Marcus Garvey once said, “A good man is never honored in his own land” and those words were later put to song by Bob Marley. It took a while for Jamaica to truly honor the great Marcus, so go figure.
For those who don’t know, Jamaica has seven National Heroes and Bob Marley would be the 8th if he should become one at this present moment. Before I get into the essence of this post, let me list the seven National heroes and use just one or two sentences to give you an idea of what they stood for and accomplished.
Paul Bogle: Although he was peaceful and shun violence, he organized and successfully lead the Morant Bay Rebellion against the British.
George William Gordon: An associate of Paul Bogle who also played an instrumental role in the Morant Bay Rebellion which forced the British to make reforms in education, health, banking etc. etc. as they affect Africans in Jamaica.
Nanny: She was a leader of the Jamaican Maroons. Along with her brother Cudjoe, they led numerous revolts against the British in Jamaica.
Samuel Sharpe (affectionately called Sam Sharpe): Anyone who has ever been to Montego Bay, chances are you have been to Sam Sharpe Square, unless of course, you got stuck in one of the all-inclusive resorts. This is where Sharpe was hanged by the British after leading the most successful slavery rebellion in Jamaica’s history.
Sir Alexander Bustamante: He started the industrial trade union in Jamaica and spent 17 months in prison following numerous labor riots.
Norman Washington Manley: He founded the People’s National Party (PNP) which is today the ruling party in Jamaica.
Marcus Garvey: The man who is the root of both Rastafari and Black Nationalism. He prophesy saying, “Look to the east for the crowning of a Black King”. This is the precepts on which Rastafari was formed.
So now, let’s get to the question at hand. Should Bob Marley be the 8th person to join those great men and woman above?
Some Jamaicans say no while others say yes. I have heard the argument that although Bob Marley’s music touched people worldwide, he does not have the tangible revolutionary impact as our current national heroes. The people who would question Bob’s revolutionary impact must not have heard the soldiers who fought for Zimbabwe’s independence when they mentioned that while out in the fields it was Bob Marley’s music that inspired them to keep up the good fight. Isn’t the inspirer just as important as the warriors he or she inspires to fight the battle? So I don’t buy the argument that Bob does not have any tangible revolutionary impact. So why is Bob Marley not a national hero yet? I say “yet” because I believe eventually, both he and Peter Tosh will become national heroes. However, if Bob Marley was to be the 8th national hero, I believe it would belittle the great accomplishments of some of Jamaica’s heroes who never got their just due in being recognized as “National Heroes”.
If Bob Marley was the 8th national hero not only would we be selling our rich and proud history short, but we would be disrespecting the bravery and accomplishments of Captain Cudjoe, Accompong, Cuffy, Quao and even Dutty Boukman who should have long been Jamaica’s national heroes.
All these men with the exception of Dutty Boukman lead Maroon warriors in successful battles against the British. Not only were these battles successful but they forced the British to free thousands of enslaved Africans, sign a peace treaty and give the Maroons their own land. Today there are Maroon Towns in St. James, St. Elizabeth and Portland. The Maroons did so much for Africans scattered abroad that having Nanny as the only Maroon leader who is a National Hero is unacceptable.
Dutty Boukman himself was a Maroon who lead rebellions in Jamaica, but his biggest accomplishments was when he left and went to Haiti to lead revolts there which eventually lead to the Haitian Revolution of 1804. Since this major accomplishment was not in Jamaica, maybe his case is not as strong as the other warriors mentioned, but it should definitely be considered.
So I say, yes Bob Marley should be a national hero of Jamaica but not before the leaders / warriors who fought the British for Africans freedom abroad. We should not make our haste to appease foreigners cause us to belittle our history. Let’s deal with Cudjoe’s case first and work from there.
While we are on this subject, I have a riddle for you as told to me by my uncle.
Question: What’s the difference between the Maroons and the Wailers?
Answer: The Maroons formed a strong unity, fought and defeated the British. The Wailers unity was broken up by one British (Chris Blackwell).