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Jamaican culture celebrated at One Love premiere

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The Jamaican Association of Bermuda held a private screening of Bob Marley: One Love on February 15 (Photograph supplied)

Forty-three years after his death, the seats were packed for the Jamaican Association of Bermuda’s showing of Bob Marley: One Love.

The audience transformed Specialty Cinema into a sea of reggae’s familiar red, yellow and green; Jamaican flags, pictures of Marley and complimentary Red Stripe and Dragon Stout added to the spectacle.

There was also the food: jerk chicken, escovitch fish, patties, fritters and dumplings.

Together, it set the stage for the main event. One Love is based on the life and the music of the iconic singer and songwriter who was 36 years old when he died of cancer in 1981.

The Bermuda screening was held a day after the film’s international release on February 14.

“I think everyone had a sense of pride. Prior to the movie the level of anticipation was high,” said Yackeisha Weir, president of the Jamaican Association of Bermuda. “The post reaction, I think everyone thought it was a good production in terms of the way in which it captured aspects of Bob Marley's life. The entire story of his life was not necessarily shared in the movie, however the key components were well presented.”

On social media, before One Love was released, many Jamaicans expressed displeasure that a British actor was chosen to play the lead role instead of someone who was home-grown.

Kingsley Ben-Adir, whose credits include the film One Night in Miami and the acclaimed television series Peaky Blinders, was cast with the blessing of Marley’s family following a yearlong search.

That he had the talent to carry the role was all that mattered to Ms Weir, a longtime fan of Marley and his music.

“I know it's a sensitive issue but for me, I am open to it. I just think if the person was competent and capable, then that's the person. I had no issue with who represented Bob Marley.”

According to reports, Ben-Adir spent just over a year learning patois with help from Jamaican experts.

Ms Weir was impressed.

“I think he's very talented. And for him to have taken on that task to learn the language and understand the culture, [I’m sure] it was also a rewarding experience for him as well.

“His accent, I wouldn’t say it was 100 per cent Jamaican, I would say maybe about 90 per cent. But you do have Jamaicans with different accents – people from different socioeconomic classes so for example, the uptown accent versus the downtown accent,” she said.

Stamp of approval: Yackeisha Weir, the president of the Jamaican Association of Bermuda, at the Bermuda premiere of Bob Marley - One Love (Photograph supplied)

“You do have Jamaicans who don't speak patois; you have Jamaicans who speak the Queen's English. ”

Critics have praised Ben-Adir for his performance but panned the movie itself. Audiences meanwhile, have largely given their approval.

“I just think some Jamaicans wanted to see more of Bob, more of his family presented in the movie,” Ms Weir said.

“But that’s because that’s what was expected rather than what was presented, and usually, if you are in a space where your expectations are not met, that’s when you have that sense of disappointment.

“I think the focus should be on his talent and the message that he had for the world as opposed to his private life. So I was not bothered by who he was as a man. I was more interested in his talent.”

One good thing about music: Sir Clarke greeted patrons as they arrived at the Jamaican Association of Bermuda’s screening of Bob Marley: One Love (Photograph supplied)

Although Marley’s music is loved world over, for Jamaicans the songs bring a sense of pride.

“The power of his music unites. Everyone can relate to his music and the message in his music. His message spoke to racial barriers, social barriers and at the time it was fitting and his music lives on.

“His family basically carried his legacy. The family still is able to share the music and his sons are also involved with the music industry as well.

“His daughter, Cedella, she's also instrumental … I think because his family is still present, the new generation is now able to embrace the music, embrace the message, and I think that is why he’s a global sensation. He's about peace. And everyone can relate to peace and love.”

Authentic servings: Jerk chicken, patties and dumplings were some of the Jamaican dishes on offer at the Jamaican Association screening of Bob Marley: One Love ( Photograph supplied)

The Jamaican Association held the screening as a fundraiser for its annual award, The Hazel Christopher Scholarship Fund, as well as community outreach initiatives.

Ms Weir estimates there are about 3,000 Jamaicans living in Bermuda. Roughly 20 are active members of the Jamaican Association, hundreds regularly support its causes.

“The Association has been established since 1987. The membership fluctuates however we have approximately 20 team members who are active supporters and at our events we usually have over 100.”

Meetings are held on the last Tuesday of every month with a guest speaker at each.

The most recent took place this week, when Neletha Butterfield, a teacher and former Progressive Labour Party Member of Parliament, spoke on Black history.

Keepsake: the Jamaican Association of Bermuda held a private screening of Bob Marley: One Love on February 15 (Photograph supplied)

“We have social events such as our Mother's Day cruise. We have our Independence Day church service.”

In 2022 the charity held a gala celebrating the 60th anniversary of Jamaican independence which raised $6,000 for Bermuda’s Impact Mentoring Academy.

People were invited to wear red, green and gold to the February 15 screening.

“Those colours represent reggae as well as the Motherland, Africa,” Ms Weir explained.

Patrons were greeted by Sir Clarke, a Jamaican who teaches music in Bermuda, as he played the saxophone.

Celebrate Jamaica: the Jamaican Association of Bermuda held a private screening of Bob Marley: One Love on February 15 (Photograph supplied)

The Association is also grateful for the sponsorship of Grace and Burrows Lightbourn.

Ms Weir said the film is one that most people are likely to enjoy.

“It speaks to resilience,” she said. “It was a movie that I could relate to. And what was profound for me was that it actually was inspired by the Bible. I know everyone isn’t spiritual but that book was used as a context for his life. He [used it] to impact the world through his art.”

Visit www.jamaicabda.org

The Jamaican Association of Bermuda held a private screening of Bob Marley: One Love on February 15 (Photograph supplied)

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Published February 29, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated March 01, 2024 at 8:13 am)

Jamaican culture celebrated at One Love premiere

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