Opinion: Bob Marley was more than a pot smoker

Bob Marley live in concert in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 30, 1980. Photo by Ueli Frey. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Bob Marley live in concert in Zurich, Switzerland, on May 30, 1980. Photo by Ueli Frey. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

By: MOOJAN HAIDARI Yesterday, people gathered all across North America — including about 2,000 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa — to light up, celebrate, and most likely listen to the king of reggae music. "National Weed Day," or 420 is a day for people to get together and smoke marijuana to celebrate cannabis culture. Yet, there are still misconceptions about April 20. For example, some refer to it as “Bob Marley Day,” but Bob Marley, renowned reggae artist, was neither born nor died on that day.

In light of 420, it is important to address Marley’s significant contributions that should be mainly associated with his name, rather than the cliché notion of him being just a pot-smoking Rastafarian who sings reggae music.

Marley being commonly known as a weed smoker overshadows his passion for harmony and uniting people together. He advocated for human rights through his music and succeeded in many instances.

His peace concert held in 1978 during the political civil war in Jamaica between the Jamaican Labour Party and the People’s National Party resulted in both political rivals to join hands in hopes of creating unity in Jamaica.

During an interview prior to leaving for the peace concert, Marley said his life is only important if he can help other people. Marley’s concert was able to bring Jamaicans with all different political beliefs together and enjoy music promoting peace in the nation for a moment in time.

Marley was also a strong advocate for people to liberate themselves.

One of Marley’s famous quotes he said it’s “better to die fighting for freedom than be a prisoner all the days of your life.”

His songs “Get Up and Stand Up”, “Revolution”, and “Redemption Song” are one of the few political songs that call for black individuals to rise up against injustices.

Marley has made a lasting impression on Africa with his attempt to raise awareness of oppression. His album Survival consisted of tracks like “Wake Up and Live”, “Survival”, “War”, and “Africa Unite”, which expressed his support for oppressed Africans.

For instance, Marley was invited to perform at Zimbabwe’s Independence Day in 1980 in which Zimbabweans fought against western oppression.

In his song “Zimbabwe”, his lyrics gave hope to Zimbabweans. He sang to them, “So arm in arms, with arms, we’ll fight this little struggle, ’cause that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble.”

“He was able to bring people together,” said Cindy Breakspeare, Marley’s girlfriend, in the documentary Marley.

Also, Marley’s songs touched on other human rights issues. His song such as “Them Belly Full” addresses the situation of poverty and “Slave Driver” addresses poverty and lack of education.

Marley’s smooth reggae beats and influential lyrics have become a global phenomenon that touched the hearts of many.

Although Marley did smoke weed, it was tied into the Rastafarian religion more than as a form of recreational activity. The smoking of marijuana is said to increase a Rastafarian’s spiritual awareness (says who?).

So hopefully when people think of Bob Marley, the first thing that comes to mind is a political activist who promoted social change and social justice through his music.

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