Dr. Mensah Otabil
Dr. Mensah Otabil

MARCUS GARVEY & BOB MARLEY: “REDEMPTION SONG”

Dr. Mensah Otabil
Dr. Mensah Otabil
There is so much the African world has to do to divest itself of ignorance, negative thoughts, dependency and inferiority complexes in order to forge ahead with its development and social solidarity. Here, Bob Marley, following the visionary lead of Marcus Garvey, perhaps one of Nkrumah’s greatest influences, captured this advice in the song “Redemption Song.” This cathartic song borrows from a captivating Marcus Garvey speech, which we present here in part:

“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others can free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind…”

This no-nonsense approach to the psychological emancipation of an entire race of people is more than welcome. Then also Carter G. Woodson, an American author, historian, and journalist, seemed to provide another justification for Garvey’s and Marley’s philosophical vision by indirectly enunciating a subtle variant of their concept of psychological emancipation in one of his influential publications, titled “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” We quote him in part:

“When you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one”

This insightful synopsis captures the painful rhythm of the stagnant state of the African mindset. Perhaps, we need change and a positive transformation of our societies as preconditions for the effectuation of psychological emancipation, which, of course, are not the case in many parts of the African world. Late rapper Tupac expressed this sentiment on the track “Changes” thusly:

“Come on, come on; I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself, ‘Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?’ I’m tired of being poor and even worse I’m black…It’s time to fight back…I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other. We gotta start making changes…Come on, come on; that’s the way it is, things’ll never be the same…”

But, it turns out that we as a people are doing the exact opposite of what Tupac is prescribing for us here, a progressive philosophy which Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah initiated in the African world as part of his epistemic development of his unique Afrocentric model of African Personality and what he also called “the African Genius.”

Then we also have rapper Coolio asking the following questions in the song “Gangster’s Paradise,” a single on the soundtrack for the movie “Dangerous Minds” : “Tell me, why are we so blind to see that the ones we hurt are you and me?…They say I’ve got to learn but nobody’s here to teach me. If they can’t understand, how can they reach me?”

Coolio’s second question is just as important as the first and somehow also ties in with Tupac’s political interrogations of society and social injustice and Nkrumah’s overall progressive vision for the African world. We have refused to answer these questions sufficiently and convincingly—if at all—since Nkrumah’s untimely passage from this life. In other words we are not learning as a people and so, we as a people, thus, need to learn in order to break free from the strangulating holds of superstition, ignorance, inferiority and dependency complexes, and so on.

Among other strategies, we need to appropriate the tools of science and analytic, critical thinking for our development.

We need to seriously and uncompromisingly question the basis of the theological and doctrinal dogmas and the teachings of all religions including Traditional African Religion.

After all, there is nothing particularly wrong with questioning the basis of the Trinity or even the divinity of Christ; why Jews from around the world generally reject the divinity of Christ; why Paul, not Jesus, who founded Christianity (just like Buddha who did not found Buddhism and several others who have religions named after them though they did not found those religions associated with them); revealed religion; the divinely inspired prophetship of the influential founder of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, etc.

By the way, readers should recall that some classify deism, Buddhism, pandeism (Baruch Spinoza), etc., as nontheistic religions. Further, and as an aside, the maverick Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten has widely been credited with the origination of monotheism (henotheism). Sixth-Century (A.D.) Stephanus of Byzantine (Stephanus Byzantinus) noted of Ancient Africans (Larry West):

“Ethiopia was the first established country on earth and the Ethiopians were the first to set up the worship of the gods and to establish laws…Homer also said that the Greek gods travelled to Egypt to dine with ‘Ethiops faultless men’…Herodotus speculated that the Greeks got their gods’ names from the Egyptians. Alexander the Great made a dangerous trek to Amman, the home of the Egyptian gods, in order to verify his royal bloodline with them…Stephanus, Homer, and Herodotus knew they were taking about Africans, NOT Caucasians. Now come the white men.”

