Today Sunday February 22 is the 5th annual Peter Tosh Festival at his Memorial Gardens in Westmoreland and it is simply organized with one aim which is to recognize the work of Peter Tosh and memorialize his powerful and prolific music, the man who spoke of legalizing marijuana ever since it was even politically correct to speak about legalizing this bastardized herb.
Peter, the Bush Doctor, knew from an early age that declaring marijuana as a crime was nothing more than political hogwash forced down the throat by the imperialist US government that was intentionally designed for its own gains. He recognized imperialism for what it was, the political oppression and forced mental slavery on the meek and poor, . He was the foremost preacher of equal rights and justice for all, not just for those the oppressor felt was worthy of it. As a result of his outspoken and unapologetic words , he was not the establishment’s favorite reggae artist.
That did not stop him. His music spoke what he believed and those that heard his message listened and knew that like his other musical colleague Bob, this man was no ordinary man.
“In the beginning there was the word. The word was Jah. The word is in I, Jah is in I. I make what is good, better, and what is better, best. I follow this in every aspect of life.”
– Peter Tosh
He followed his own words and delivered, song after song the same message: equal rights and legalize it. Those words that meant doing the unthinkable, removing the barriers created and opening the gates of freedom. His music was not just for listening pleasure, but for most, it was their university, the only place where music became the medium and through the tutor, the man who is considered illiterate, understood and was edified.
“If I make some music to get up and it’s not intellectually exquisite enough, then people don’t put their mind to what I’m saying. They reluctantly listen because they have ears. But some people want more; they want to learn. My music has something to teach people.” Peter Tosh, 1979.
Peter was no messiah, I liken him to John the Baptist, preaching his own gospel and setting fire to those that were the oppressors. It is interesting and somewhat symbolic that the name Peter Tosh is not officially revered in his homeland Jamaica as much as his other colleague, but it continues to speak of the character of those that hold the handle of power. Outright patronizing, granting of the OM or abject loss of memory of what Peter meant to the cultural heritage and international profile of Jamaica can only render comfort to fools. The people of Jamaica know the truth, and it will be from the people that Peter’s place in history will be cemented in perpetuity.
“I’m gonna stop singing and flash lightning and make everybody observe that who wants to criticize. Yes, everything I&I do, them just keep on criticizing, and I&I never done anything wrong.” Peter to Melody Maker, 1978
Peter has done no wrong. Like him or hate him he was special not only for Jamaica but for his people. He educated the poor man, brought life teachings for him to understand and telling the world that he, a Jamaican speaks for equal rights and justice a message that South Africa and their friends at the time, were not comfortable to hear. Peter deserves more and he will get more. He too will stand on the exalted rock of Jah Rastafari and along with Bob and their spiritual leader, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, they will welcome those who heard their words and lived a life of self empowerment , love and personal freedom.
“Peter would probably be very interested in the political rappers remaining in the hip-hop world, hurling their accusations at the oppressor class, but I think he would be deeply frustrated by the lack of exposure that militant artistes, such as himself, still face.” –Roger Steffens
“This man and that man
Yes, they are the same man
You taught us this just as well
That the rich man heaven is the poor man’s hell”
-Peter Tosh “Burial”
“…so I don’t count millions of papers because paper will come & paper will go but my ability & my integrity is here forever, seen. So I am more than a zillionaire.” –
Peter on self-worth, 1983.
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