Bob Marley used musical talents to educate

By MURPHY BROWNE

Africa unite; ’cause we’re moving right out of Babylon,

And we’re going to our Father’s land.

How good and how pleasant it would be before God and man.

To see the unification of all Africans.

As it’s been said already, let it be done.

We are the children of the Rastaman;

We are the children of the Iyaman.

So, Africa unite:

‘Cause the children wanna come home.

Africa unite: ’cause we’re moving right out of Babylon.

And we’re grooving to our Father’s land.

From ‘Africa Unite’ released in 1979 on the Bob Marley and the Wailers Survival album.

Robert Nesta Marley, who was born in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica on February 6, 1945 and transitioned in Miami on May 11, 1981, would have turned 65 years old on February 6. It is hard to imagine a 65-year-old Bob Marley but that is how old he would have been on February 6, 2010.

‘Africa Unite’ is Marley’s Pan-African anthem/call to arms and it is also the title of the documentary of Marley’s 60th birthday celebration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The lyrics of Africa Unite urge Africans to live the first Kwanzaa principle Umoja (Unity.)

In some of his songs, Marley popularized the words of some of our Pan-African leaders and prophets, including the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey (Jamaica’s first National Hero) and His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.

Garvey, considered the father of the modern Pan-African movement who, like Marley, was born in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica, urged Africans to unite. Garvey also advocated that Africa was for Africans at home (Africa) and abroad (those in the Diaspora) during the days when members of European nations occupied land throughout Africa.

During his short time here with us (36 years) Marley used his musical talent to educate about the history of Africans (‘Buffalo Soldier’, ‘Redemption Song’, ‘400 Years’, ‘Zion Train’ etc.,) and to raise awareness of human rights violations (‘War’, ‘Survival’, ‘Chant Down Babylon’, ‘Crazy Baldheads’ etc.). His music had international appeal for oppressed people everywhere.

Marley singing “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights” resonated with the oppressed anywhere and everywhere and this international recognition led to him becoming the first superstar born in the Caribbean. Marley’s superstar status drew more than 300,000 people from across the globe to his 60th birthday celebration (February 2005) in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The week-long celebration was organized by the Africa Unite foundation which was founded by the Marley family to promote Bob Marley’s vision of Pan-Africanism. The Africa Unite foundation sponsored the attendance of students from 40 African countries and members of Jamaica’s Rastafarian community. The celebration included more than the 12-hour benefit concert that took place in Mesker Square in Addis Ababa. It was not all song and dance; Africa Unite hosted a week of symposiums and workshops on the history of the Pan African movement.

The resulting documentary, Africa Unite (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zlW8bPvojU), includes footage from these workshops and symposiums as well as archival footage of Emperor Selassie’s historical speech which he delivered to the League of Nations in the summer of 1936 when Italy was beginning its invasion of Ethiopia. The documentary also offers a concise history lesson on Ethiopia and its revered place as the only African country that was never colonized by Europeans.

Marley’s life and his message’s international appeal and popularity are captured in the documentary with archival clips of his energetic performances in various countries including his historic performance for Zimbabwe’s independence. His mother, Cedella Booker, makes an appearance while his widow, Rita Marley, and his children perform on stage.

The life and message of the popular reggae singer many consider a high priest of the Rastafari movement because of his influence in spreading the word internationally has led to Bob Marley Day celebrations in towns and cities across the world.

Since 1991, beginning with Mayor Art Eggleton, the City of Toronto has proclaimed February 6 “Bob Marley Day” in recognition of the birthday of this reggae legend who spoke out against slavery, apartheid and other human rights violations. The celebration of Bob Marley Day has also included a Bob Marley Day Award presented at Toronto City Hall by the Bob Marley Day Award Committee, which was founded by Toronto lawyer Courtney Betty.

The many celebrations of the reggae legend in Toronto this year will include a celebration at 100 Devonshire Place (from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.) sponsored by the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students at the University of Toronto (APUS). This is a free community event where all are invited to share by singing or reciting the lyrics of their favourite Bob Marley song, watch the documentary Africa Unite, eat and socialize.

tiakoma@aol.com

 

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