These are all by the way, which is fundamentally that Ancient Africans knew and invented ideas wrongly attributed to others. Furthermore, we could also question the basis of Jewish-American astrophysicist Michael H. Hart’s reasons for ranking Prophet Muhammad the “most influential persons in history” (see his book: “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”).

As a matter of fact, questioning these concepts is part of the responsibilities shrouded in the divine gift of “free will” which God invested with man.

Some scholars, for instance, have drawn comparisons between the Ancient Egyptian “ankh” and the “cross,” the major symbol of Christianity, and the Osiris Myth (Horus-Isis-Horus) and the Trinity; the Ancient Egyptian statue of Isis and her son, Horus, and the so-called Black Madonna (Black Virgin) showing Jesus and Mary; why the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be in Ethiopia…(see “REFERENCES 2” for additional information). The antiquity of Africa’s identification

Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, late, a prolific author, Egyptologist and historian, and a Falasha (Beta Israel), did reveal the historical antecedents of many iconographic concepts we associate with Judaism (see “REFERENCES 3” for additional information). We need to question all these facts.

Finally, and this is also an extremely important point which we will like our readers to take note of, psychological emancipation means an unconditional (outright) rejection of St. Paul’s Colossians 3:22 (“New Living Translation”) whether it points to a literal or figurative import:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord.”

It also means the unconditional (outright) rejection of what Bob Marley referred to as “devil philosophy.”

BOB MARLEY: RASTAFARIANISM VERSUS THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

There have been some speculations that the fearlessly militant Bob Marley converted from Rastafarianism to Christianity, that is, he was baptized and became a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on his sick birth. Other variants of the speculation however point to Emperor Haile Selassie, himself, personally sending an archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuna Yesehaq, to convince Bob Marley that he [Selassie] was not the Messiah as Rastafarians preached. It has also been alleged that it was this same archbishop who would baptize and converted Bob Marley on his sick bed.

All these speculations are hard to prove, though. On the other hand, we do not see Rastafarianism as a religion in the strictest sense of the word, but rather more as a political religion of sorts. We bring up this story just to tell our readers that Bob Marley, who hated social injustice and unfairness of any kind, fought corruption in the church head-on through his music. It may therefore seem an unresolved hypocritical—if moral—contradiction of his hating corruption in the church and the church itself and his being eventually converted into it.

When all is said and done his beautiful song “I Know” captures the moments of his cancer-based suffering and an apocalyptic premonition of his imminent death from cancer. “Rasta Man Chant,” a deep Bob Marley roots reggae track with a complex syncopated Nyabinghi rhythm, tells the story of man after his days on this planet. And he predicted on the track “Keeping On Moving” that it shall eventually be well for his family. Today Bob Marley is ranked among the world’s most wealthiest and influential dead celebrities on the planet. His image alone sells.

And he still heals the sick soul of the world from the depths of his grave. What an incomparable icon! Perhaps his greatest and memorable gifts to the world are his “innocent” and angelic voice, his charismatic personality, his generosity, his high intelligence and musical talents, his lovable image, and finally, the one true song the world should listen and listen and listen, “One Love.”

Even so it is also being alleged that Jimmy Cliff has converted to Islam; Judy Mowatt, one of the I-Threes, has also converted from Rastafarianism to Christianity…The stories are endless….

EVEN IN DEATH BOB MARLEY TAKES THE BUSINESS OF PHILANTHROPY TO GHANA, AFRICA AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Rita Marley, Bob Marley’s wife, has done well for herself, her family and the larger world. Her famous book “No Woman, No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley,” a warm and captivating autobiographical accounts of sorts, co-written with Hettie Jones, late poet Amiri Baraka’s first wife, provides some intimate details about her contributions to husband’s [Bob Marley’s] greatness, musical and otherwise, and his larger vision for the African world in terms of social justice, poverty eradication, decolonization, African unification, and so on. This is not widely known. But some of these ideas are hidden in the dense philosophical language of his music.

