A sea of emotions swept over the audience at Tuesday night’s staging of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) award ceremony, as the all-female reggae group, the I-Threes, reunited to collect the evening’s Iconic Award (for a duo/group).
The group, which comprises Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths, was being recognised for outstanding contribution to reggae music. As Mowatt and Griffiths slowly made their way to the stage, they were met with thunderous applause. Then, Rita Marley being wheeled on to centre stage sent the crowd into a frenzy. Well aware of the magnitude of that moment, audience members rose to their feet as they celebrated three ‘sisters’ many consider to be ‘legends’ in their own right.
Shocked and overwhelmed to see the widow of the late Bob Marley, some guests shed a few tears while others scurried towards the stage, hoping to capture the historic moment on camera. A visibly weak but very well-dressed Rita Marley sat in her wheelchair sandwiched by her reggae sisters as cameras flashed everywhere. Marley, mustering up as much energy as she could in the moment, greeted the cheering crowd with brief waves. And when they handed her the microphone, although “thank you” and “love you” were the only phrases she uttered, it was enough to send the crowd’s excitement into overdrive.
Mowatt, who spoke on behalf of the group, said the reunion was one that they will cherish. “This is indeed a privilege and an honour – a pleasure for us to be here. We thank Almighty God that we are here, so many have gone on before us, but we are here and so we give thanks. I am very very happy that my sister Rita is here with us,” she said. “It has been a hard journey for us. We worked tirelessly – pregnant, coming off tour and just going to the hospital to have the baby, but here we are. I want to thank JaRIA for presenting us with this award. It has been over 30-odd years, but today, in 2019, we are still being recognised, and still being awarded. We give God thanks. Trinity unbroken,” she echoed, as they held hands with Marley and shared kisses.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, who presented the award to the group, told The Gleaner in a post-show interview that she, too, experienced a flood of emotions during the on-stage presentation. Highlighting the need for the industry to recognise individuals while they are still alive, the minister said it was an honour for her to have shared in the moment with the I-Threes. “It was a very special moment for me, I was really touched. It brought tears to my eyes to see Rita, Judy and Marcia together. I can only say, they’re blessed. They are iconic singers. They were there with Bob Marley, and the fact that they’re still with us is a blessing,” she said.
“I believe in the saying, ‘don’t send me flowers when I’m gone’, and as we get older, time will take us, and so this moment was a message to us that we must always show appreciation for each other, and we must honour our people and thank them for the contribution that they have made. I really wish for Judy, Rita and Marcia to be with us for a long time. Their voices are remarkable, and we will never be able to replace them. We will never be able to get the sound of the I-Threes from anybody else, and we must always remember that they helped to make our music global.”
Although Reggae Month officially ended in February, the JaRIA Honour Awards Ceremony was the final event on the 2019 list of activities. The event was held in front of a full house at the Little Theatre.