Rita Marley has graced countless stages around the world, bringing joy with her melodic voice on a rich, musical journey spanning more than 50 years.
Rita, however, is also on another mission, seeking to enrich the lives of youths, elderly and vulnerable women.
Through the Rita Marley Foundation, the Reggae matriarch has extended her hands in philanthropic work – helping many individuals over the years in various ways.
Each year, the foundation, led by manager Rosemary Duncan, organises two competitions to hone the skills of high school students, while assisting the top students to satisfy whatever needs they have with monetary prizes.
The poster event is the Public Speaking Competition, held annually in February in celebration of the birthday of reggae superstar Bob Marley, who was Rita’s husband before he died of cancer in 1981.
“In the Public Speaking Competition, we really want to develop articulate speech among the youths, because that is important, but yet still it is one of the greatest fears among adults and young people alike,” Duncan explained.
The foundation also has an Essay Competition, which is used to enhance the writing communications skills of high school students. This usually runs from April and closes in the summer.
This year the Rita Marley Foundation introduced the inaugural Song Writing Competition. The event was commissioned by Rita to harness song-writing skillset by high school students; the foundation’s latest competition is expected to be held annually.
According to Duncan, Rita felt that enough focus was not being paid to the craft, although, the best songwriters in the world are paid well for their work.
“It is important to write clean music, music that will transcend generation and time, music that both babies and adults could listen to and that is what we want to develop, and we think it is important to start with the youths,” Duncan further remarked.
Besides the competitions, the foundation also does work at Mary’s Child, a catholic facility that caters to pregnant teens and teenage mothers without a permanent home.
Recently, the foundation also started a music education programme for basic school children in inner-city communities. With renowned musician Grub Cooper and Simone Kenney, the children are taught about notes, percussion, and the piano.