To mom, with love
Sharon Marley reflects as her mother turns 75Sunday, July 25, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Plans are currently being drafted for the establishment of the Rita Marley Centre for Girls in Trench Town — the Corporate Area inner-city community from which she and her celebrated late husband rose to prominence.
Rita Marley, who was born Alpharita Constantia Anderson to Jamaican parents in Cuba, celebrates her 75th birthday today (July 25), and this project is part of her family's plans to mark her diamond jubilee.
The matriarch's eldest child, Sharon, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, shared that the proposed centre will provide a wide rage of programmes for young girls in the community which nurtured her mother during her early years.
'There is no place to her [Rita] like Trench Town, and so as we were working on activities to celebrate her 75th birthday my brother Stephen just called me and said, 'We have to do the Rita Marley Centre for Girls in Trench Town to represent mom.' It was perfect. So now we are in the early stages...working out the plans. The centre will provide girls and young women with things like counselling and skills training, academics as well.
“We might also be looking at providing a daycare centre for the girls who are mothers so their children can be taken care of while they are in training. We just want to put her footsteps in Trench Town in a solid way. We want the young girls to recognise that she trod these same streets and they, too, can rise to greatness.”
Now 56 year old, Sharon noted that she has always shared a close bond with her mother being the first born of her six children, and these days she is realising more and more the similarities in their personalities.
“She is always telling people this is my first child, the Rose of Sharon. When I was younger people were always telling me how much I sound and behave like her; I never took them seriously. It's only [now] that I am beginning to see it. Just recently, while we were planning her birthday celebrations, I have been talking to a few people who know Mommy very well, and they just keep saying how much we sound alike,” she noted.
The mother-daughter bond allowed for the younger Marley to recognise the strength and resilience of her mother during the tough times which preceded Bob Marley's rise and the growth of her sense of self which re-emerged following his death in 1981.
“We didn't realise that because the spotlight was focused on Bob, we didn't see her for who and what she really was until after he passed. At that point Mommy had to step up to that plate with responsibility and grace. For many it seemed easy, but the truth is she had to find who she really was... who was Rita Anderson? In the midst of being a widow she had to be a mother, manager, artiste, and woman. I watched her do all of these things. I am so blessed that I never had to go search for a mentor and role model. She was always right there with me. We had an iconic leader of the pack right there with us.”
For the adoring daughter all the strong, desirable qualities were always there on show for them to emulate and, as a result, the she shared that her siblings all do their life's work, both personal and professional, based on 'what Mommy would have done'.
Sharon told the Observer that she watched as her mother showed love to all the children Bob Marley fathered, and when she was put in that same situation she drew on her mother's example.
“It's like all the children were her own. And when I was in a similar situation I realised that she is such a advocate for peace and love. It's what she stands for and, therefore, these children were all hers. If Stephen and Ziggy were getting khaki pants, then Robbie was getting too, and likewise with us girls. So I had that example and understood it even more when it came my turn. So now she has so many grandchildren and great grandchildren to show love to.”
In recent years Rita Marley suffered a stroke and has been largely confined to a wheelchair when in public, but her daughter noted that this doesn't stop her mom from doing the things she wants to do.
However, the pandemic has forced her to remain grounded and not jetting between residences in Africa, Jamaica, and the United States.
Sharon believes her mother has been misunderstood by many, especially as it relates to the relationship she shared with Bob.
“Many people believe her relationship with Bob was a rugged, turbulent one. Despite what is said and written they had a very romantic relationship. When you look at how it started, and even how it ended, it was most romantic. When you listen to a song she wrote after he passed called Just One More Morning. It is such a sexy tune. She poured out the love and loss she was experiencing... It was her plea for just one more morning with the man she loved... and still loves,” shared Sharon.
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