Benjamin Zephaniah, Waterstones, Piccadilly, London, December 2018
|Born||Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah|
15 April 1958
Handsworth, Birmingham, England
|Occupation||Poet, playwright, author|
|Genre||Poetry, teen fiction|
|Literary movement||Rastafari movement|
|Years active||1980 – present|
|Spouse||Amina (m. 1990, divorced 2001)|
Zephaniah was born and raised in the Handsworth district of Birmingham, which he has called the "Jamaican capital of Europe". He is the son of a Barbadian postman and a Jamaican nurse. A dyslexic, he attended an approved school but left aged 13 unable to read or write.
He writes that his poetry is strongly influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica and what he calls "street politics". His first performance was in church when he was eleven, and by the age of fifteen, his poetry was already known among Handsworth's Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities. He received a criminal record with the police as a young man and served a prison sentence for burglary. Tired of the limitations of being a black poet communicating with black people only, he decided to expand his audience, and headed to London at the age of twenty-two.
He became actively involved in a workers' co-operative in Stratford, London, which led to the publication of his first book of poetry, Pen Rhythm (Page One Books, 1980). Three editions were published. Zephaniah has said that his mission is to fight the dead image of poetry in academia, and to "take [it] everywhere" to people who do not read books, so he turned poetry readings into concert-like performances.
His second collection of poetry, The Dread Affair: Collected Poems (1985), contained a number of poems attacking the British legal system. Rasta Time in Palestine (1990), an account of a visit to the Palestinian occupied territories, contained poetry and travelogue.
His 1982 album Rasta, which featured The Wailers' first recording since the death of Bob Marley as well as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, gained him international prestige and topped the Yugoslavian pop charts. It was because of this recording that he was introduced to the political prisoner and soon-to-be South African president Nelson Mandela, and in 1996, Mandela requested that Zephaniah host the president's Two Nations Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Zephaniah was poet in residence at the chambers of Michael Mansfield QC, and sat in on the inquiry into Bloody Sunday and other cases, these experiences leading to his Too Black, Too Strong poetry collection (2001). We Are Britain! (2002) is a collection of poems celebrating cultural diversity in Britain.
Zephaniah's first book of poetry for children, called Talking Turkeys, was reprinted after six weeks. In 1999 he wrote a novel for teenagers, Face, the first of four novels to date.
He was married for twelve years to Amina, a theatre administrator, whom he divorced in 2001.
Zephaniah is an honorary patron of The Vegan Society, Viva! (Vegetarians' International Voice for Animals), EVOLVE! Campaigns, the anti-racism organisation Newham Monitoring Project with whom he made a video in 2012 about the impact of Olympic policing on black communities, Tower Hamlets Summer University and is an animal rights advocate. In 2004 he wrote the foreword to Keith Mann's book From Dusk 'til Dawn: An insider's view of the growth of the Animal Liberation Movement, a book about the Animal Liberation Front. In August 2007, he announced that he would be launching the Animal Liberation Project, alongside People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He became a vegan when he read poems about "shimmering fish floating in an underwater paradise, and birds flying free in the clear blue sky".
The poet joined Amnesty International in speaking out against homophobia in Jamaica, saying: "For many years Jamaica was associated with freedom fighters and liberators, so it hurts when I see that the home of my parents is now associated with the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation."
In 2003, Zephaniah was offered appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, but publicly rejected it. In a subsequent article for The Guardian he elaborated upon his reaction to learning about being considered for the award and his reasons for rejecting it: "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...Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire."
Zephaniah has spoken in favour of a British Republic and the dis-establishment of the crown. In 2015 he called for Welsh and Cornish to be taught in English schools, saying "Hindi, Chinese and French are taught [in schools], so why not Welsh? And why not Cornish? They're part of our culture."
Zephaniah self-identifies as an anarchist. He appeared in literature to support changing the British electoral system from first-past-the-post to alternative vote for electing members of parliament to the House of Commons in the Alternative Vote referendum in 2011. In a 2017 interview, commenting on the ongoing Brexit negotiations, Zephaniah stated that "For left-wing reasons, I think we should leave the EU but the way that we’re leaving is completely wrong".
Zephaniah won the BBC Young Playwright's Award. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of North London (in 1998), the University of Central England (in 1999), Staffordshire University (in 2001), London South Bank University (in 2003), the University of Exeter and the University of Westminster (in 2006). On 17 July 2008 Zephaniah received an honorary doctorate from the University of Birmingham. He was listed at 48 in The Times list of 50 greatest postwar writers.
He has released several albums of original music. He was awarded Best Original Song in the Hancocks 2008, Talkawhile Awards for Folk Music (as voted by members of Talkawhile.co.uk) for his version of Tam Lyn Retold recorded with The Imagined Village. He collected the Award live at The Cambridge Folk Festival on 2 August 2008 and described himself as a "Rasta Folkie".
Black Ink Collective was a British publishing company founded in 1978 to publish the work of young Black writers in the UK.
