LONDON — Benjamin Zephaniah, a British poet, political activist and actor who drew big inspiration from his Caribbean roots, has died. He was 65.
Zephaniah died Thursday after being identified with a mind tumor eight weeks in the past, his household mentioned in a press release on Instagram.
“We shared him with the world and we all know many shall be shocked and saddened by this information,” the household mentioned. “Benjamin’s spouse was by his aspect all through and was with him when he handed.”
Zephaniah, who was born in Birmingham in central England on April 15, 1958, was a sharp-witted and sometimes provocative presence throughout British media in addition to usually acting at political gatherings and demonstrations.
Extensively recognizable from his lengthy dreadlocks and his native accent, Zephaniah was by no means shy in espousing his views on bigotry, racism, refugees, revolutions and wholesome consuming. Arguably, he was essentially the most well-known poet in Britain of his time, equally at dwelling performing at school lecture rooms or at huge political rallies.
“I admired him, revered him, learnt from him, cherished him,” British writer and poet Michael Rosen mentioned.
The son of a Barbadian postal employee and a Jamaican nurse, Zephaniah imagined himself as a poet from a really younger age, however he struggled in school on account of dyslexia. He was kicked out at age 13, unable to learn or write, and realized to do each as an grownup.
In his 20s, he traveled to London, the place his first ebook “Pen Rhythm” was revealed. He would subsequently write collections specializing in explicit points, together with the U.Okay. authorized system and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
His writing was typically labeled as dub poetry, which emerged in Jamaica within the Nineteen Seventies combining reggae beats with a hard-hitting political message. He additionally was a prolific kids’s poet and a founding member of The Black Writers’ Guild, which mentioned it was in “mourning on the lack of a deeply valued buddy and a titan of British literature.”
Since 2011, he had been chair of artistic writing at Brunel College in northwest London, the place he was a professor. Brunel described Zephaniah as a “nationwide treasure” and praised the “immense contribution” he made to school life.
Zephaniah additionally held honorary levels from a number of British universities.
He had an array of abilities, which he displayed performing with the group “The Benjamin Zephaniah Band” and appearing in recent times on the favored BBC tv drama “Peaky Blinders.” His tv present “Life and Rhymes” on Sky Arts, which showcased lyrical creativity, gained a BAFTA, Britain’s equal of the Emmy awards, for leisure program of the yr in 2021.
In 2003, Zephaniah rejected the supply to develop into an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, due to its affiliation with the British empire and its historical past of slavery.
“I have been combating in opposition to empire all my life, I have been combating in opposition to slavery and colonialism all my life, I have been writing to attach with folks to not impress governments and monarchy so how may I then go and settle for an honor that places the phrase empire onto my identify,” he mentioned. “That may be hypocritical.”
His 2018 autobiography, “The Life And Rhymes Of Benjamin Zephaniah,” chronicled his life from the sound techniques of Birmingham to the worldwide stage. It was nominated for autobiography of the yr at Britain’s Nationwide Ebook Awards.
Talking that yr, Zephaniah mentioned he believed in radical adjustments to society, together with folks policing themselves.
“I am an anarchist. I consider this must be torn down. I consider we have to begin once more. I do not consider that we’d like governments and the type of fashions that we’ve,” he advised Channel 4 Information. “However I am additionally conscious that we’re not going to realize that now.”
Throughout his music profession, Zephaniah labored with the late Irish singer Sinead O’Connor on “Empire,” and with British musician Howard Jones and drummer Trevor Morais on his album “Bare.”
Zephaniah was additionally a passionate supporter and ambassador of Premier League soccer crew Aston Villa, Birmingham’s most profitable membership.