Jamaicans in NY want Bob Marley named national hero

Apollo slates One Love! Bob Marley Tribute Concert
Reggae singer Bob Marley performs in this 1980 handout photo.
Associated Press/Island Records/ File

The recent conferral of Rihanna as Barbados’ national hero and February being celebrated as Reggae Month in Jamaica have united Jamaicans in the New York Diaspora in reiterating calls on the government of Prime Minister Andrew Holness to name the legendary Bob Marley as the country’s 8th National Hero.

Calls for Marley to be conferred with national hero status is not new. In fact, Jamaicans have, for years, debated whether the Reggae King should be added to its Order of National Hero.

No new national hero has been added since the 1980s, though a committee that examined nominations a few years ago included Marley among a list of 10 names.

“Bob remains Jamaica’s largest unsponsored export,” Brooklyn-based university Professor Chandra Young told Caribbean Life on Wednesday, Feb. 16. “I think Barbados was very forward thinking in its nomination (of Rihanna), recognizing that times have evolved and that, today, a person need not die in the pursuit of a feat to earn the noble title of hero.

“As a nation whose GDP (gross domestic product) depends in large part on tourism, Jamaica owes much to the selfless pursuit and prowess of Robert Nesta Marley,” Young added. “The posthumous honor of a declaration as national hero is most befitting, especially on the foot heel of reggae music being added to the UNESCO world heritage list as a global cultural treasure that continues to act as a voice for all, having contributed to international discourse on issues such as injustice and resistance.”

Young said while Bob Marley is not “the lone Buffalo soldier in the reggae story, history reveals him as a central figure to the exportation of Jamaica, reggae, roots and culture to the world.”

New York entertainment consultant Anthony Turner is also in strong support of Bob Marley being a national hero.

“Marley was a committed Rastafarian who had extraordinary talents that separates him from most others,” he said. “There are few individuals who have had such a profound impact on humanity.”

Turner said Bob Marley “delivered his message of peace, love and unity so eloquently through his music and with a sense of spirituality.

“It inspired world leaders, kings, queens and music lovers globally in the past, and will do so for many years to come,” he said. “He was a Third World ambassador with a First World vision. He has achieved iconic status globally and deserves to be a national hero of Jamaica.”

New York-based Japanese producer Eisaku “Selector A” Yamaguchi told Caribbean Life, “I am surprised that Bob Marley has not been recognized as a national hero of Jamaica as yet.

“He is however already recognized as an international hero in the Black community,” Yamaguchi said. “His songs deliver peaceful messages, and his teachings are the people’s philosophy to live right.”

Retired Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-based engineer Collin Beckford is also in full agreement with Marley being named national hero of Jamaica.

“Some say he was a womanizer who fathered kids with multiple women. The main point is that a great man having multiple affairs should never be used as a reason to eliminate their impact on society, because those relationships never diminish their legacy or greatness,” he said.

Beckford said this issue has always been a point of contention with those against Bob, but added: “If, however, you look back at biblical times, even Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon had multiple women. So, why is Marley being penalized for this?”

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