As we honor the messenger on the 31st anniversary of his transition from earth to home going- leaving the world to carry on the teachings of love and freedom, and the love in freedom- I thought I should pay tribute in profile to Nestor Robert Marley’s mother on Mother’s Day- since she gave the world an incomparable gift of life , music and teachings that continue from generation to generation.
There has been so much press hype on the so called mystery of Bob Marley having a White father with the release of the Marley family and even the long lost and seemingly continuos bad blood between Bunny Wailer, Chris Blackwell and & Rita Marley finally coming together full circle in a authorized documentary entitled Marley; but here we unlock the mystery, wisdom, vision and soul of the woman who gave birth to the one called Marley.
“Cedella Malcolm Marley Booker (July 23, 1926– April 8, 2008) was the mother of Jamaican reggae musician Bob Marley and a singer and writer…Booker was born Cedella Malcolm in Rhoden Hall, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, to Alberta Whilloughby and Omeriah Malcolm, a farmer, a “bush doctor”, and one of the most respected residents of Nine Mile (son of Robert “Uncle Day” Malcolm, who descended from the Cromanty slaves shipped to Jamaica from the African Gold Coast in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries). At 18, Cedella Malcolm married Norval Sinclair Marley, a white Jamaican of English ancestry, when she became pregnant with his son, Robert Nesta (which second given name “Nesta” means prophetically “wise messenger”). Norval Marley was a Marine officer and captain as well as the plantation overseer. His family applied constant pressure however, and although he provided financial support for them, the Captain seldom saw his wife and son. Bob was ten years old when Norval died of a heart attack in 1955 at age 70. Cedella and Bob then moved to Trenchtown, a slum neighborhood in Kingston. This was the only place Booker could afford to live at the time, being a young woman moving from the country to the big city on her own….While living in Trenchtown, Booker gave birth to a daughter, Pearl, with Taddeus Livingston, the father of Bunny Livingston – aka Bunny Wailer – who formed the original Wailers trio with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in 1963…Cedella then married Edward Booker, an American civil servant, and resided first in Delaware, where she gave birth to two more sons, Richard and Anthony, with Booker. Anthony was killed in a shootout with Miami police after walking through a shopping mall with a 12 ga. shotgun and opening fire on responding police; Richard Booker survives her. After Edward Booker’s death in 1976, Cedella moved to Miami, Florida, where she was present at the deathbed of her famous son who died from cancer in 1981. Booker lived in Miami for the remainder of her life…” Read More
Briefly researching who Cedella Marley Booker- the mother was was quite intriguing and told me so much more about who the boy named ” Messenger” who became a legend really was. I never knew that Bob hand delivered his mother to the one and only Lee Scratch Perry to produce and globally introduce her musical talents and sound to the world as he had done at studio one with Bob Marley and the Wailers. I never knewthat Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley shared a biological sister in common named Pearl, which made Bob and Bunny not only kin through music as founders of the original Wailers , but also sharing a mother and father via the birth of their sister. I also never knew that there was a love story that produced this legend via the love story of a dark skin Jamaican Christian girl from St. Ann who at the age of 17 started a romance with a White 50 year old Jamaican man whose father was English of Syrian Jewish descent and whose mother was said to be a non-white mixed race Jamaican -which I will interrupt as probably an Asian and African global fusion which is representative of many “mixed race” people in Jamaica.
The newly released Marley film set the stage for all the hoopla and headline making narrative of what most are calling a true Bob Marley story with the family actually being fully involved and pushing the project after some earlier attempts with big Hollywood names like Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme , who for one reason or another just could not find the right fit with the family in being able to speak the language of the life of Nester Robert Marley on film. As Nelson Mandela said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart. ” I would come to find out from Cedella Booker’s own words that this is a trait she past down to her son as a Marley legacy in never forgetting where you came from in language or otherwise.
When I read the quote by Bob’s eldest son Ziggy Marley blasted all over the world saying “I think Bob always regretted that he wasn’t black.” I must admit I was irritated because there has been so much race baiting, religious baiting, tribal bating, political party baiting and any separation of ying and yang/black and white there is from all around the world on all sides, so I didn’t want what is being called the best insight into Bob’s life as a man, not just the artist put to film, to be the narrative of the tragic mulatto who lived this whole life of legendary greatness and global adoration as a Black man who brought the message to the world in a way that every one sang “Every man has the right to decide his own destiny ” while shouting out the African nation of Zimbabwe ;yet because of his father being a White Jamaican somehow made him less of a representation of a Black man. In a way maybe this is what drove Bob to be the embodiment physically and mentally saying “Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all..I don’t stand for the black man’s side, I don’ t stand for the white man’s side. I stand for God’s side…”. It shows us all how society divides and conquers with manufactured divisions of race, religion, tribe, gender , sexual orientation and every division we can find when all that really matters is what is in one’s heart and soul. I don’t want my memory of Bob to be yet another man of greatness never to have had their soul satisfied. His passion in fighting for the Black man to be free & African EmPowerment in being the ultimate representation of the soul of a great Black man with unmitigated power who is embraced by the world over; yet he saw his exterior as closer to White than Black and it couldn’t catch up to his soul that ran deep in the beauty of Blackness of Africa – forever waiting in vain to be satisfied and possibly thinking that it should have been Peter’s face to his words…..”
