Creation Story: ‘The First Rasta’ Sails to America

December 2, 2011

By DJ Gravy

French reggae historian Hรฉlรจne Lee’s documentary The First Rasta (or Le Premier Rasta) tells the story of Leonard Howell, the well-travelled Jamaican activist who founded the original Rasta settlement dubbed “Pinnacle'” in West Kingston in the 1930s. Adopting the message of a black king from the East who would unite Africans at home and abroad from Marcus Garvey’s famous speech, Howell was persecuted, arrested and blacklisted for his efforts, while Jamaican authorities invaded and sabotaged The Pinnacle in attempts to dismantle the movement and make a bad name for the Rasta movement. Based on Lee’s book of the same name, the movie (with English narration, substituted for the original French) had its U.S. premiere this week at the African International Diaspora Film Festival in New York City. Watch the trailer below and, if you’re in New York City, you can catch it any day through Tuesday at Manhattan’s Quad Cinemas.