irie, www.consciousparty.com

Photo: © 2013 Sista Irie Photography, December 2013 (more photos in my FB folder)

Community Center

remnants of Leonard Howell's House

Road to Pinnacle mountaintop

Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 29, 2013 04:11PM
Trailer for the FIRST RASTA

Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 29, 2013 04:12PM
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 29, 2013 05:24PM
Thanks, Daniel. Just found the whole movie available including one on Coral Gardens Incident. The website is Caribbean Creativity Foundation.

Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 29, 2013 07:09PM
A poignant response by Ray Ingraham:

there is a reason out of the millions of Rastafari there is in the world only the few responded to stop the eviction if this was Mecca or Jerusalem there would be hell to pay if you were evicting Muslims and Jews from their foundation but because they operate as independent cults and mansions they don't see their story beginning there maybe but with Prince Emmanuel and Prophet Gad with Garvey acting as prophet not Leonard P. Howell there is definitely a disconnect of originator and the different Mansions or else they would have united and proclaim to the world that these are sacred ground and we would be willing to die to defend it!

Lloyd Stanbury:
Raymond, very good points you make. It is very unfortunate that the Pinnacle issue is not being viewed as an opportunity for the local and global Rastafari communities to unite. Instead of coming together to defend Rastafari, persons seem to be more concerned with sewing seeds of division, criticizing those who speak out, or pursuing their personal agendas.

Sista Irie: Ray and Lloyd, it almost seems incredulous to me that more people aren't speaking out. I almost feel like there is an underlying fear or barrier that is not being said.

Raymond Ingraham:
several things come to mind I don't think it's fear(with so many Rastas living outside of Jamaica what would they have to fear?) as much as a total our-storical disconnect from the foundation I keep going back to because the Rastafarian movement/communities have no central base for the movement as a whole as oppose to any religion/sect for example Muslims/Moslem-Mecca,Saudi Arabia /Catholicism-Vatican City,Rome/ Jews-Jerusalem,Israel/Mormons- Salt Lake City,Utah in all of the above religions/sects at least making one pilgrimage to that foundation place or to them what they consider their holy sites once in their lifetime is a must or a most desirable act Rastafarians lack this emphasis and practice as a whole individually some may but as a whole no! So Pinnacle to them doesn't hold the same importance as say Mecca to a Moslem/Muslim and because too many practice,take on,and have a cultist selfish mentality they feel that our groups foundation is where their leader started their group and have a "as long as it does not affect me/us what do I/we care what happens to them mentality after all they're not messing with Bull Bay or Hope Road or wherever their group started" as oppose to where the Movement started as a whole! This is where the problem lies more than fear how many even know of what you are speaking about when you talk of the Nyahbinghi our-story or the Ugandian Nyah Matriarchs the majority Rastas that I meet just say Nyahbinghi means "death to the white and black oppressors" that's it or some H.I.M utterance or Biblical quote ask them of anything more than that they're stuck on stupid but ask ask them about some reggae music or herb they're a walking encyclopedia matter of fact if this were about the Jamaican government eradicating all the herb on the Island or stopping this negative Gangsta-hall Musick you would see a lot of them coming out the wood works!
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 29, 2013 10:00PM
Thank you for the articles. I agree there is a lack of historical perspective regarding the early Rastafari movement, so sites like Pinnacle, and its history, are forgotten. Often times it gets lost in a cloud of religiosity and mysticism instead of historical research and preservation.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 30, 2013 12:16AM
I don't know the story of what has gone on at pinnacle from the howellites' eviction time to a developer buying the land to build mcmansions too well so i don't feel too qualified to comment on what transpired with deeds sales etc..

however, as a Rastafari and student of Rasta history i can make a blanket statement that the movement is not in a solid state right now(without airing dutty laundry) and the fact that there is no unified action on saving this heritage site speaks to a much larger situation. not feeling the hope rd/bobo hill comment since ttoi and eabic were started in another place bulldozed by the man and not at their present locales. while we acknowlege the Binghi house as the foundation, anyone w/ youtube can see there's a big bangarang going on there. can't help but sound like a negative curmudgeon to get into details any further, but i'll leave it at things are very complicated right now in the Rastafari faith.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
December 30, 2013 12:45AM
Ras A, your input is still critical, sad and disheartening as it is. However, I would say this is exactly what Babylon hoped for, divide and conquer. Weakening the Rastafari society makes it so much easier to exploit and denegrate them. I can tell you the developers of the McMansions is a well known wealthy Jamaican family (two brothers) and one is the boyfriend of the Minister of Culture, Lisa Hanna, who by the way was a big supporter of STING. There is a major conflict of interest with the developers and Lisa Hanna being involved with each other. How the land title has transferred hands is also questionable and SOME say that International Law would imply the land belongs to the Rastafarians. I don't know all the legal aspects and my guess is we will never know all the facts. Having seen the exact land where the development of high end houses is underway, I don't see how it could ever be reversed, HOWEVER, if the Rastafarians will not stand up for themselves, there is probably no hope at all. There is a small group of Pinnacle activists who live(d) up there trying to get the word out, but hardly anyone else is speaking out. Many people indicate a concern by 'liking' a post but that will get the whole issue nowhere.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 02, 2014 03:16AM
bump- would love to see as much discussion about the proposed eviction of Rastafarians from Pinnacle as some of the other topics on the SNWMF phorum. Does anyone else have anything to add?
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 02, 2014 11:35AM
My guess is people don't have many facts to go on, thus it's difficult to give an informed opinion.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 02, 2014 01:20PM
i'd say that's right. without seeing the documents it's hard to say what's what.

