Ziggy Marley’s New Book Sheds Light and Love on Vultures—and the Vulnerable
By Carrie Hutchison on October 31, 2021
Photo of Ziggy Marley by Robin Moore
Grammy Award-winning musician, Reggae icon, and environmental and social activist Ziggy Marley has a new book inspired by his childhood in Jamaica. And the leading character is an animal he had no love for.
“I grew up around Turkey Vultures in Jamaica and I always remember hating them,” he said. “Where I grew up, we used to walk to school across a big open field and they would hang out there all the time. So we would throw stones at them.”
Little John Crow is both the lead character and the title of this new original story, written by Ziggy and his wife Orly.
“In Jamaica, we call Turkey Vultures ‘John Crow.’ But it’s not ‘John Crow’ - it’s ‘jonkro’ and we use it as a derogatory term,” he said. “As I grew up, I started learning more about vultures. They do a dirty job but they are necessary and we need them. So I started to find my outlook about them changing and I became much more appreciative of these animals. That was the beginning of why I wanted to write this book.”
The illustration for Little John Crow was done by Gordon Rowe.
The book, about a young vulture growing up in Bull Bay on the edge of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, takes young readers on a journey to understand the power of perception, the importance of self-pride and pride in your people, and the vital roles we all play to keep our world in balance.
“If we want to create a better world, a more loving world, a more caring world, a more environmentally conscious world, the children are the most important beings that we need to connect with,” Ziggy said.
Flashback to 2015
We first met Ziggy during a push to protect Jamaican Iguanas, which had been threatened by the development of a massive port on the Goat Islands in the heart of the Bight Protected Area. This port could have meant the end of the iguana and other native animals, and didn’t bode well for the 271 plant species there either. While environmental groups mobilized around bringing lawsuits and getting petitions signed, Ziggy lent his voice and support to the effort. In 2016, these efforts prevailed and Bight—and the iguanas—were left alone.
Back to Vultures…
Populations of Turkey Vultures in Jamaica and North America are holding steady, with very few natural predators and humans being their greatest threat. But nearly every other vulture species around the world is in decline, mainly due to habitat destruction and intentional poisoning.
“When I started to explore about the vultures, the fact that in Egypt, they were adored and appreciated, they were loved. They were seen as magnificent creatures...I was like ‘wow’,” said Ziggy.
In Little John Crow, one of the characters taunts the young vulture by pointing out that that even vampires are more popular than vultures. “Like, vampires!” said Ziggy. “What are vampires bro? Are they kid friendly? Which to me is crazy. We know what vampires are—that’s scary stuff. But now it becomes a kid thing. So how come a creature like a vulture isn’t as celebrated as a fictional thing like a vampire?”
“I like taking things that are vilified and making them become the heroes. Show the realness about things that are stereotyped in a negative way when actually there is so much positive to it. Lifting them up. Giving them light. Elevating them. So we can better understand them.”
As a strategist and passionate advocate for environmental protection social justice, Carrie Hutchison has led communication and branding efforts at Lonely Whale since 2019. Prior to joining Lonely Whale, Carrie consulted independently for clients across the nonprofit, higher education and media sectors, including Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, Washington D.C.’s NPR affiliate 88.5 WAMU and National Geographic magazine. Before starting her independent consulting business, Carrie was the Director of Corporate Communications for the National Geographic Society, where she worked with executives and explorers to tell their stories through conference appearances, media, social media, donor engagement and thought leadership. Prior to National Geographic, Carrie managed marketing strategy and brand development for Calvert Impact Capital, a non-profit that works with investors to empower communities through affordable housing, job creation, access to basic financial services and microfinance. She has undergraduate degrees in journalism from the Newhouse School of Communications and political science from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and an MS in Marketing from Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business. Carrie resides in the Washington, D.C., with her husband, their three children and a very spoiled dog.