Bob Marley was a Pan-Africanist and peace ambassador

By Murphy Browne Wednesday February 04 2015 in Opinion
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By MURPHY BROWNE (Abena Agbetu)

WHEREAS each year on February 6, we honour the legacy of Robert (Bob) Nesta Marley, an influential musician, advocate for human rights and international ambassador of peace.

His early career began with friends, the legendary Wailers, “Bob Marley and the Wailers”. His music captivated people of all cultures, broke music barriers and helped introduce reggae music to the world.

Bob Marley became one of the greatest ambassadors of peace the world has seen. He used music to tear down the walls of apartheid and promoted African unity, culture and world peace both at home and internationally, with songs like “One Love” and “Africa Unite”. Today, his music continues to be loved by many and is instantly recognized around the world.

NOW THEREFORE, I, Mayor John Tory, on behalf of Toronto City Council, do hereby proclaim February 6, 2015 as “Bob Marley Day” in the City of Toronto.

Excerpt from Bob Marley Day Proclamation published on the City of Toronto website.

The City of Toronto has recognized Bob Marley Day on February 6 with a proclamation from the Mayor of Toronto since 1991, beginning with Mayor Art Eggleton. 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.


is first and middle names were switched) on February 6, 1945 in Nine Mile Village in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica. February 6, the birthday of this reggae legend who spoke out against slavery, apartheid and other human rights violations is celebrated and recognized internationally.


Marley is celebrated as an “international ambassador of peace” and his popular song “One Love” is trumpeted far and wide as part of the Jamaican attraction to tourists. Marley was also a Pan-Africanist and a human rights activist. As a member of Rastafari, Marley was influenced by the teachings of fellow Jamaican and St. Ann-born Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Recognized as the father of the modern Pan-African movement, Garvey urged Africans to be proud of their ancestry and his slogan: “Africa for Africans at home and abroad” is memorialized in the lyrics of Marley’s “Africa Unite” where he urges: “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.”


In Marley’s “Redemption Song” he also quotes Garvey when he sings: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” Garvey who is the first of Jamaica’s seven National Heroes and was the founder of the United Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) during a speech in Nova Scotia, Canada on October 1, 1937 said: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” The speech was also published in Garvey’s Black Man magazine, Vol. 3, No. 10 (July 1938).


Apart from Garvey, Marley also quoted His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, who is another African leader of great importance to the Rastafari movement. Marley quotes from the Emperor’s speech made to the United Nations in 1963 and published in 1972 in the book Important Utterances of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I 1963-1972.

In the 1976 released song “War” from the album Rastaman Vibrations, Marley sings: “Until the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, Everywhere is war; me say war. That until there’s no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. Me say war. That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to race. Dis a war. That until that day the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained. Now everywhere is war.”


Part of His Imperial Majesty’s speech reads: “That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.”


Marley is recognized as the first person born in a “developing country” to attain “international superstar status” through music. Using his platform as an international “superstar”, Marley brought attention to the oppression of Africans internationally. With songs like “Bad Card”, “Babylon System”, “Chant Down Babylon”, “Revolution” and “Small Axe”, he protested on behalf of those who were rendered voiceless on the world’s stage.


Marley, who transitioned on May 11, 1981, would have been 70 years old on Friday, February 6, 2015. His life’s work made such a difference educationally, politically and spiritually that he will be celebrated internationally from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital city), where a statue is scheduled to be erected in his honour, to Jamaica where there will be island wide celebrations.


An article published in The Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper established in 1834, states: “The 70th birthday celebrations for the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley, O.M, will be held under the theme, The Legacy Continues. Events will be held at the Bob Marley Museum, 56 Hope Road, and Tuff Gong International, 220 Marcus Garvey Drive Kingston on February 6. Entry is free and the public is invited.”


What would Marley sing today given the state of anti-African racism where racial profiling is widespread? Those who only know of Bob Marley’s “One Love” need to expand their understanding of Bob Marley and his life’s work as we celebrate his legacy on February 6, 2015.

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