What do Nova Scotia, Black leader Marcus Garvey, and Rastafarian musician Bob Marley have in common? Very little, you might think until Jon Tattrie weaves some literary and historical magic to make it all seamlessly fit together in Redemption Songs (2016, Pottersfield Press), a treatise against racism and the false “colouring” of humans.
It was in 1937 that Marcus Garvey, who was close to death, gave an epic speech in Sydney, Nova Scotia in which he praised the town for “giving the Negro a chance.” However, it was the following passage from Garvey’s speech that was to inspire Bob Marley decades later to write “Redemption Song” the last cut on the last studio album he was to record:
“We are going to emancipate our minds from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.”
Redemption Songs is one of those books that clarify, enlighten and educate at the same time. I discovered quite a bit about Garvey, what his goals were and what he actually achieved in his brief lifetime (he died at age 52). Similarly with Bob Marley (who died at 36 years of age); I always thought of him as a Rastafarian/Reggae musician, but as Mr Tattrie outlines for us, his life was so much more than that. Helping us to get a grasp of what Rasta beliefs are, how it related to an Ethiopian emperor and how both Hailie Selassie and Marcus Garvey influenced a young Bob Marley leads us to a better understanding of the history of Black Africans in North America.
Jon Tattrie lives in Halifax with his wife Giselle, son Xavier, and daughter Roslyn. He works as a freelance journalist and is the author of several books, including The Hermit of Africville, Cornwallis: the Violent Birth of Halifax, and the novel Limerence.