Poetry from Birmingham to the world
The British poet, singer, songwriter, and co-star of the series Peaky Blinders died yesterday, December 7th, from a brain tumor, just 8 weeks after his diagnosis.
“I always work in the fight against social inequalities and I always help in philanthropic causes. He began very early to delve into the art of poetry, and was greatly influenced by Jamaican music, of which he -considered himself- just another Rastafarian.” - Benjamin Zephaniah.
Benjamin suffered from dyslexia as a child. At thirteen, he was unable to read or write and had to leave full-time school. Nevertheless, he started reciting poems at the age of 11 despite having dyslexia. He played his debut performance at a church.
“I’ve been fighting against slavery and colonialism all my life. I’ve been writing to connect with people, not to impress governments and monarchy, so how could I then go and accept and honour that puts the word empire onto my name, that would be hypocritical”, Zephaniah’s expression before declining the OBE –Officer of the Order of the British empire- title by Queen Elizabeth II back in 2003.
The man from Birmingham, son of parents of Barbados and Jamaica responding to what he was seeing in places like Brixton and Bradford. “I have written poems to these places because the riots to me were the fulfilment of a prophecy by Marcos Garvey. The prophecy is simple: when there are many hungry and many without food, many in bad housing then uprising is the bone to come”.
At the age of 22, Benjamin relocated to London in search of a wider readership for his poetry. This is where he released "Pen Rhythms," his debut poetry collection. Benjamin has penned numerous plays, books, and poems for various readerships.
In 1982, the multi-talented star's album Rasta was released, featuring the Wailers' first recording since Bob Marley passed away. Benjamin Zephaniah received numerous honours for his years of advocacy and hard labour, including a BBC Young Playwright's Award, multiple honorary doctorates, and more.
Renowned poet and activist Benjamin Zephaniah, whose eloquent verses and tireless advocacy made an incredible mark on literature and social justice. His poignant words resonated globally, challenging social norms. His departure leaves a void in the fight for social equality, for the marches he invoked to raise his voice in the face of abuses, for his lyrics in his songs and pen, but his legacy of empowerment through language endures, inspiring generations to come.
“This planet is for everyone, borders are for no one. It’s all about freedom”. Benjamin Zephaniah
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