Mother, wife, widow, philanthropist, Rita Marley is all of these things and more. She’s also a woman on a mission to see her and her late husband’s dream of African unity fulfilled. When Clutch spoke to Rita Marley she was in high spirits. Not only was she in her favorite place—amongst the plants and flowers of her garden in Aburi, Ghana, her adopted home—she was also celebrating the birth of her forty-second grandchild. Here she talks to Sylvia Arthur about why it’s important to keep Bob Marley’s vision alive.
I don’t know what it was that convinced me to pick up No Woman No Cry at my local bookstore one Saturday afternoon in early 2005. Though I’d always been a fan of Bob Marley’s music (who isn’t?). I didn’t know much about the man other than that he was a devout Rastafarian and the most profound singer-songwriter of his generation. That was enough for me. No Woman No Cry was a complete impulse buy but from the first page to the last I was hooked! Not just on the insights into the life and motivations of the great Bob Marley, but on the story of how his wife Rita survived turbulent times and public heartbreak to stand by her man.
Reading the book was a frustrating and infuriating experience. You wonder how A strikingly intelligent woman could allow herself to be abused and humiliated by her husband’s frequent public indiscretions. You want to throw the book down in protest at Rita’s tacit compliance in her husband’s infidelity but because it’s a page turner, you’re forced to bear witness to the tragedy that ensues. With every page you feel moved to simultaneously shake her and console her. Perhaps it’s a woman thing.
Despite that, you can’t help but have respect for Rita Marley’s struggle. Mother, wife, widow, grandmother, activist, philanthropist, Rita Marley is all of these things and more. She’s also a woman on a mission to see her and her late husband’s dream of African unity fulfilled. “Bob’s words were prophetic,” Rita insists. “He said, How good and how pleasant it will be towards God and man to see the unification of all Africans. As it’s been said already, let it be done. We’re hoping and praying that God will bless us with the strength to go all over Africa to bring attention to our people for unity. That’s the only strength we have as black people.”
Q: What is it that drives you to keep Bob’s legacy alive?
Love for Bob and his livication. He died for the cause of his people. I knew it was real because I was a part of it. Everything that we do is for the purpose of our people. As a black woman with children and grandchildren I see a great future ahead. It’s important that we stand for the cause and keep the mission going so there is one Africa.
Q: Do you ever feel bitter that Bob gave so much of his life to the cause?
You have to give and take. There are times when you do but then when you realize what life means and what happens after death, if you believe in life after death.
Q: What was it about Ghana that made you feel at home?
It’s just like Jamaica. The people, the country . . . it’s just me moving through, step-by-step. Ghana is the gateway to Africa so I thought I’d walk down that path. And I’ve seen so much. I’ve been to Cape Coast and seen the slave trail and how it worked and what they put us through. So we are tied to Africa on the whole.
Q: When was the Rita Marley Foundation established and what is its mission?
It was set up about seven years ago when I was enstooled as Queen Mother in a village called Konkonuru near Aburi (GHANA). One of its main missions is to protect the poor and care for the infants. We have developed a lot of things. There’s a road, we’ve bought water, a community center and now we’re in the process of building a health care center with a holistic program in terms of restoration, especially the old people, restoring them with their own natural herbs.
Q: What special role can women play in development?
Leadership. Leadership. Come on, leadership! It’s time for women to be on top as leaders and it starts in Africa. Why should Africa be in poverty when we are so rich in wealth from what God has given us on earth? We as black women should see ourselves as role models for our children and our children’s children and make our ancestors proud of us because we have a great heritage as black people.
To learn more about Rita Marley and her foundation please visit www.ritamarleyfoundation.org