to make a musical analogy. if trojan records reissues a 60's lp today.
people can cry teef and pirate and say the right thing would be for every player
of instrument to get compensated etc, but legally just the people registered
as having publishing rights are due money. sadly that's probably 1 man instead of the
20 who made the lp. but in a court of law that's what holds up.

similarly if these developers, have their papers in order, they have have the right to do what
they want legally, though not morally.

in most of america if you get busted with a marijuana farm they can seize your property
and the JA govt may have some similar story for pinnacle.

there's also a thought of what has being going on over all these years to "preserve this hertage site"?
looks like hundreds of acres ended up being a few howell decendants in a few small structures and grazing areas
but no big rastafari heritage center etc, until this development threat then a modest outcry. seems on the surface like you don't treasure what you have until its gone type a thing.

in shashamene there was 500 hectres given by selassie to loyalists to repatriate to . only a handful responded
only a tiny portion of the land was being used. the govt seized back prob 98% of it.

again i don't have facts of this case to speak on it, but on a cursory surface level these are some things that come to mind that ones may be thinking.

hopefully there will be a big enough reponse to push the govt to intercede and reliquish at least some of the site as a heritage site. if you google search it you see a petition from years ago. but i agree sis, clicking "like" on FB isn't going
to do anything about this issue.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 05, 2014 01:16AM
Bless, Adam- I don't think there is a question about the developers having appropriate papers, it is more about HOW they got them. There are many unknown facts that people in high places don't want exposed or known.

Some of what is known, is they blew up the bones of Rastafarian ancestors in the graveyard. They are building on the grave of Leonard Howell's wife. Although every fact is not known, there are enough facts to question the politics behind the destruction of cultural heritage by the actions of the boyfriend (St Jago developer) of the Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, who was recently featured in the news as the number four worst politician in the world. (albeit, the organization that puts out lists of top ten worst everything does not divulge it's filters for ranking.)

Anyone who wants to follow the current events can check the FB site, Occupy Pinnacle and also Save Pinnacle. I personally don't think there is much chance that the current Pinnacle area can be returned to the Rastafarians, however, the bigger issue related to the exploitation and extinction of Rasta from Jamaican history is a much bigger issue that needs to be confronted and addressed.

Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 01/05/2014 01:31AM by Sista Irie.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 08, 2014 04:40AM
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 08, 2014 10:05PM
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 22, 2014 04:01PM
Discussion on current state of pinnacle with kabaka pyramid, & bob Marley museum representative and Bob's granddaughter Denesha Pendegast on irie fm today at 9:00 am west coast, noon in yard. Disclosing their plans for pinnacle.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/22/2014 04:25PM by SCRoots.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 29, 2014 09:11PM
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
January 30, 2014 02:59AM
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
February 04, 2014 11:19PM
Pinnacle: the truth about the matter


Tuesday, February 04, 2014 6 Comments
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Leonard Howell and his wife Tethen.

IN recent weeks we have observed new developments relating to Pinnacle, especially the "reoccupy Pinnacle" campaign. We have seen private citizens being disrespected by those along this path. These events remind me of the rumours of ships coming and also of the coffin and crow moving about Kingston looking for 'Mr Brown'.

I make these points because everything about the campaign is fraudulent. There has been no Rastafari settlement in Pinnacle since 1954. Clearly, there is no right to Rastafarians claiming Pinnacle lands. The results of a recent court case about 'eviction from Pinnacle' may have confused many. Pinnacle was bought under the auspices of the Ethiopian Salvation Society (ESS) — formed on January 11, 1939 — in 1940. In 1945, the bailiff, accompanied by police officers "armed to the teeth", removed the residents from Pinnacle off the land due to incomplete payment for the property. In 1954, the police destroyed Pinnacle and scattered the seeds of the early Rastafari movement. How could the police have destroyed homes and broken up the commune if it was owned by the ESS? Leonard Howell lived from 1956 to the time of his passing at Tredegar Park. Did he ever take anyone to court in order to reclaim Pinnacle?

In 1940, the commissioner of police spoke about the "unsettled labour conditions" in eastern St Thomas and that Howell was a threat to order in the parish. The colonial government abused wartime powers and passed a law that prevented Howell and the ESS from holding public or private meetings in St Thomas.

According to the "Rules of the Ethiopian Salvation Society" it was designed to be a "friendly benevolent society" with the aim to assist its members in times of hardship, to transact legitimate business on behalf of the organisation, and most importantly "this society aims at the inculcation of the principles of self-help and good citizenship". It was against this background that Pinnacle was purchased to build an "industrial mission".

