Rita Marley’s significance and legacy lies not only in being the matriarch of a family of influential and successful designers, guiding them in their many endeavors and instilling in them the belief that they can achieve anything, but also that she has managed to give herself to communities around the world. Whether in terms of lyrics and music, or philanthropy, she connects with people and according to Skip Marley, one of her grandsons, this selflessness is a true example of how she gives.
Recalling a trip to Ethiopia in 2005 with his grandmother, he said The Sunday Gleaner“To see her go through orphanages and in her travels everywhere, the way she gives to the community was selfless. Her selflessness is the most important thing to me.
Women, mothers who demonstrate her grandmother’s attitudes, Skip Marley continued, “should be showcased all the time, not just on a certain day because their work speaks for itself. His philanthropy, his determination, his work ethic, his entrepreneurial spirit and his sense of community, that’s where I saw the true meaning of love and heart”.
Cedella Marley described her mother as a trailblazer and rightly so. As one of the first female pioneers in reggae music, Rita Marley helped develop the sound as a musical form and contributed to its popularity in Europe, Africa and around the world in the 1960s, touring with Bob Marley and the I-Three and eventually as a solo act. Five years after her husband’s death, she turned her home into the Bob Marley Museum, which is one of Kingston’s top five tourist destinations.
“As a mom, she successfully blazed new trails in business, entertainment and philanthropy, while always being there as a mother; she became my greatest example. My mom is my biggest inspiration,” Cedella said. “Rita Marley literally ‘set the trend’ for the lifestyle of many women who live today as entrepreneurs, community activists and mothers. My love, admiration and gratitude are endless.
Sharon, who is Rita Marley’s eldest child, said: “Ever since I was little, my mother has always seemed larger than life to me. She is fearless and flawless. I always wanted to be like her. She moved with confidence and commitment, wasn’t easily deterred and didn’t seem to need much encouragement as she was always the leader. His voice can be heard on many of the early Melody Makers recordings. She toured with us for many years until she was sure we were solid. Seeing the sparkle in his eyes when we flash on his TV screen is priceless. Seeing her on stage was invigorating. My mother continues to leave me speechless.
Sharon’s daughter, Donisha Prendergast, also considers matriarch Marley a groundbreaking teacher and said how she mothered a musical nation “is just one aspect of what she was able to do because in addition to “Being a phenomenal musician and entertainer, she has also mothered a nation of young women to be able to do the same”.
“It’s a global conversation,” Prendergast said, adding, “I think back when she was performing and traveling and being around as a black Rastafarian woman, doing this kind of work of humanity base, she was also redefining how we could see each other visually. I mean, look at the fashion that she and Sis Marcia and Sis Judy as I-Three wore on stage. It became the ideal of what would the Rasta woman or how we perceived ourselves then.
She added: “So even with my career as a filmmaker and actress and also in my work as an activist, I always remember these things. Always think outside the box and never let yourself be defined. Always remember your roots, but never forget that you have wings. When it comes to family, it’s just that family comes first.
For her work and contribution to the industry, Rita Marley was awarded the Order of Distinction in 1996 and, in 2019, the Order of Jamaica.