One of Bob Marley’s larger visions for the African included the business of philanthropy. This business of philanthropy is embodied in the appealing personality and industry of his wife, Rita. Rita’s philanthropic work in Ghana, Ethiopia and other parts of Africa is commendable. Yet she was not and still is not a Christian. She is a devoted practitioner of Rastafarianism, a militant political religion partly based on African-centered humanist philosophy. What is the point?

The point is that one does not have to be a Christian to love and appreciate humanity, and that such a person also does everything within his or her means to work towards the improvement of the human condition in whatever capacity, whether he or she is an atheist, Shintoist, deist, Eckist, freethinker, Buddhist, Baha’i, agnostic, and so forth. That is, the basis for the business of philanthropy is not necessarily the province of Christocentric ethics per—rather, it is humanism.

She, Rita, has said her philanthropy work in Africa was “approved” by her husband, something he himself had always thought of or wanted to do himself prior to his untimely passing.

We have also met one of Bob Marley’s closest childhood friend’s in New York who assured us of his approval of Rita’s philanthropic work in Africa. On other hand there are also some high-profile Jamaicans, some of whom we were fortunate to meet in New York, who claimed to disagree with Rita in the strongest of terms. One of these Jamaicans even went so far as to call Rita “stupid” for abandoning poor and disadvantaged Jamaicans, his primarily reason being that Rita was using Bob Marley’s money to help the poor in Ghana and other places in Africa. Unfortunate!

Of course, these critics may not have had the faintest of idea what the Bob Marley Foundation has been doing for the Jamaican/Caribbean poor and disadvantaged. We can clearly see that not all Ghanaian Christians (and neither all Rastafarians) are doing for the poor what the Rastafarian Rita has been doing for the Ghanaian poor.

Bob Marley continues to speak so loudly to mankind from the grave, a feat no Ghanaian pastor, evangelist, preacher, and prophet today can bring him/herself to equal in terms of [Bob Marley’s] healing weak and dying souls, bringing enemies together, feeding and healing the world! That is, Bob Marley made music to “save” the soul of the world while our religious folks are merely interested in money and “killing” the soul of the world. He has got a lot to teach these Men of God.

In other words, Bob Marley has left a legacy for humanity that no Ghanaian—except Kwame Nkrumah—can equal in terms of the measure of its global reach. This is why Kwame Nkrumah ranks very high in Rastafarian consciousness along with such greats as Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Haile Selassie, Malcolm X, Amilcar Cabral…Bob Marley biographer Timothy White notes in his book “Catch A Fire: The Life Of Bob Marley”:

“In 1998, when ‘New York Times’ reporter Brooke called on firebrand saxophonist-singer Fela Anikolapu-Kuti at his renowned nightclub in Lagos, Fela announced he was intent on returning to the ancestral worship traditions of his people, the Yoruba. Fela then indicated a shrine containing images of his mother; an Egyptian god named Khuti; Ghanaian pioneer of Pan-Africanism Kwame Nkrumah; and Bob Marley.”

Reggae musicians Midindi Ra’s “Tribute,” Steele Pulse’ “Born Fe Rebel,” Blakk Rasta’s “Kwame Nkrumah,” Kwame Bediako’s “O.A.U,” Africason’s “Kwame Nkrumah is the Way”…all sing Nkrumah’s praises by maintaining the focus on him and his lasting contributions to human civilization. Then also hip-life rapper/rhapsodist Obrafour’s “Kwame Nkrumah” (and E.L’s “Kwame Nkrumah” featuring Obrafour)…speaks to the lasting greatness of Nkrumah.

In the final analysis then, we as a people need Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” today more than ever. And we got to listen to this powerful song as “men” as Bob Marley reminds us on the track “Zimbabwe”:

“In everyman chest, there beats a heart!”

CONCLUSION

In fine therefore, this concept of unified mutuality (see Part 3) embodies the theocratic character of certain polities. We specifically have in mind the Persian Gulf States and the Vatican City State, the latter resembling more the Ancient Greek polis in some notable aspects of political governance and the actuation of geopolitical morality.

