By ADF Newsdesk –
Tributes have poured in for the much-loved dub poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, who has been hailed as a true pioneer, an innovator and a champion of the Black community following his passing on the 8th December at age 65.
The passing of this literary icon has left a void in the hearts of many. Born in Birmingham to a Barbadian mother and Jamaican father, he belonged to the Windrush generation and used his creative talent to challenge governments and inspire new political thinking. Growing up in Handsworth, which he fondly thought of as a “cold suburb of Kingston, Jamaica”, during a tumultuous period marked by racial uprisings, Benjamin’s voice emerged as a powerful force.
At 22, he relocated to London and published his first book, “Pen Rhythm,” which showcased his unique style of poetry influenced by Jamaican dub. Benjamin’s ability to bring dub poetry to the British mainstream earned him well-deserved recognition. He ventured into various artistic mediums throughout his career, leaving a remarkable work encompassing poems, literature, music, television, and radio.
The news of Benjamin’s passing, just eight weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, has been met with deep sadness. Political figures, including MP Diane Abbott and MP Bell Riberio-Addy, shared their condolences, acknowledging Benjamin as a trailblazer and a man of immense integrity who fearlessly spoke truth to power. Tributes poured in from the world of TV as well, where Benjamin had made a notable appearance in the popular drama series “Peaky Blinders.” Co-star Cillian Murphy described him as a gifted and beautiful human being, highlighting his talents as a poet, writer, musician, and activist.
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The loss of Benjamin Zephaniah is deeply felt across various spheres. Adjoa Andoh, known for her role in “Bridgerton,” recognised him as a titan and an advocate for love and humanity. Actors, authors, and comedians all mourned the passing of a man who touched their lives. Lenny Henry, a fellow West Midlands native and comedian, acknowledged Benjamin’s tireless passion for poetry and education.
In addition to his artistic endeavours, Benjamin was a lifelong Aston Villa supporter and had served as an ambassador for the Aston Villa Foundation. The club paid tribute to him, expressing their deep sadness and condolences to his family and friends. Lord Simon Woolley, Principal of Homerton College, Cambridge University, emphasised the profound loss of Benjamin’s family, the Black community, and society. He praised Benjamin’s storytelling, resilience, and ability to instill a sense of belonging in his audience.
Reflecting on Benjamin Zephaniah’s life and legacy evokes a mixture of emotions—sadness, admiration, and gratitude. His powerful words challenged the status quo and inspired generations. Through his poetry, he captured the essence of hope, resilience, and joy, leaving an indelible mark on the UK and the world. Benjamin’s refusal to accept a high honour from the British monarchy, standing against the remnants of the empire, exemplified his unwavering principles and commitment to his beliefs.
As we say goodbye to this remarkable poet, writer, and activist, Benjamin Zephaniah, his spirit remains alive within us. His impactful work in literature, politics, and social justice will serve as a timeless inspiration, sparking change for future generations.