The imprints of childhood experiences though left unstated, form the core foundation upon which life is perceived and interpreted. Even through the eyes of a child, growing up in Jamaica through the ‘50s and ‘60s held certain basic truths. Generally, the lighter the skin, the more affluent one became and the more attractive they appeared. Perhaps her latent awareness of this unfortunate reality led Marlene to glean life’s lessons, not primarily through texts, but through a keen observation of these disparities even as she struggled through primary school without the basic necessities for success. Observation turned to deeper thoughts and questions when at the age of seven she learnt the poem “I Wonder,” for recitation at the weekly devotion. This, she believes, was the genesis of her spiritual awakening.
On the cusp of her eighteenth birthday she fell in love with Richard, a struggling musician, who later became a founding member of the internationally renowned Third World Band. As they both grew, the differences in vision, aspiration, loyalty and understanding became glaring and their initial years of bliss were followed by pain, hardship and sacrifice. Rather than letting herself become overwhelmed by her circumstances, Marlene interpreted these experiences as tests of faith – tests that helped her forge a deeper connection with her own soul. Her willingness to see personal growth and opportunity in the face of disappointment allowed her to lead a life defined not by fear and desperation, but promise, faith and hope.