Bob, Ibis, Momma B and Udochi on Tatnall St., Wilmington, DE in front of Bob’s house.
I greet you in the name of Jah Rastafari, ever living ever faithful, ever true SelasiI the First! Jah Rastafari!
Bob Marley was a prophet — he came with truth, wisdom and over-standing which revealed his righteousness. I bear witness.
He was obedient and lived the life he sang about, everyday.
The Early Years
Born in Jamaica on February 6, 1944 he began to sing at an early age, inspired by his life experiences and his rough surroundings. During his teenage years his mother, Momma ‘B’, came to live in Wilmington, Delaware. Bob visited her here on several occasions. Eventually, he bought the house next door to his mother on Tatnall Street. Bob and Rita lived there with their children Ziggy, Cedella, and Steven also Stephanie and Sharon. Wilmington, Delaware was Bob’s first American home. Before the rest of the world knew him, Bob worked, lived, played and wrote hit songs right here in our city. We are so thankful.
It was here that Ibis, a young African-American man met Rita and through her, her husband Bob Marley, his mother and their children in 1969. There are other friends, family and lots of fans who were fortunate to have met him, others worked side by side with him or who simply enjoyed watching him as he played soccer, played his music and lived life in our city. Some who were very young may have attended school with his children. I’ve heard some say that Bob played free for the noontime concerts in city parks back in the day!
Ibis and Bob developed a friendship, and in those early years, they would spend hours playing music in Mom’s basement. Playing the congas, Ibis would rehearse with Bob on songs like ‘Is this Love’ in those jamming sessions. In later years he would travel with Bob to NYC, Philly and other cities as Bob moved about doing interviews, jamming in local studios or just hanging out. Ibis traveled with Bob to his homeland, Jamaica, in late 1969. He tells wonderful stories of this trip, meeting Bob’s friends Bunny and Peter and hanging out, watching them play soccer, playing music and eating great island foods!
Before achieving world known status, Bob worked for two corporate American icons in Delaware; DuPont in Wilmington, and Chrysler in Newark. His experience at Chrysler as a forklift operator inspired the song ‘Night Shift.’
The Later Years
I will never forget the night I met Bob. I had met Momma ‘B’ briefly during my first visit to the East Coast with Ibis in the fall of 1974. We were living in L.A. in 1975 when one Friday night in July, while chillin’ at Santa Monica Beach, we heard that Bob Marley and The Wailers were performing at the Roxy! Ibis was so excited, but the show was about to start! Ibis jumped in our friend’s motor home and high-tailed it to the Sunset Strip in Hollywood; it was incredible! The marquee said ‘sold out concert’ but the line was still wrapped around the building for one full block! Ibis found his way back stage where sure enough, it was Bob! It was a happy reunion of friends. The Wailers were doing a show each night and two on Saturday and they were all sold out! We had a great concentrated dose of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ live music Friday, Saturday and Sunday! What an introduction! They stayed a few days longer; Ibis hung out with Bob and the band, I took Rita and Judy shopping, they visited our shop in L.A., and we had a fabulous few days spending time with our friends! …..it was an awesome weekend that would impact my life forever! ….instantly I connected with this Rastaman Vibration!
Our friends went on to continue the Natty Dread tour. Ibis and I had our first daughter the following month. We moved to Virginia and then in 1977 Ibis moved our family from Virginia (where we had had our second little girl), to Wilmington, DE on an invitation from Rita Marley. We moved into a room in Bob’s home for several months before a small electrical fire forced us to move. During the time spent here we developed a very close and loving relationship with Momma ‘B’ and the family. Near the end of that year Bob moved his mother and her children to Miami after Mr. Booker passed away leaving Momma ‘B’ alone during the harsh winter — Bob did not want her to struggle like that! Mom continued to live in her beautiful home in Miami until her going home in April of 2008.
Birth of The Peoples’ Festival
In 1994 Momma ‘B’ came north to visit and stayed in our home in Salem, NJ for two weeks. During this time I had the inspiration to have a formal ‘Coronation Ceremony’ for Mom, who was truly a Queen. The planning began the day after she arrived, by the second weekend of her stay several close friends had come together to take care of the details of this celebration which was held at our home in Quinton, NJ.
