A Champion For Peace, 1978

Music and curation courtesy of Dubwise Garage

The United Nations

Peace Medal of the Third World was given to Bob Marley at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City on Thursday, June 15, 1978. Bob Marley and the Wailers were in New York to perform a show at Madison Square Garden. The late singer and songwriter earned this distinction for his courageous work appealing for justice and peace during a time of great political unrest and unprecedented violence in the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.

Bob Marley at the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston, 22 April 1978
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Marley was bestowed the award by the African delegation to the United nations led by Senegalese Youth Ambassador to the UN Mohmmadu “Johnny” Seka on behalf of 500 million Africans. The award recognized Marley’s efforts on behalf of millions of disenfranchised blacks around the world. Standing at a podium before the delegation, Bob was visibly moved and deeply humbled by the presentation as he cocked his head to listen to a question from the press.

Bob Marley with Mohmmadu Seka at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, 15 June 1978
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The first question catches Bob a bit off-guard. However, his simple response speaks volumes about the man.

“Bob how do you feel being a third world hero?”

Bob, almost incredulous, responds with unmistakable directness and sincerity. “Third world hero? No mon. Me don’t deal with hero. Really…no hero. True, true…no hero.”


Photo by Neville Garrick © Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd.

Even at the height of his international fame and stardom – at the very moment he is being recognized for his work as a global crusader for truth and rights – Bob reveals himself to be a humble servant of God.

“How do you deal with your level of success when other reggae artists have not been able to reach the level of prosperity that you have reached?”

“Me don’t deal with that kind of success mon. This is the generation that seek God, right? And Rasta Fari is the Almighty God. So if it is what His interest is, this is the people and the people is His t’ing deh. My message is the Rastaman message. All of dem [message] is getting across you just don’t have the opportunity to hear it.”

Another voice from the press gathering directs a statement at Bob. “It seems that in recent years there have been attempts to subdue reggae’s revolutionary message by making it more of a ‘I love you, you love me’ thing.”

“You cyaan subdue de message” responds Bob defiantly. “You cyaan subdue de message, right? He who is Rasta is Rasta and you cannot subdue the message. I remember when Moses, when Jah sent Moses him seh him cyaan talk and Jah told him ‘open up yu mouth and talk out yu head,’ right? Dis is why Jah use music because you cyaan control it! Reggae music is de purest music that is why you cyaan control it.”


Photo by Neville Garrick © Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd.

The delegation falls silent.

“Long time you fight revolution and when you fight revolution you use guns. You don’t really want talk about revolution until you have guns, right? So me don’t want ever to talk ‘bout revolution because me no never get gun. Me mek music [applause]. Music a deh biggest gun.”

The concept of Rastafari – this way of life that condones the smoking of herb and the growing of locks – is as foreign to the US press contingent as Bob’s music.


Photo by Lynn Goldsmith © Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd.

“Bob, what is the status of Rastafari in Jamaica right now?”

Bob considers the question, pondering over a question which must have seemed utterly ridiculous to him at the time.

“Ras Tafari is always the leader mon. You cyaan run away from youself. When someone ask me what about Rasta, never look ‘pon that one with surprise. Seh wait [Bob addressing the reporter directly]. How can you disassociate yourself from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah? I mean what kind of roots you have? Who you a deal with? Your roots must go deh. Noah have three sons call Ham, Shem, and Japheth. Out of dem come all people. Noah a rastaman. Noah a rastaman! I man know dat. You hear dat? [yelling now] Noah a rastaman! Jeremiah and all a dem a rastaman!” [applause]


Photo by Neville Garrick © Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd.

The United Nations Medal of the Third World symbolized the respect that Bob had garnered from the whole of the African people for his unapologetic approach to dealing directly with the ills of the world through music. While Bob was celebrated as the third world’s first international superstar, Marley still had not set foot upon the African continent- Zion – a place he considered to be his true home. That would change in late 1978 when he accompanied friend and associate Allan “Skill” Cole to Ethiopia. Skill had fled to Addis Ababa following the assassination attempt on Marley in December 1976 and had since secured a job as coach of the Ethiopian Airlines football team. Bob, who longed for the day when his Wailers would perform live in Africa, was finally granted a visa in late 1978 and arrived in Addis Ababa after a stop in Nairobi, Kenya.

Bob in Ethiopia & Kenya, December 1978
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During his Ethiopian sojourn, Bob stayed in Shashamane, a communal settlement situated on 500-acres of land donated by … Haile Selassie I to Rastafarians that choose to repatriate to Ethiopia. Marley also traveled to the Ethiopian capitol Addis Ababa where he visited several sites significant to Selassie’s life and ancient Ethiopian history. He also attended a rally in support of the liberation movement in Rhodesia. It is during this period that Bob began constructing an album of songs about oppression, rebellion, religion, and the urgency of African unity – thematic elements that exemplified black struggle and black survival. Survival, which was released on Island/Tuff Gong on October 2, 1979, is Marley’s most militant album – a call to arms for black freedom fighters the world over. Several prominent songs from the album including “Africa Unite,” “Zimbabwe,” and “Survival” were borne out of Marley’s 1978 journey to Ethiopia.

Story by Michael Watson (of midnightraverblog.com)
Music from Dubwise Garage (bobmarleyconcerts.com)
Photo Curation by Zach Weinberg
Photos by Neville Garrick and Lynn Goldsmith, courtesy of Fifty-Six Hope Road Music Ltd.

The Neville Tapes

In an exclusive interview with Neville Garrick – Bob’s art director and former director of the Bob Marley Foundation in Jamaica – we hear his first-hand account of the event, as well as some background info on Bob’s trip earlier that year to Ethiopia, and the impact of Bob’s actions at the One Love Peace Concert. A great listen….

The Archives

Video of Bob’s complete acceptance speech of the UN Peace Medal at the Waldorf Astoria

Bob Marley

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