In September 2016, the Cuban-born Jamaican singer was hospitalized in Miami, Florida, after suffering a stroke while on a visit to attend a special event.
Reports revealed that the Marley family didn’t issue a statement about her condition except to dismissed rumors that she had passed on. It was also reported that, according to a source close to the family, it was the second stroke suffered by Mrs. Marley.
Since then, the widow of Bob Marley hadn’t reportedly been seen at any major public event until this week when she joined her musical group, I-Threes sisters, including Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt at the 2019 Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) award ceremony at the little Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica.
The all-female Reggae group, the I-Threes, reunited to collect the evening’s Iconic Award (for a duo/group).
The audience was shocked and overwhelmed to see a very well-dressed Rita Marley sat in her wheelchair as she was being brought out on stage. Many members of the assembly moved closer to the stage to get a satisfactory glimpse of her and snap pictures with their smartphones.
“Thank you” and “love you” were the only phrases she uttered when she was handed the microphone, but it was enough send the crowd’s excitement into overdrive.
Mowatt, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the reunion was one that they will cherish.
“This is indeed a privilege and an honour – a pleasure for us to be here. We thank Almighty God that we are here, so many have gone on before us, but we are here and so we give thanks. I am very very happy that my sister Rita is here with us,” she said.
“It has been a hard journey for us. We worked tirelessly – pregnant, coming off tour and just going to the hospital to have the baby, but here we are. I want to thank JaRIA for presenting us with this award. It has been over 30-odd years, but today, in 2019, we are still being recognised, and still being awarded. We give God thanks. Trinity unbroken,” she echoed, as they held hands with Marley and shared kisses.
The legendary I-Threes who was instrumental in the success of Bob Marley. Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, and Judy Mowatt, who are among the most celebrated females in Reggae music’s history, were recognized for their outstanding contribution to reggae music.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, who presented the award to the group, told media reporters in a post-show interview that she, too, experienced a flood of emotions during the on-stage presentation. Highlighting the need for the industry to recognise individuals while they are still alive, the minister said it was an honour for her to have shared in the moment with the I-Threes.
Stephen Marley paid homage to Rita Marley on Twitter while marking International Women’s Day on March 8.
“A strong woman is one who feels deeply and loves fiercely. Her tears flow as as abundantly as her laughter. A strong woman is both soft and powerful, she is both practical and spiritual. A strong woman in her essence is a gift to the world,” he quoted beside a picture of his mother with the hashtags, #MorningJah #InternationalWomensDay.
Rita Marley was born in Santiago de Cuba in July of 1946 and came with her family to Jamaica when she was a toddler. She grew up in Greenwich Town and met Bob Marley in the early 1960s when she was a singer and manager of the Soulettes, the group that later became the I-Threes.
She married Bob Marley in 1966 and is the mother of Sharon, David (Ziggy), Cedella, and Stephen Marley, four of Bob Marley’s 13 children. During the height of Bob Marley’s career, the I-Threes, were popular backup singers both on stage and on recordings.
Following Bob Marley died in a Miami hospital in 1981, Rita Marley has continued to promote his legacy and ensuring that his descendants are supported. She was instrumental in transforming the Marley residence on Hope Road into the Bob Marley Museum, a very popular tourist attraction in Jamaica.
United States President Barack Obama visited the museum during his visit in 2015.
In 2000, Rita Marley founded the Bob Marley Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental, non-partisan organization designed to alleviate poverty and hunger in developing nations, and is specifically focused on helping young people and the elderly.