Jamaican Reggae singer, songwriter, musician, and guitarist Bob Marley died on 11 May 1981 in Miami, FL at the age of 36 due to aggressive type of melanoma called acral lentiginous melanoma. Throughout his life, Bob Marley looked to Ethiopia as the spiritual home of his Rastafarian faith. To remember this legendary Reggae singer on this day, we picked this article, “Bob Marley Instinctively Knows that He is Ethiopian“, written by Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD,  to share with you.

By Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD |

The plan to exhume Bob Marley’s remains and rebury him in Ethiopia could have been a hastily extemporized decision and may have spurred anger and controversy among Jamaicans. To some extent fellow Jamaicans are justified because they could feel despondency or betrayal if their icon’s remains is removed from the island of his birth. This enigmatic event may have created dialectical tension between Rastafarian Jamaican tradition and the sense of detachment as a result of taking away Marley’s remains to a far away geographical location. They may have a concern that once the remains are removed the mental picture of their hero may dissolve and disappear from their memory.

What the Jamaicans where unable to fathom, however, is by a strange historical irony Bob Marley will in fact bridge the Diaspora with the home of their ancestors, Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. After all, the African Diaspora is ought to repatriate physically or psychologically, or form some kind of bond with the Continent to reaffirm its Negritude or African heritage and pride.

Reburying Bob Marley in Ethiopia will not create havoc to the Jamaican and/or Caribbean heritage. If at all, it will regenerate the continental African heritage in the West Indies and cement the brotherhood of the African and Caribbean peoples, and in the final analysis all Diaspora is Ethiopian if we use the concept in its macro sense.

The word Ethiopia is a derivation of the Greek aethiops, meaning ‘sun burnt face’ and refers to all black people of African heritage. In its micro sense, it refers only to the modern nation of Ethiopia located in North East Africa. This paper, therefore, will present a brief historical synopsis of the significance of Ethiopia to the Black world. There is plethora of historical credible evidence why the Diaspora associates itself with Ethiopia, some of which we will examine presently.

In the middle of the 19th century, Frederick Douglass, the most outspoken black abolitionist of his time demystified the European misperception of Egyptians as white people, and he declared that they were as dark in complexion as his fellow Negroes in America. A decade later, Edward Wilmot Blyden, a black writer from the Island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean, expressed his pride vis-à-vis the civilization of the Egyptians epitomized in the pyramids: “feelings came over me far different from those I have ever felt when looking at the mighty works of European genius. I have felt that I had a peculiar heritage in the Great Pyramid built by the enterprising sons of Ham, from which I descended.”

The ancient historian Diodoros Sicilus testified: “by reason of their piety, the Ethiopians manifestly enjoy the favor of their gods…and although many and powerful rulers have made war upon them, not one of these have succeeded in his undertaking.” Homer in the same vein, but much earlier than Diodoros, said “Zeus and other Olympian gods feasted for twelve days with the ‘blameless Ethiopians’” in Iliad, and Herodotus made similar references. In fact, Herodotus makes references to Ethiopians who live by the shores of the Red Sea and says, “The Ethiopians are said to be the tallest and best-looking people in the world.”

Richard Poe, our contemporary writer, reinforces the ancient historians testimony on the Ethiopians in his book Black Spark White Fire: “On the death of a famous Ethiopian animal fighter named Olympus, the Roman poet Luxorius, wrote in the sixth century A.D. ‘O wonderful, O bold, O swift, O spiraled, O always ready! Not all does your swarthy body harm you because of its blackness. So did nature create black precious ebony…so do black Indian incense and pepper give pleasure.”

It is not without reason that the black Diaspora, particularly the African American and the Caribbean peoples of African descent, are sentimentally attached to Ethiopia. Thus, the rationale behind repatriation or ‘back to Africa’ movement was an attempt by freed African Americans to recapture their African heritage, and it is because of this movement that Liberia and Sierra Leone were founded as part of the American Colonization Society (ACS).

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