It was a wonderful ceremony; over 100 close family and friends attended. We had food, drinks and live music. Momma’s nephew, Jimmy, and his three sisters sang, the children danced to one of Momma’s favorite folk songs, “Young Girl in the Rain.” We prepared a throne, had fresh flowers, a tiara and a wand. That morning Sisters Ityola and Sahara pampered her and dressed her in fine purple and white fabric (which they had tailor made for her within the time since her arrival). She was picked-up and driven to our farm in Quinton where everybody was waiting. This was all a surprise to her! It was fabulous — she was so touched and expressed great gratitude and wore her crown so elegantly.
It was on this day in the summer of 1994 that The Peoples’ Festival was conceived. Momma ‘B’ made the announcement saying, “The next time I see you all will be in Wilmington, where Ibis and Genny will be having a Tribute to Bob, next year!” She got my attention… ”Which Genny?” I asked. “Who else?” was her response as she gave me that motherly look, that says, “Don’t act like you don’t know.”
That was it. Even thought her coronation celebration was the largest party I had ever organized, I knew that we would be hosting a Tribute to Bob Marley the following year.
The Festival Experience
The First Annual Tribute to Bob Marley was born at Frawley Stadium on August 4, 1995 to Jah Rastafari be the Glory! 22 bands performed at that historic event. Richie Havens, Damian Marley, Mutabaruka, Cindy Breakspear, Momma Booker, and a host of local and national acts came to bless our two stages that first year. Scheduled to go from noon to 7 p.m. the festival had a ‘Woodstock’ kind of ending when Richie Havens finally took the stage at 12:30 a.m. saying, “This is so reminiscent of Woodstock!” to which the crowd roared and stayed to the very last note shouting and chanting. It was a great time!
The peoples’ Festival has brought dozens of international, national, regional and local bands to Wilmington in our years since that day: Culture, The Abyssinians, Morgan Heritage, Toots and The Maytals, Justin Hines, Israel Vibrations, The Meditations, Inner Vision, KRS1, Richie Havens, Mutabarukah, The Wailers, Ziggy Marley, Stephen Marley, Damian Marley, Ky-Mani Marley, Julian Marley, Momma ‘B’, The Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble, and many, many more. To Jah Rastafari be the Glory!
Every Peoples’ Festival has been organized by a team of volunteers; on the day of the festival there are over fifty people who give of their time, energy and talents to make each year a success. We have been blessed with the support of local businesses and organizations; The City of Wilmington Parks and Recreation Department, Kiss 101.7 F.M., The Double Tree Hotel Downtown, Air Jamaica, and NKS Distributors are just a few who have been with, supporting our effort for several years.
We have worked with dozens of non-profits using the festival as a place to meet and greet people as we share the mission of their work: Pacem in Terris, Amnesty International, The Sierra Club, The Food Bank of Delaware, Ministry of Caring, The Book Mobile, H.E.A.L. Delaware, Guerilla Republic, The FreePlay Foundation, Christina Cultural Art Center and many more.
World Music, Inc. has a mission to foster and promote cultural diversity through music, the arts and educational programs for the purpose of inspiring Unity in our Communities as we were inspired by our beloved friend and Brother, The Honorable Robert Nesta Marley, O. M. (AKA; Bob Marley). We do this by producing events that bring our community together to celebrate life in Unity and One Love not only in Wilmington, but through our Latin Festival in South Jersey in September which draws over 5,000 people for a weekend celebration of liberation. Our Cultural Extravaganza educates youth on diversity through music and art in Wilmington, and a host of smaller community event throughout the region.
We give thanks for all those who have lent their time, energy, gifts and talents to making this vision a reality. To Jah Rastafari be the Glory! Selah.
I am so grateful, always, for the opportunity this event has given me to feel all the love that people have for Bob. It has been an honor and a privilege for me, Ibis and our children to have been entrusted with this great gift. We could not do it without YOU The People! Thank you so much for your continued support, may Jah Rastafari continually keep, guide and portect I and I! Selah.
Bob and his Goddaughter, Udochi in Wilmington, Delaware.