Bob Marley's granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, is at the centre of a campaign to protect a Rastafarian heritage site

Bob Marley’s granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, is at the centre of a campaign to protect a Rastafarian heritage site

Bob Marley’s granddaughter is at the centre of a campaign to protect one of the best-known Rastafarian comunities in Jamaica, it has been reported.

Donisha Prendergast, 30 is the eldest granddaughter of the legendary Raggae musician, and has become involved in an initiative aimed at protecting Pinnacle – a 500-acre hilltop site in Sligoville, Jamaica, that was once home to the island’s first self-sustaining community of freed slaves and their descendants.

Campaigners want the site to belong to the Leonard Howell family and the community. Leonard Howell is the founder of the Rastafarian movement.

He went against the grain of the colonial order in the 1930s after he began calling for black Jamaicans to stop paying taxes to the colonial government and cease any worship of ‘a white God’ in favour of the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, whom he said was the Black Messiah.

Generations of freed slaves settled on the site and planted organic foods, learned craft skills to make household items, and produced herbal medicines and tonics for sale.

Authorities at the time responded to this by throwing Howell into prison for two years and committing him to asylum. The farms, homes and schools that he had established at Pinnacle were then destroyed in a joint raid by police and military forces, leaving thousands homeless.

bob marley rasta story

Ownership of the land has been a source of conflict between the St Jago Hills Development Limited and the descendants of Leonard Howell.

Howell’s descendants, through the Leonard Howell Foundation, lost a court case in the Spanish Town Resident Magistrate’s Court after corporate developers brought forward a claim to possess the property from them.

The Rastafarian community have also complained that since developers moved in, the burial site of Howell’s wife, Teneth Howell and other sacred sites, were being desecrated by developers, with graves being dug up and human rights being ignored and disrespected.

Human remains and pieces of pottery are among the relics that have been dug up during construction.

Monty Howell, the son of Leonard, claims that his father was targeted by the authorities who thought it presumptuous for Howell to own such a large piece of land.

He said: “No black person in Jamaica owned property, nothing compared to Pinnacle. They tried everything to chase my father off that land. I remember my father complaining about personal papers that they took with other papers they thought were seditious.”

Speaking about Pinnacle, Bob Marley’s granddaughter Ms Prendergast said that the site is of historical interest to the community and Rastafarians living in the area.

She added: “Rastafari and Bob Marley gave the world the ideology of ‘One Love’ and it all began at Pinnacle. Could you build on the pyramids of Egypt? Could you build on the historic spaces of Pittsburgh? No. Then why do they do this here?… We need the attention of the world to help us tell our people and our leaders how important it is to preserve this place, not because it’s prime land and can make a lot of money but because it’s our history.”

Leonard Howell is the founder of Rastafarianism

Leonard Howell is the founder of Rastafarianism

Human rights lawyer Jasmine Rand, has joined Ms Prendergast and others in campaigning for Pinnacle to be preserved. Ms Rand is the same lawyer that represented the family of Trayvon Martin – the black teenager who was murdered by George Zimmerman.

Ms Rand added: “On one hand you hear Bob Marley and One Love playing in every major hotel, and playing on the nation’s advertisements to encourage tourism in Jamaica … but then you don’t have this message of ‘One Love’ being respected.

“I was astounded to go to the home of Rastafari and where it was founded and see the lack of respect that some Jamaicans, particularly the Jamaican government, have for it and for upholding its heritage.”

Earlier this month, the Jamaican government announced that the use of “ganja” for “religious purposes” would for the first time soon be legalised.

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