When I was a kid growing up, my mom had this huge picture of Bob Marley hanging up in our house – first in the living room, and eventually in the staircase leading to her bedroom. It was a picture of Bob singing at a concert, and I remember that he had on a yellow hat, and behind him everyone was holding up their lighters in the crowd. One of my earliest memories, maybe two or three years old, is of me asking my mom who the man in the picture was.
“That’s your dad.” She never skipped a beat.
Imagine. Three year old Kijana, walking into daycare like, “Guys, Bob Marley is my dad.” There was a man on a poster, and he was my dad. That thing was huge, so I knew he was important. I had dreads and he had dreads, so this definitely felt right. My mom would play me his music when we drove places in the car, and I would vibe out thinking I might sing like my papa someday. This went on from the ages of about three to seven years old. Until we took a summer trip to Jamaica.
The hype of the trip was that we were going to see our dad, Papa Sunny. Now, I knew about Papa Sunny the whole time, but I just assumed he and Bob were one in the same. I knew my real father’s name was Robert Rose. I didn’t question the Marley part. I was seven. This was the first time I realized that my mother could have told me something untrue.
I recall being skeptical en route, and I can vividly remember that when we arrived, all hell broke loose. Papa Sunny did not have the sweet, kind face of my dad in the picture. Nor the harmonious, sing-sing voice of the man whose songs I had been singing for years. When my mom tried to leave me at the house with him, I refused. I can remember me chasing her, screaming and crying, down the dirt road. And Papa Sunny, dragging me back. “‘Mon. ‘Top yuh nize.” Translation: SHUT UP.
I eventually came to accept and love my real dad, probably sometime around dinner that night. Of course, going from being Bob Marley’s kid to not being Bob Marley’s kid can be pretty devastating; I think that took me a little bit longer to accept. Bob Marley has always held a special place in my heart, though. His messages are more relevant today than ever before, and he remains to be one of the most eloquent preachers of the Rastafarian culture.
Happy Birthday, Papa Marley.