The following article appears in the April 21, 2012 edition of the Jamaica Gleaner.
By CECELIA CAMPBELL-LIVINGSTON & RICHARD JOHNSON Observer staff reporters
ANOTHER incident involving a flag at a public event has sparked anger.
This time, it was at the Jamaican premiere of Marley, the new documentary on the life of reggae icon Bob Marley, at Emancipation Park in St Andrew on Thursday.
Organisers of the event, which was free to the public, encouraged guests to “walk the VIP red, green and gold carpet”. But that enraged a group of Rastafarians in attendance.
For them, the laying of the colours of the Ethiopian flag as a carpet to be walked on disrespected both Rastafari and, by extension, Marley’s philosophies.
“Fire bun!”; “A idiot ting dis!” were some of the stinging condemnations shouted by Rastas gathered at the VIP entrance to the park.
“How can you walk on the Rasta flag? Fire fi dat!” shouted a Rastafari elder who identified himself as ‘Irie Lion’.
According to Irie Lion, were Marley alive, such an incident would have never occurred.
Rastas regard Ethiopia as their homeland and believe in the divinity of its former ruler the late Emperor Haile Selassie.
Artiste manager Bridgette Anderson, who is a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, said it must have been an oversight on the part of the organisers.
“Ethically, we don’t walk on flags. What they have done is put a piece of white fabric over the colours, which is not a part of the flag; but red, green and gold do represent the Ethiopian flag,” she said.
Dub poet Mutabaruka also expressed his displeasure, saying it was “totally misguided”.
The organisers tried to appease the Rastas by adding a strip of white fabric down the long walkway, which stretched from the main entrance adjacent to the famous statues to the fountain in the centre of the park. But this did nothing to quiet the militant group.
Decorator Jacqui Tyson told the Jamaica Observer that she later added a strip of purple to the ‘carpet’. But the Rastas were still not satisfied, saying that it resembled a rainbow, which is commonly associated with the gay movement.
After a few frantic calls, the Marley family instructed that the carpet be abandoned and ushered the media into the VIP/backstage area for photo opportunities and interviews.
The carpet issue was the only hiccup at the event, which saw thousands of Jamaicans pouring into the popular park to view the documentary by Academy award-winning director Kevin MacDonald.
The two-and-a-half-hour film offers insights into the life of Marley, through a number of interviews with persons who were close to the late reggae superstar.
Apart from the Marley family, including Bob’s widow Rita, daughters Sharon and Cedella, and son Rohan, others who attended the premiere included Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, who were members of Bob Marley’s famous group of back-up singers the I-Three; former Prime Minister Edward Seaga; Opposition Leader Andrew Holness; Culture Minister Lisa Hanna; Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeil; state minister for tourism Damion Crawford; and Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, former culture minister.
The music fraternity was also very well represented.
There has been a firestorm over the March 29 omission of the colour green from a backdrop designed to depict the Jamaican flag at the swearing-in ceremony for the mayor of Montego Bay and other councillors in the St James parish Council.
Last weekend, one public official became a casualty of that fiasco and Local Government Minister Noel Arscott, as well as the mayor, have apologised. But the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party and members of the public have not let go of the issue.