Bob Marley's ties to Twelve TribesThursday, May 06, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk presents the 29th in a series titled Bob Marley — The Last 40 Days to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his passing.
WITH its membership including influential members of Jamaican society, the Twelve Tribes of Israel was at the peak of its popularity during the 1970s.
Its ranks boasted reggae singers Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, and Judy Mowatt. Popular sports figures such as Alan “Skill” Cole and Trevor “Jumpy” Harris were also among the fold.
“Dr Peter Phillips, Cat Coore, Jerry Small, Omar Heron, and a whole heap a university people did deh deh. John Davis, Michael Morgan as Poco. Yuh have Patrick Beckford. Yuh have Bunny Heron and her husband. Whole heap a people from all sector of di society. Twelve Tribes was di talk of di town. It was di Rasta movement dat was generating all dat type of interest,” Cole, 70, told the Jamaica Observer.
A former manager and confidant of Marley, Cole said it was he who introduced Marley to the organisation.
“It took him a little while to join... But him used to come deh with mi. Wi never force nuh man fi join. No man nuh force Bob, him just come and do it himself. Bob never step up until about 1974,” he said.
He said Marley saw the Twelve Tribes of Israel as “progressive”.
“Wi broke down several barriers and' leggo di class system... So it attracted a lot of radical thinkers,” Cole explained. “It wasn't a middle-class thing, but attracted a lot of middle-class (people). Remember, it (Twelve Tribes) started from in di ghetto. A Trench Town it originate from, so it can't be a middle class. It attracted a lot of middle-class radicals, as it had more progressive thinkers,” he continued.
Cole said when Marley joined the organisation, it was already at the “zenith of its developmental stage”.
He stressed that though the Twelve Tribes of Israel had different ideals, there was no resentment from the other Rastafari mansions — Bobo Shanti and Nyahbinghi — over the reggae king's selection.
“There was no resentment... Wi nuh go di man dem place an' hail di man dem an' talk. A suh it guh,” he said.
Founded in 1968 by Vernon Carrington, the Twelve Tribes of Israel is considered the most liberal of the Rastafarian groups. It is seen as closer to Christianity than their counterparts.
His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia is considered its symbolic leader, but unlike Bobo Shanti and Nyahbinghi, the Twelve Tribes believes in salvation not only of black people, but for all races.
In 1948, Selassie dedicated sections of Ethiopia's Shashemane region to West Indians of African heritage interested in settling there. Several Jamaicans who accepted his gesture are Twelve Tribes members who still live there with their families.
Cole, who is credited as co-writer of War (from Marley's Rastaman Vibration album), said Marley had a hand in purchasing the organisation's current headquarters on Hope Road in Kingston.
“When dem find the real estate, the money did short; couple thousand of dollars. And Bob lend the organisation the money. And then now, when them carry back the money, him sey: 'That alright. Jus' hold it',” Cole disclosed.
Marley died at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (later University of Miami Hospital) of cancer on May 11, 1981. He was 36 years old.
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