Ladies and gentlemen, perhaps it was ironic. Or then again, perhaps it was a sign of what was to come. Whatever it was, I am sure that, as with all mystical experiences, no one could have predicted the impact it was to have on the entire world.
It was sixty four (64) years ago that it happened. The world had literally gone mad and had spent the last six years in turmoil and destruction in what was called the Second World War. The brutality was just coming to an end and people would have been in a mood of eager anticipation.
Here in Jamaica, a bitter and prolonged struggle that started in the resistance of our ancestors in slavery had produced such fierce warriors as Cudjoe, Tacky, Nanny and Garvey, galvanized modern combatants such as Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley and finally culminated in Universal Adult Suffrage for our people the year before. Again, there would have been a mood of eager anticipation.
It was into this world, unknown to the world, that in a little district in Jamaica, three little birds proclaimed the birth given by a determined woman to a child that was to become one of the pillars on which the hope of all oppressed people was to become anchored.
Present situation
Today, we come together in this our most prestigious institution, itself born within that similar time period, to pay homage in a lecture to this great Jamaican of which I speak, Robert Nesta Bob Marley O.M.
As we do so this evening, let us somewhere in the discourse be mindful of the fact that this august institution would historically not have provided shelter nor refuge for the likes of the man we honour today nor would it have contributed to his creation.
Perhaps it is again ironic that we are honouring Bob today at a time when the world is similarly experiencing another period of turmoil and destruction, with two raging wars and other rumours of war, as well as a global economic crisis. Again it may be a part of the mystic that this comes as well at a moment of great anticipation in what has been called the “audacity of hope” that has heralded the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States of America.
February as Reggae Month
Another significant context that I will put into the mix is the fact that this lecture is being presented as part of our current celebration of February as Reggae Month.
Through Reggae Month, we are able to achieve several goals:. recognize the seminal role played by the King of Reggae whom we celebrate in this evening’s lecture. celebrate also the contributions of other greats such as the Crown Prince Dennis Brown also born in this month, Jimmy Cliff, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Sly and Robbie, Lee Scratch Perry, and “I could go on and on, the full has never been told”.. capture and promote the various and varied elements of the Reggae music industry, allowing space for the promoters, producers, composers and authors, rights management specialists, engineers, artists, etc.. provide for the younger and current inheritors of the beat the desired knowledge that will bring pride and cause them to understand more clearly their responsibility to carry on the vibe. finally, and perhaps most importantly, to cause our nation (private sector, public sector, tourism sector, academia and the wider population) to better understand the role we must all play in taking Reggae music and culture to the world through programmes aimed at capacity building, talent development, events management and planning, intellectual property and rights management.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe the context is important because the mystic can be best understood if it is placed in context. The lessons are better learned and the homage is more greatly served if we then visualize our roles going forward by way of our understanding of history as created, interpreted or promoted.
UWI Bob Marley Lecture
As Minister under whose responsibility fall culture and entertainment, I want to laud the UWI for sustaining this annual lecture in the name of one of the nation’s most revered sons. In doing so, I must give a big “shout out” for the pioneering work of Professor Carolyn Cooper in Reggae Studies and in the establishment of a course in Entertainment and Enterprise Management.
Concluding Remarks
We look forward to more of these kinds of discussions as well as to the consolidation and even enhancement of the work that must be done in the creation of new Bob Marleys. Success cannot be an accident of history or of one man in a generation or a century daring to take a chance.
People of vision and substance must show our worth through our determination even against all odds to create and nurture strategies and programmes for the sustainability and replication of these successes. When we do, future generations will call us blessed.
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