Blessed Earth Strong to BOB MARLEY‘s mother SIDILLA EDITHA “CEDELLA” BOOKER also lovingly known as Mama B.
She was born Sidilla Editha Malcolm in Rhoden Hall, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, on July 23, 1926 and was the daughter of Albertha Whilby and Omeriah Malcolm, a farmer, “bush doctor”, and one of the most respected residents of Nine Mile. Her paternal grandfather was Robert “Uncle Day” Malcolm, who descended from the Coromantee (or Akan) slaves shipped to Jamaica from the African Gold Coast, today known as Ghana, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. At 18, Cedella Malcolm married 59 year old Norval Sinclair Marley, a white Jamaican of English and rumored Syrian Jewish descent, whose father’s family came from England; the family of his mother, Ellen Marley (née Broomfield), came from the Levant.
She became pregnant with his son, Robert Nesta (whose second given name “Nesta” means “wise messenger”). Norval Marley was an officer as well as the plantation overseer. His family applied constant pressure however, and although he provided financial support for them, the Captain seldom saw his wife and son. Bob was ten years old when Norval died of a heart attack in 1955 at age 70. Cedella and Bob then moved to Trenchtown, a slum neighborhood in Kingston. This was the only place Booker could afford to live at the time, being a young woman moving from the country to the big city on her own.
While living in Trenchtown, Booker gave birth to a daughter, Claudette Pearl, with Taddeus Livingston, the father of Bunny Livingston – aka Bunny Wailer – who formed the original Wailers trio with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in 1963.
Cedella then married Edward Booker, an American civil servant, and resided first in Delaware, where she gave birth to two more sons, Richard and Anthony, with Booker. After Edward Booker’s death in 1976, Cedella moved to Miami, Florida, where she was present at the Bob’s deathbed when he died from cancer in 1981. Booker lived in Miami for the remainder of her life.
In 1993, Cedella Booker conceived and created what is today called the 9 Mile Music Festival, an annual music event held every year since in Miami to help keep alive Bob Marley’s message of peace, love and unity. As part of the admission fee to the one-day music festival, attendees bring canned goods that are collected and donated to help feed the needy in the Miami area through various local charities.
Called “the keeper of the flame,” Cedella grew voluminous dreadlocks, adopted Rohan Marley, Bob Marley’s son by Janet Hunt, and occasionally performed live with Marley’s children, Ky-Mani, Ziggy, Stephen, Damian and Julian Marley. Later, she released the music albums Awake Zion and Smilin’ Island of Song. Cedella Booker participated in the festivities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia commemorating Marley’s 60th birthday in 2005. She also wrote two Marley biographies.
Cedella Marley Booker died in her sleep at the age of 81 in Miami, Florida on April 8, 2008 from natural causes.