The irony of it all, given our sweeping generalizations of major historical and philosophic imports, is that wealthy paternalistic clerical political entrepreneurs such as Duncan Williams and Otabil wade into secular politics at the least provocation, now and then, although they are also more likely to shield their members from the secular demands of nationalism and patriotism.

Part of the reason for this line of thinking points to their self-serving apprehensiveness about the real and perceived danger of secularized corruption of the minds of their church members as well as about political perturbing of the business side (“the bottom line”) of corporate churchology—tithing, offertory, and what have you.

This is also why Duncan Williams has not ceased from nagging about some shadowy aggressive theological entrepreneurs trying so hard to steal some of his flock. One wonders why his God allows this to happen to him.

The business side of corporate churchology therefore boils down to how numbers translate to strategic commercialization of the earthly Kingdom of Heaven, the church, in measurable quantum leaps of financial and non-financial assets. This is what the Catholic Church is doing now.

These self-proclaimed Men of God have been contributing to Ghana’s duopoly being turned into a brothel of political region. Ghana, Oh Mother Ghana, a growing geopolitical stench of a morally cancerous body politic. Otabil, Duncan-Williams, Bishop Obinim, Kumchacha, Rev. Owusu-Bempah…are part and parcel of this stagnant stinking ball of rot called Ghana. And we make no apologies.

Oh yes, listen to Culture’s Joseph Hill’s gravelly voice on the track “Jah Alone A Christian”:

“There is something wrong, you know…

“Which not even parson can see…

“Which Jah alone can understand…

“There is something wrong, you know

“Which not even bishop cannot see…

“Jah alone can understand…

“So it’s Jah, hey, Jah, a only Jah alone…

“Jah alone a Christian…

“So it’s Jah, don’t believe them…

“Jah, a only Jah alone…

“Jah alone a Christian…

“If you think them a Christian…

“Wait until them see a thousand dollars…

“Them say no hair no grow in my palm…

“And when the darkness come down…

“Them mek some ridiculous move, which Jah alone can understand…

“If you think them a Christian…

“Wait until them feel sexy…

“And catch sister Lorna in them car…

“And then the emotional feelings…

“Which encourages the devil, which Jah alone can understand…

REFERENCES 1

John Galbraith Simmons. “The Scientific 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Scientists, Past and Present.” Citadel Press (2000).

Hnerietta Davis. “Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery: The Origin And Meaning Behind Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.” Henrietta Vinton Davis’ Weblog.

“Did Rastafarian Spokesman Bob Marley Become A Christian On His Deathbed?” Beliefnet: Inspire Your Everyday (www.beliefnet.com).

Larry West. “Our Common African Genesis (Second Edition).” Vantage Press. March 4, 2009.

Kwame Dawes. “Judy Mowatt.” Bomb—Artists in Conversation (www.bobmagazine.com)

REFERENCES 2

Ivan Van Sertima. “African Presence in Early Europe.”

Ivan Van Sertima.” African Presence in Early Asia.”

Cheikh Anta Diop. “African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality.”

Reza Aslan. “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.”

Gerald Massey. “Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World.”

Gerald Massey. “The Natural Genesis.”

Gerald Massey. “A Book of Beginnings.”

Yosef Ben-Jochannan. “Africa: Mother of Western Civilization.”

George G. Jackson. “Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth.”

George G. Jackson. “The African Origin of Christianity.”

George G. Jackson. “Krishna and Buddha: Black Gods of Asia” in “African Presence Early Asia.”

George G. Jackson. “Christianity Before Christ.”

REFERENCES 3
Like It Is. “Examining Egypt/Kemet With Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan.” Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEQE30xfm0k
Like It Is. “Dr Yosef Ben Jochannan VS Rabbi Arthur Seltzer.” Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24KYINdqG-A

Source: Francis Kwarteng

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