In November 1940 a newspaper interviewer went to Pinnacle. He observed the setting and interviewed Howell, whom he described as a "strong disciplinarian" and a "dapper", and that he was like an "absolute monarch" over 700 men and women "forming a socialist colony". The interviewer stated that "Pinnacle is the dream of an imaginative man who has the will to impose it on numerous people", and that one should not attack the totalitarian rule of Howell because "he must either rule or not". The writer described the ESS as a business organisation. He observed the agricultural production, the craft industry, and that "they owned' a bakery and dozens of handcarts in Kingston.

Pinnacle was a place and a concept for industry and self-reliance. By and large, the early Rastafarians were characterised by self-help and industry; a vast majority were self-employed in a range of areas. In spite of this creative direction there were forces that were working against Howell and Pinnacle. After the publication of that November interview, the newspaper published "Plight of Ras Tafarians at Camp Pinnacle" (December 22, 1940), describing major health problems at the commune. The article was informed by the parish council that living conditions at the camp were intolerable. It noted also that Howell was enforcing discipline in the form of floggings. Pinnacle was now under the microscope of the police, who described it as a "sanctuary for criminals". There was a call to "break up" Pinnacle by an inspector of police at Spanish Town (dated June 8, 1941). In responding to this call, the solicitor general informed the police and cautioned the use of force, but did not support the call for destroying Pinnacle in the same manner that "King's House" — Howell's first headquarters at Harbour Head Road in Port Morant — was destroyed.

The story of the Rastafarians becoming a menace to the community at Sligoville was cooked up to make way for the first major police raid on Pinnacle. According to the newspaper report "Police raid Pinnacle, Ras Tafari den, seize seventy, but miss chief" (July 14, 1941), shortly before 4:00am, a strong contingent of police "surprised' the residents of Pinnacle. It was reported that a party of 153 police and "their officers motored out of Kingston in high-powered cars... with a full supply of rifles". Another article, "Cult leader held by police" (July 26, 1941) tells the story of the midnight arrest of Howell by the police. It was his first arrest as leader of the commune. At his trial at Spanish Town, in August 1941, he defined and described Pinnacle and he tried to extricate himself from a charge of assault. He was sent to prison for two years. When he returned two years after, the south St Catherine School Board passed a resolution, dated February 24, 1944, calling on the Colonial Secretary to take repressive measures against the community at Pinnacle. The colonial secretary, in a letter (April 17, 1944), told the school board: "If, as I believe, Pinnacle belongs to or is leased by Howell or his organisation, the Government can take no steps to break up the settlement.... As long as Howell's followers observed the law they are entitled to lie unmolested the way they live". Howell was again arrested in 1944 and his reputation was further tarnished.

In October 1945 two important articles regarding the "real estate crisis" at Pinnacle were published in the newspaper. In "Leonard P Howell leaves Pinnacle on court order: Shepherd leads flock from Kingdom" (October 12, 1945), the reports states that a bailiff, "protected by a police Inspector and 13 men armed to the teeth", served a writ to vacate the Pinnacle because Howell failed to meet his contractual obligations. According to the article, Howell bought the land in a public auction, paid a part of the money, but was unable to pay the rest of the money. The other article, "Jamaica's great Ras Tafarite kingdom comes to an end" (October 14, 1945), tells the story of the bailiff from Messrs Lake and Nunes legal firm serving the paper at 8:00 am. He was accompanied also by newspaper reporters, who described the setting from Howell's plea to the 'exodus' from Pinnacle led by a strong young lady known as Pearl. They left in what appeared to have been a rehearsed march, but returned after the bailiff and reporters departed. It was reported that the bailiff declared that the "Ras Tafarite kingdom comes to an end".

The second eviction from Pinnacle occurred in 1954 in a major raid by the police. Pinnacle was destroyed and many persons including children were arrested. According to newspaper report, over eight tons of ganja was confiscated and 140 Rastas taken into custody. Howell lived, from 1956 to his death, at Tredegar Park. There he made no effort to regain Pinnacle. Howell, a man of extraordinary intellectual qualities, would not allow the police to evict him from his property and took it sitting.

There is no claim that any Rastafari group can make on Pinnacle lands. The negotiation for a national heritage site is accepted in general and no confrontation is required. Those people demonstrating would not be supported by Leonard P Howell. I cannot understand how the court could accept a case without a sound basis. It is good to see young Rasta demonstrating, but they must do it for the right cause. This demonstrations and activism are reminiscent of those who have been waiting for the ship that will never come. How can people who should be leading a new morality be moved by lies and anecdotal positions on a land they never knew? It is so good to see that the Howell family members have separated themselves form the most recent activism on Pinnacle. Those who are misleading the flock are dangerous self-seekers making claims on matters they have no knowledge about. The current owners of Pinnacle need to negotiate with the Government, and no one else, regarding Pinnacle as a national heritage site.


Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
February 05, 2014 01:47AM

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/05/2014 01:48AM by J_72.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
February 05, 2014 02:20AM
Quick plug, the book of a few years back by Helene Lee called "The First Rasta" is an indispensable and informative basic look at the events of Pinnacle.
Re: Pinnacle, Rastafari and Cultural Heritage
February 05, 2014 08:17PM
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