Rita Marley is set to ring in her 75th birthday this Sunday with a virtual celebration rooted in community and activism. Presented by Tuff Gong Radio – which was founded by her late husband and reggae legend Bob Marley – the livestream (titled Mystic of a Queen) will feature a variety of events, ranging from a tribute concert, to a virtual tour of the Rita Marley exhibit at the Bob Marley Museum, and to the announcement of her namesake scholarship for 2021.
Broadcasting from Kingston, Jamaica, this weekend’s events underscore the Marley matriarch’s lifelong humanitarian work, and will be available to the public on Tuff Gong’s YouTube channel starting at 5 p.m. E.T. on Sunday, July 25.
Former I-Three singer Marcia Griffiths, who sang backing vocals for Bob Marley and the Wailers in the mid-’70s, is one of the acts slated to perform at the tribute concert. A longtime friend of Dr. Rita Marley, Griffiths shares how much of an impact Marley and her philanthropic work have had on the local community in Jamaica. “Yes, she has preserved and protected Bob Marley’s legacy, but on a larger scale, she has not only inspired generations worldwide, but has also increased tourism to our country. In a real way, the companies she founded have created jobs that help people improve their lives and provide for their families,” the singer tells Billboard. “Even in the international market, she has built and donated facilities and contributed funding to help the elderly and children in African countries,” adds Griffiths.
Besides the tribute concert, the broadcast will showcase a digital tour of the new, permanently installed Rita Marley exhibit at the Bob Marley Museum and will announce the 2021 Rita Marley scholarship. Specifically catered to young women and single mothers, the scholarship will be offered to one student enrolled at the Women Centre of Jamaica and two students from the University of Technology Nursing. The application form is due on Aug. 9 and is available on the Rita Marley Foundation website.
In a statement to Billboard, Sharon Marley – Rita Marley’s oldest daughter – shares how fostering the next generation of women is one of her mother’s big priorities. “Providing scholarships for young women needing assistance to complete their educational goals — thus maintaining and bringing high standards to their communities — is a big part of Dr. Rita Marley’s vision,” says Sharon Marley, who was a singer in her family’s group Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. She continues on to note how, “Programs created by The Rita Marley foundation are giving voices to hundreds of youths.”
As Marley’s closest colleagues, friends and family planned the festivities, Myshjua Allen Murray, executive label manager at Tuff Gong International, reflects on her friend’s 75th birthday and gives Billboard a special peek into who Dr. Rita Marley is behind the scenes.
“When I first went to work at Tuff Gong in Jamaica, I saw how Rita Marley spent hours at the office and then at the studio to record an album. I saw how she got up at sunrise to run on the beach, stop at the market on the way home, and then play with her kids and grandkids with a smile. That’s when I understood the level of strength, grace, faith, ingenuity and flat out gangsta that it takes for a woman – let alone a Black woman – to bring a vision to life in this world while raising babies, raising yourself, and trying to love someone else who is in the same damn boat.” says Murray.
For SiriusXM subscribers, the celebration will also be livestreamed on Tuff Gong radio.