While there are so many articles in the blogosphere about Norval Marley‘s philandering ways embedded with racilicious verbiage leading to visuals that intentionally unintentionally depicts Bob Marley’s father as some plantation era overseer that was bedding down young Jamaican plantation workers or their daughters without barely mentioning -if at all that Bob Marley was born in wedlock and according to Cedella’s own words with her being baptized with Nester in her belly with a father and husband that was a kind man who did his best to take care of her and Bob until he died when Bob was a young boy, not this strange tale/narrative of a dead beat father who was never in Bob’s life and had him and his mother in abject poverty while he lived his White rich privileged life that had been going around for generations. I hope in the hoopla of introducing the so called “unknown White father” into the narrative of the one called Marley that we also listen to the narrative of Cedella Marley -the mother and wife -in telling her love story within a marriage that bore a son named by his father as Nester -The Messenger”.
Cedella– Nesta Robert Marley’s mum was a great children’s book author and musician and an even greater gospel reggae singer who carried the message of generations of singers, griots, teachers and wordsmiths who set that DNA free in a young boy who was told by a non believer that his birth name sounded like a girl’s name, so his mother allowed a name reversal to suit society, but she never stopped calling him Nester. From that root, the young boy grew up to live up to his birth name as “Messenger” . The greatest gift and sacrifice a mother can ever make to the world is setting the seed and allowing it to grow freely to live up to its ultimate potential -this is the legacy of Mama Cedella and what every mother in the world leaves and hopes to leave with every generation- Triumphantly! Every mother’s ultimate redemption song -after passing through the good, bad and ugly times in trying your best to figure out and understand the balance of allowing the seed to grow freely and giving it the right amount of water nourishment, love , care and tenderness it needs to live a fully fruitful life-with rich soil setting the seeds for the next generation to also bare life’s fruits. No one knows a child more than an engaged mother. No matter what it says on paper a mother never stops calling your birth name.
” I think Nester have seen some resemblance of me in Rita (Bob’s Only Wife)… A lot of people would think that Rita is my daughter more than Bob my son… Jah never make a mistake, he knows everything he is doing and he do it right…”
Rita Marley is yet another mother of Marley that I would like to pay homage to because she continued the legacy in standing firm as the mother of generation Bob -a global African generation living and thriving the world over in Bob’s name. Getting to know Mama Rita in the video below also allows a closer introspective to Bob Marley the man and his wife and back up singer. Everything we have a commitment to is using us to get through its manifestations. It’s all a matter of the commitment in levels of mutual inity in the way we engage those levels of commitment. When it came to Bob- music was surely a weapon in the deepest passions of love and war in evolutionary revolution of freedom. Basically an ecstasy induced by happiness, triumph and freedom- this is how and who I remember the always on time Messenger- Nestor Robert Marley AKA BOB Marley .
We judge people on who they choose to love or have sex with- man or woman- with no concern to what they want and have agreed to because we only desire to hear ourselves preach world wide of the idea of the manifest destiny we hate; while claiming it in love at every step -as the path forward in telling others who and how to live as if that is our destiny. Rita Marley in her own words said “I didn’t feel like I was a wife, I felt like I was Bob’s background vocal, So their little things I would have to remind him… hey bob… be careful….watch those girls…watch those this- then I became the watch eye, the mother hen… type & he would call me sometimes to get girls out of his room. I didn’t complain cuzs I felt I was there for the job & so the relationship became, more like I have a commitment to this thing“…Rita Marley- Mother, I-Three
Rita the mother hen understood her power as the ultimate say in the sweetness of the songs she made in expression of the special kind of bond, fellowship and love she shared with Bob, which even his own mother acknowledged as a deeply special kind of love that her son expressed to her about how he felt about his wife-Rita Marley. A love that could truly only be understood between them, but was evident to the world. Rita Marley in her words to show Bob that she can be her own girl /herself beyond the background singer , mother, wife, one draw hit –has had an exemplary solo career of her own with beautiful love ballads serving every bit of the passion of the love songs era Bob Marley -writing about his romance with another woman named Cindy Breakspeare –Junior Gong’s mommy. While he may have written “Turn your lights down low“ and “she used to call me dada” for Cindy Breakspeare; he surely wrote “Satisfy My Soul” and ” No Woman No Cry” for Rita, along with every song for the building, emancipation and empowerment of Africa for global Africans because he clearly chose her and in turn she clearly chose him to build his global African Nation from root to fruit. Rita Marley continues the legacy from yard to yard across the world, with a home base at its roots and gateway in Ghana, West Africa.
Rita Marly was never waiting in vain- she was taking back her power in fighting in love for her man with beautiful love ballads like “I’m still Waiting” with the knowledge that her place in the life of the messenger was as it was written beyond words, man and even beyond herself as a wife , mother an artist. In watching the videos of Rita and Cindy talk about their relationships with Bob, I get the sense that Rita was the syrupy sweet shy dark skin root Jamaican christian girl open to be shown the world , who fell in love with a “bad man pon de town” -relative to interpretation because she was captured and fell in love with the deepness of the love and passion in his soul, much like his mother Cedella and Bob Marley’s father Norval. Rita Marley has set her own path in a rich legacy of music and true essence of the blessing of motherhood and how we should hold it up to the most high. I end this tribute to Mama Cedella and Mama Rita ….. by saying Good Morning Jah!
Happy Mamas Day to all the lil mamas, big mamas, birth mamas, round the way mamas, village mamas, earth mamas…global mamas…U are all our Ye Yo’s! We love you and we thank you for all you have done, continue to do and will do in the name of the ultimate blessing of motherhood! Heres to building a greater future in reflections of our Sweet Mothers!
#AllOfTheMothers #AllOfTheFathersWhoStandByThoseMothers #AllOfThoseFathersWhoWilBestandingByThoseMothersAfter Today