On this day, blessed by our ancestors in the year, nineteen hundred and forty five a legend was born and his name was Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley.


I cannot remember the first time I heard a Bob Marley tune. Being West Indian, his music, just always played in my home. My life is punctuated by his songs and on my road to higher consciousness his tunes paved the way to my ascension.

If alive today, he would be turning 72 years old. I often wonder, if he was alive, would we recognize the brilliance of his music and the power of political his perspective? Unfortunately, we as a people tend to only celebrate our heroes and sheros after they are gone. But, I do recognize that this new generation has learned to honor each other while we’re still here.

If I was still in the classroom and in honor of the CELEBRATION of Black History I would engage in an exploration of my consciousness through his songs that have most impacted me. And while I would play the songs for the students to listen to, sing along to, maybe even a few students would be discovering him for the first time, the pedagogue in me, would want to use this opportunity to use his lyrics as text and as a way to explore the way we must all resist and still celebrate, during our current times.

We know that in everything we do in the classroom we must ensure that we engage students, develop their skills and provide them the opportunities to synthesize information in order to create new meaning and possibly a new understanding.

Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings is one of our foundational theorists and elders who helped us to name this way of being, way of teaching, way of connecting, known as culturally responsive education.

Dr. Ladson-Billings has given us 3 tenets we must teach and live by:

  • We must think in terms of long-term academic achievement’—what it is that students actually know and are able to do as a result of pedagogical interactions with skilled teachers.
  • We must focus on cultural competence. Students must learn to navigate between home and school, and teachers must find ways to equip students with the knowledge needed to succeed in a school system that oppresses them.
  • We must develop sociopolitical consciousness, which includes a teacher’s obligation to find ways for “students to recognize, understand, and critique current and social inequalities.” Sociopolitical consciousness begins with teachers recognizing sociopolitical issues of race, class, and gender in themselves and understanding the causes before then incorporating these issues in their teaching.

I’m sharing this with you because I want all of us to go beyond just simply acknowledging Bob Marley and his legendary musical impact. We must ask ourselves, why is Bob Marley a legend, why do people around the world and generation after generation listen to his music? What can we take from his music and his life to help us in our lives now? And as pedagogues we must refine our eye sight so that we are able to recognize and or develop the many Bob Marley’s in our classrooms.

As a child I remember singing: Iron, Lion, Zion driving my entire family crazy. I was too little to know what I was singing along too, I just knew the rhythm and the rhyme was catchy. I think unconsciously I knew iron was strong, lions were strong and therefore zion must, too, be strong. And I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be like iron, like a lion, in zion. When I learned that one of the many reasons rastas wore their hair locked was to resemble the mane of a lion, the protector of zion, I knew I would lock my hair.

imgres.jpg“I am on the rock and then I check a stock
I have to run like a fugitive to save the life I live
I’m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion
I’m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion
Iron Lion Zion
I’m on the run but I ain’t got no gun
See they want to be the star
So they fighting tribal war
And they saying Iron like a Lion in Zion
Iron like a Lion in Zion
Iron Lion Zion.”

What is the significance of iron, lion, zion? What was the significance then and how is it significant and relevant now?

images-1.jpgBob Marley encompassed all emotion and all tension in his music, so in one breath he would be talking about about fighting for liberation and freedom and in the next talk about gratitude and love. As a child Three Little Birds became the song I would hum to myself whenever I was worried and afraid. It always reminded me that the sun will rise every morning, no matter how bad the night was.

Don’t we all need this reminder.


Ok, so Marley and his guitar had an extra special relationship and there’s one song, that when you hear the opening chords, you know you’re about to be taken on a journey. Could you be lovedis one of those songs that uplift you and reminds you, us, that we can actually BE love and BE loved just as we are. This anthem is all about beinimages-2.jpgg true to who you are and knowing that you belong.

“Could you be love and be loved?
Could you be love and be loved?

Don’t let them fool ya,
Or even try to school ya! Oh, no!
We’ve got a mind of our own,
So go to hell if what you’re thinking is not right!
Love would never leave us alone,
I am the darkness there must come out the light.”

What does it mean, to be courageous, in the face of opposition? What does it mean to be courageous when around you, everyone, cowers? What does it mean to stand for what’s right at the right time? And what does it mean to know, that you stand on the shoulders of your ancestors who fought when they didn’t know if there was anything to fight for? Redemption Song is probably the song that I most quote. Marley belts out the argument for education, rather for the pursuit of knowledge, knowledge of self, knowledge of history, knowledge of love with his opening line.

imgres-1“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say it’s just a part of it:
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to singimgres-2.jpg
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs;
Redemption songs.”


imgres-4.jpgThe Honorable Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, addressed the United Nations General Assembly on October 4th, 1963. In that speech he explained how in May of that year, at Addis Ababa the heads of 32 African Nations convened and formed the Organization of African Unity (OAU),  to “demonstrate to the world that when the will and the determination exist, nations and peoples of diverse backgrounds can and will work together in unity, to the achievement of common goals and the assurance of that equality and brotherhood which we desire.” Bob Marley excerpted parts of that speech and turned it into a rallying anthem for justice, for liberation, for freedom. War, for me, is a rallying cry for the unification of Diasporic people against white supremacy and hatred.

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned –
Everywhere is war –
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes –
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race –
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained –
Now everywhere is war – war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed –
Well, everywhere is war –
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south –
War – war –
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight – we find it necessary –
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah! [fadeout]


images-3However, you decide to honor the life, legacy and the impact of Bob Marley today, I ask that you share him with your students centering the 3 tenets that Dr. Ladson- Billings have given us; ensuring they experience academic achievement, focus on their cultural competence and develops or deepens their sociopolitical consciousness.

You know we believe music is the real textbook. Take this opportunity to let Marley and his lyrics teach us, guide us and inspire us, because as Marley sings in Trench Town Rock, “one good thing about music, when hits you feel no pain.” Let’s utilize a textbook that shows us in all our glory, might, unity and love.

Check out Gil Noble and Bob Marley, get irie, get conscious, and go deep. Peep, how Marley talks about the education we need, “we don’t get that type of education, that when we grow up, we can know who we is,” when talking about Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie.


Play his music, analyze the lyrics, provide opportunity for academic achievement, engage in deepening critical competence and sociopolitical consciousness. Happy Born Day Bob Marley.


PS: Trayvon Martin would have turned 22 yesterday: 2/5/17.imgres-3.jpg

We would never have known him. We may have never uttered the words BLACK LIVES MATTER without his short life being taken away.

I pray his mom and dad find solace in knowing we will never forget him. And we will always celebrate his birth.

Acknowledge Trayvon with your students, don’t let his life go unrecognized today.

In love and solidarity.

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