I have read many things on this very website that I find troubling. It all started with Kaci Fennell appearantly stating that Jamaica’s biggest contribution to the world was Bob Marley and Usain Bolt.
Now since I am not a Jamaican citizen, and as such did not grow up learning extensively about Jamaican heroes, culture, and historical figures, I cannot critique her answer. Honestly since the question said to the world, it’s not a bad answer.
I would have probably said Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley in her shoes but her answer is just fine. That being said, I can see how Jamaican citizens would be quick to say she is a dunce who just whittled our culture down to athletes and entertainers, so I left it alone. But more recently, I read an article denouncing President Obama for going to the Bob Marley Museum and not to honor Marcus Garvey. The incendiary language used to denounce a world political leader for honoring Bob Marley instead of Marcus Garvey astounded me, so without further ado here is another perspective.
Bob Marley is a cultural icon. His music spoke to people all over the world. Without Bob Marley, reggae may never have gotten to be so popular as it is world wide. Embedded and immortalized in Bob Marley’s music is the spirit of a resilient people living in a beautiful land, taken worldwide for people to admire, to respect, and to connect with. Bob Marley also took Rastafari and Rasta Culture with him worldwide. In fact, there are people around the world who mistakenly think that Red, Gold, and Green is the Jamaican flag.
Marcus Garvey on the other hand was a civil rights leader, an activist, and an entrepreneur amongst other things. He amassed the largest movement of black people in history. He is responsible for phrases such as “black is beautiful” and “one love.” However, while Marcus Garvey spoke to black people across the world, Bob Marley spoke to PEOPLE across the world. Bringing songs about the irie vibes of Jamaica and songs of revolution alike, while Marcus Garvey is more important to black history, black culture, and black people, Bob Marley is more important to Jamaica as a nation. Both embody the Jamaican spirit and really should not be compared to one another as their work is not comparable—they shine in different arenas and played different parts in history.
But while Marcus Garvey paved the way for Bob Marley, Bob Marley is the reason reggae is known and loved worldwide, and is the reason Jamaican culture has spread to the far reaching corners of the globe. Spreading messages of peace, love, and equality, alongside revolution, he is the reason Jamaica is so popular worldwide. And considering this is a reggae website, it seems foolish to me to downplay how important Bob Marley is. If it wasn’t for Bob Marley, then only Caribbean people and their descendants would even visit this site. The fact is, although many people may think the work Marcus Garvey did in his lifetime was more significant, when it comes to representing Jamaica and bringing Jamaican culture to the world, it was Bob Marley, not Marcus Garvey, who is responsible for other countries love of Jamaican vibes captured in the riddims and lyrics he brought with him. So while Marcus Garvey might be more important to black people across nations and time, ultimately, Bob Marley is Jamaica’s most well known and influential figure worldwide. And it would do proud Jamaican people to realize and remember that when a non Jamaican person thinks of Jamaica, they probably think of Bob Marley first.