by Jean Lowrie-Chin - Observer column for MON 9 Feb 2015
|I met Bob Marley in December 1976 - Lennie Gordon Photo|
Around the world, millions of every class, colour and creed, marked the 70th Birthday of Bob Marley last Friday. We had the joy of hearing Shaggy perform a dynamic Marley set, giving his time to raise funds for the homeless at the Food for the Poor ‘Building Hope’ Gala in Boca Raton, Florida. “Let’s get together and feel alright,” we sang along. Considerable sums were pledged: feeling alright will lead to strong homes for the suffering families in the area surrounding Pon Batay in Haiti.
worked as an engineer at Herman McDonald’s Total Sounds on Retirement Road, and Bob Marley became the soundtrack of our lives. I have a treasured photo with him, thanks to Lennie Gordon!
However, seeing Bob Marley perform was a totally different experience from listening to his records. At Maple Leaf Garden, he commanded a collective levitation of our spirits – we were walking on air after that concert! Then we heard of Bob’s illness and as he battled on, I took in the purity of “Redemption Song” and realised that this was his swan song, every line a message, every note a cry: “Won’t you help to sing, this song of freedom?.. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!” Yes, we thank God that Garvey wrote it first, so that Bob could sing it next.
His messages travelled across the Atlantic as Bob’s lyrics became the anthem of freedom fighters in Africa. But I was still surprised at what unfolded in July 2012 at Jamaica’s National Arena. The Archbishop of Ghana, here to celebrate 500 years of Catholic Witness in Jamaica, and Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence made the first apology for slavery we had ever heard from an African leader. I wrote in this column on July 12, 2012:
“I apologise for the acts of my ancestors for selling your ancestors into slavery,” he declared. “Please join me as we sing…” At this point I expected to hear a song like “Amazing Grace.” But no! Archbishop Palmer-Buckle invited us to sing “Redemption Song”!
“How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look?” – his strong voice rang through the very National Arena where Bob Marley had lain in state 31 years before. We, his emotional congregation sang with him, “But my hand was made strong, by the hand of the Almighty. We forward in this generation – triumphantly!”
|Archbishop Palmer-Buckle of Ghana in Jamaica's National Arena - Gleaner photo|
And so we sang – every word, every line from beginning to end – while some sisters and brothers stood and raised their hands to punctuate the searing words. And as we ended with, “Redemption song – songs of freedom – redemption song ….” the healing washed over us and the Archbishop announced, “Now we are connected.”
The sad fact however, is that even as members of our international community have so embraced the message of Marley, too many of his own people remain divided and distrustful. The successors of the two men whose hands he joined together on that platform in the National Stadium are still playing their game of “divide and rule”, with a few refreshing exceptions.
The out-and-out political violence may appear to have stopped, but the victimization and vindictiveness have continued. The thugs still rule in the ghetto yards and re-appear on the campaign buses. It is good that there is an Indecom to ensure good governance on the part of the police. Will we ever see such an organisation to monitor the behaviour our politicians? I believe that CAFFE and the ECJ could collaborate to form such an organisation so that the system that works so well on Election Day will produce winners, not only for party, but also for country.