Rastafari celebrate Leonard Howell Earthday
The Rastafari movement, also known (improperly) as ‘Rastafarianism’, emerged in the early 1930s. Rastas see themselves as conforming to a vision of how Africans should live, reclaiming what they see as a culture stolen from them when they were brought on slave ships to Jamaica, birthplace of the movement.
The Rasta movement accepts Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, as God (or Jah). Leonard Howell, whose earthday or birthday is celebrated on 16 June, is known by many as ‘the first Rasta’. Born in Jamaica in 1898, he began preaching in 1933, and was one of the first to proclaim that Emperor Haile Selassie 1 of Ethiopia was the “Messiah returned to earth”.
As with many religious figures, he caused controversy, and was imprisoned for his beliefs. Released after 2 years, he founded the first prominent Rastafarian community in 1940.
Unlike many Rastas, Howell never wore dreadlocks. He died in 1981.