Goodbye Benjamin Zephaniah, poet and activist!

Author Alexander Tatiev
Category Без категории
Date December 9 2023
Reading Time 2 min.

Goodbye Benjamin Zephaniah, poet and activist!

Benjamin Zephaniah, a poet and a champion of human rights, ecology, and animal rights, passed away at the age of 65 on the morning of December 7th after a two-month battle with brain cancer. This was announced on his Instagram page.

Born in 1958 in Birmingham to a poor family, he experienced the racially charged atmosphere of the 1960s and 1970s, facing discrimination against the Afro-Caribbean community. Zephaniah left school at 13 due to dyslexia but discovered a passion for poetry and performance.

His literary style was influenced by Jamaican music and poetry, and he was associated with dub poetrya form of rhythmic recitation under reggae beats that emerged in the Caribbean in the 1970s. He became the first person to work with The Wailers after Bob Marley’s death in 1982, resulting in a tribute album dedicated to political prisoner Nelson Mandela. Mandela, after hearing the composition, expressed a desire to meet the creators, and this meeting took place after his release.

However, Zephaniah declined another prestigious offer. In 2003, the human rights advocate rejected a knighthood from the British Empire, whose motto is “For God and the Empire.” He wrote, “Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word “empire”; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised.” In a 2020 interview on the Big Narstie Show, he reiterated that he never regretted his decision, stating, “I’ve been fighting against empire all my life, fighting against slavery and colonialism all my life. Could I then accept an honour that puts the word Empire on to my name? That would be hypocritical.

In a statement from the Writers’ Guild, which Zephaniah helped establish, they wrote, “Our family of writers is in mourning at the loss of a deeply valued friend and a titan of British literature.Benjamin was a man of integrity and an example of how to live your values.” Tributes to Zephaniah poured in from poets, writers, politicians, activists, actors, musicians, and many others.

The impact of Benjamin Zephaniah extends far beyond literature. His ability to combine poetry with activism resonated with audiences worldwide, inspiring a new generation of poets and justice advocates to use their voices for change. Benjamin Zephaniah once again proved to all of us that poetry is not just an art form but a tool for self-analysis and societal transformation.

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