This Free Black Town Birthed A Powerful Global Movement

September 20, 2019

After finally breaking free from British control, the island of Jamaica was struggling - poverty, racism, and unfair taxation kept the Black population from self-determination.

A Quaker abolitionist, James Phillipo, was able to purchase a bit of land and establish the first town for free Black people in the entire Caribbean/West Indies - Sligoville.

That’s when Leonard Howell, a street preacher inspired by Marcus Garvey, created the Pinnacle within. In response to racist domination, he envisioned the Pinnacle as a communal space in line with our African heritage - a space of economic cooperation and Black freedom.

A primary crop was cannabis, which was used as part of the growing spiritual practice he led as well as sold in nearby Spanish Town. 

An even bigger spiritual influence was the crowning of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie - also known as Ras Tafari. According to Howell, Biblical prophecies indicated that he was a divine ruler meant to liberate all Black people.

A new religion was born - Rastafarianism - and Pinnacle was its epicenter. Because of government persecution over their cultivation of cannabis, many adherents moved to cities like Kingston - where a young Bob Marley was introduced to Rastafarianism. The rest is history.

From a resistance movement against colonial oppression to a worldwide movement for Black liberation and self-determination, the Pinnacle remains a monumentally important Black cultural touchstone!

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