South Florida Sends Cedella Marley Booker Home: A Loving Tribute in Word, Song, and Dance
By M. Peggy Quattro
April 23, 2008, Miami, FL –
One week following Mother B’s journey to Zion, hundreds in the South Florida community joined hands and hearts at a memorial service inside Miami’s beautiful Garden House at Fairchild Tropical Garden. The lush botanical garden is only minutes from Ms. B’s home, a large residence on a sprawling estate. In the late ‘70s, son Bob Marley bought the home in Pincecrest for her, and it is where Ms. B lived a life surrounded by her children, grand and great-grandchildren, and the home where, on April 8, she passed on in her sleep, surrounded by her loving family.
The Booker/Marley family, in paying tribute to their matriarch, also paid tribute to her devoted friends and fans when they presented an exquisite memorial service that honored the “smiling woman of song.” The setting was amazing and beautiful, from the gorgeous green of the garden and tropical trees to the touches of Africa and Rastafari that adorned and decorated the intimate Garden House. The presentation was fit for a queen, and in South Florida’s eyes and hearts, that is exactly who Cedella Marley Booker will always remain.
African drummers and a large framed picture of a smiling Mother B, with hands outstretched, welcomed family, friends, and fans as they entered the Garden. A guestbook, which will lie with her in Nine Mile, was available for all to record loving messages.
Large tables filled with fresh juices were set up on the Garden’s green grass, and servers in black and white carried trays of fresh fruit, patties, and fruitcake to the growing number of guests. The music of Mother B was playing over speakers placed on the lawn as friends smiled, hugged, and reminisced about times and life-changing moments with the lovable Ms. B. The union of like souls was uplifting, and filled with laughter that is music to Ms. B’s ears.
The outpouring of love was carried into the Garden House, as the beautiful strains of nephew Jimmy Brown Malcolm’s piano filled the air. Jimmy was Mother B’s constant companion for more than 20 years. Jimmy, an accomplished musician, played piano for “Aunt Ciddy” both on tour and in the studio. And it was Jimmy, who in a mere seven days, amidst grief and sorrow, organized an amazing musical tribute to his beloved aunt. Ms. B lay safely at the foot of the stage, draped in purple, covered by the red, green, and gold Rasta flag, and gorgeous white floral bouquets. The same smiling image with outstretched hands was on the large video screen, welcoming all as the community of family and friends gathered to say farewell.
The ceremony began with a eulogy by Dr. Dennis M. Jackson of the United Christian Praise and Worship Center. Then, TV-news reporter Sharon Lawson, a friend of Mother B and the family, welcomed the standing-room only assembly before Jamaica’s Consul General Ricardo Allicook came forward to pay tribute to Mother B as an example of a woman’s strength and courage, and to honor her achievements and compassion for the lesser privileged.
A select few were invited to speak in testimony to Ms. B, to a life well-lived and filled with laugher, heartache, love, sorrow, music, and song. First to speak was Sister Iyatta, Mother B’s dearest friend. For decades, the two women confided in – and looked out for – each other. They shared the love of family and Rastafari, they traveled the world together, they laughed and sang together, and Sister Iyatta expressed her thanks and love to all who attended, and especially to the family for providing such a beautiful tribute to her sister and friend.
Cindy Breakspeare, mother of grandson Damian Marley, spoke about the joy that Ms B brought to her family and the world, and expressed the sincere honor she felt whenever Mother B referred to her as “dawta.”
I had the honor of paying tribute to Ms. B, who I have known since 1981 and interviewed many times. I took the opportunity to thank her children Richard and Pearl, Anthony and Bob, for sharing their mother with me, with us, with the world. I relished in the sheer joy with which she lived life, remembering the times in her garden where she would point out the yam hill and pumpkin patch, callaloo and sugar cane. I noted that Ms. B, like her son Bob, is one-of-a-kind person, never to be duplicated, and how together, they left a legacy that has touched and changed the world.
Cathy Hamilton, long-time family friend and attorney, delivered a heartwarming poem she had written called “One More Day.” She went over decades of memories, sharing laughter and heartache, and ended with asking for ‘just one more day.’
Abdul Muhsin, close friend to Ms. B and family, gave a humorous recount of his first conversation with the gravely-voiced Mother B. Remembering the good, the bad, and the fun…Abdul then ended the testimonials and made way for the musical presentation.
Jimmy B played piano throughout the remembrances, and continued as the Delou Africa Dance Ensemble entered the stage. Drummers and song filled the Garden House as the graceful dancers, all dressed in white, delivered a energetic set of movement, honoring Mother B in a tradition that she loved and respected. The guests were filled with the spirit and rose to their feet to return the love and show appreciation for a beautifully executed performance.
A 20-piece choir appeared in the aisles and delivered a tribute that would honor Mother B’s gospel roots. The hand-clapping choir had guests clapping and smiling, and the room was filled with the blessed love of Mama’s presence.
This was followed by a video interview from Mother B’s 81st birthday celebration in July 2007. The group was hushed as Ms. B’s voice filled the room and her smiling face filled the screen. Son Richard Booker provided the interview, and it was a beautiful tribute to his mother, and a special gift to her family, friends, and fans gathered in the room. The video ended with her famous raucous laugh that has filled people’s hearts with joy, and will remain there forever.
The memorial presentation was to conclude with a song from grandson Julian Marley and grandson Damian Marley, but, following their heartfelt tributes, great-granddaughter Mystic Marley (Stephen’s daughter) surprised family and friends when she approached Jimmy B and asked to sing “No Woman, No Cry,” one of her great-grandmother’s favorite songs. The room again fell hush as the child’s sweet, soulful voice drifted like “a natural mystic in the air.”
The realization that this was our final time with Mother B was heightened as the time came to take her from the Garden House. Bound for home, bound for glory, bound to join her sons at Nine Mile, Mother B left behind a sea of smiles and tears. And, for those of us so honored to be present, blessed to bid farewell, she left us a lifetime of love and memories.
Thank you to the Booker and Marley family, to sister Stella and the extended family, all of whom worked through their pain to provide South Florida with this fabulous, elegant, beautiful, thoughtful, and love-filled celebration of Cedella Marley Booker’s life and legacy.
April 23, 2008 – Kingston, Jamaica
Two Days of Celebrations to Honor Mother Booker in Jamaica
The funeral for Cedella Marley Booker will take place in Kingston, Jamaica, from April 27 and 28, before moving on to her final resting place in Nine Mile, in the parish of St. Ann.
On Sunday, Apr. 27, there will be a public viewing and a musical presentation honoring her life and achievements inside Kingston’s National Arena between 10 AM and 3 PM. A service will be held at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on Maxfield Avenue, on Monday, Apr. 28, beginning at 8 AM, where the service will be officiated by Father Haile Malekat Dobson, Administrator of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica.
This will be followed by a motorcade procession for her final journey to her birthplace, where she will lie in a mausoleum next to her sons, Bob and Anthony.