The Collective started as a publisher, their first book Black Ink, published in 1978, was an anthology of work by local school pupils. The Collective also established The Black Writers' Workshop who met weekly at their premises at 258 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, south London. The writers' workshop incorpated readings, performances and aimed to "incorporate African and Caribbean orality into a Black British poetic voice". The Workshop was attended by writers including Benjamin Zephaniah, S I Martin, Desmond Johnson, Fred D'Aguiar and Michael McMillan. Their second book was a play by 16-year-old Michael McMillan, originally performed at the Royal Court Theatre Young Writer's Festival, about the plight of an unemployed school-leaver.Charley Genever
Charley Genever is a British poet. She is Peterborough Poet Laureate 2016. Peterborough Poet Laureate is a competition which has been held annually since 1998 to find a local poet who holds the honorary title for one year.
Charley Genever is a poet, writer, and creative producer born and raised in Peterborough. She holds a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University, and since graduating she returned to Peterborough where she was successfully selected onto the Emerge training programme for emerging artists in Peterborough. Since then she has worked with and performed for Cambridge Junction, Apples and Snakes, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Curve, the Green Festival, and the Roundhouse. Most notably she collaborated with The Poetry Society and Southbank Centre where she programmed National Poetry Day Live and also performed as part of the day. She has shared the stage and worked with the likes of John Hegley, Attila the Stockbroker, Ross Sutherland, Patience Agbabi, Joelle Taylor, Simon Mole, Benjamin Zephaniah, Mark Grist, Vanessa Kisuule, and Michael Symmons Roberts. She also regularly hosts open mic night ‘Pint of Poetry’, and produces her own quarterly spoken word night ‘Freak Speak’.
At 24, she is the youngest poet to ever hold the title of Peterborough Poet Laureate.Community Music
Community Music is a 2000 studio album by Asian Dub Foundation. It peaked at number 20 on the UK Albums Chart. NME listed it as the 39th best album of 2000.The album features vocals from Benjamin Zephaniah, Ambalavaner Sivanandan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and Assata Shakur.Didn't You Kill My Brother?
"Didn't You Kill My Brother?" is an episode of The Comic Strip Presents..., a British television comedy. "Didn't You Kill My Brother" premiered on Channel 4 on Saturday 19 March 1988 at 10:50P.M. CBS Records released the theme song, also titled "Didn't You Kill My Brother?" as a single in 1985.
Alexei Sayle plays both Carl and Sterling Moss, gangster twins loosely modelled on the Kray twins. There are cameo appearances by reggae poet Benjamin Zephaniah and Beryl Reid, in the role of the mother of the twins. The episode features a running theme that is an homage to the Italian film Bicycle Thieves. Sayle also performs the "Didn't You Kill My Brother?" song which was released as a single; a music video was also filmed.
Sterling and Carl are in many ways parodies of opposing political positions - opportunistic capitalism and idealistic socialism. The rehabilitated, self-educated Carl is community-focused and wants to build a better world, whereas his unrepentant criminal brother Sterling is simply interested in profit.Face (novel)
Face is a British novel by British-Jamaican author and poet Benjamin Zephaniah, published in 1999. It's about a teenage boy who suffers facial injuries in a joyriding accident. Face has also been adapted as a stage play.Hong Kong International Literary Festival
The Hong Kong International Literary Festival is an international literary festival held annually in Hong Kong. It was founded in 2000 by Nury Vittachi and creative writing teacher Jane Camens, with support from Malaysian poet Shirley Geok-lin Lim. The first festival was held in 2001. The 17th Annual Hong Kong International Literary Festival was held between 3 November and 12 November 2017.
Previous attendees have included Seamus Heaney, Jung Chang, Louis de Bernières, Junot Díaz, Colm Tóibín, Yann Martell, Margaret Atwood, André Brink, John Banville, Hanif Kureishi, Amitav Ghosh, Ian McEwan, Alexander McCall Smith, Jeffrey Archer, John Boyne, Anne Enright, Benjamin Zephaniah, Carol Ann Duffy, Pankaj Mishra, Irvine Welsh, Cheryl Strayed and Amy Tan.
The Hong Kong International Literary Festival is managed by Hong Kong International Literary Festival Ltd, a registered charity in Hong Kong that also manages the annual Hong Kong International Young Readers Festival.List of Barbadian Britons
This is a list of notable Barbadian British people (i.e. Barbadian immigrants to the UK and British-born individuals of Barbadian ethnic or national origin).
Nigel Benn, former boxer
Dennis Bovell, reggae musician and producer
Ashley Cole, England international footballer, Bajan father
Carl Cox, techno DJ, born in Barbados
Des'ree, singer, Bajan father
Livvi Franc, singer and songwriter
Kieran Gibbs, England and Arsenal F.C. footballer, Bajan father
David Harewood, actor
Chris Jordan, cricketer
Shaznay Lewis, singer-songwriter, member of All Saints, Bajan father
Zania Linton, model, born in London, Miss Globe 2014 3rd runner-up
Mark Morrison, singer
Nevada Phillips, cricketer
Leigh-Anne Pinnock, member of British girl group Little Mix
Oliver Skeete, showjumper, born in Speightstown
Moira Stuart, newsreader and broadcaster, Bajan father
Sir Michael Stoute, thoroughbred horse trainer, born in St. Michael's Parish
Walter Tull, footballer and British army officer, his father Daniel Tull was born in Barbados
Alison Hinds, popular female Barbadian Soca singer
Gary Younge, journalist, author and broadcaster
Benjamin Zephaniah, writer and poet, Bajan fatherList of performance poets
The following is a partial list of performance poets.Newham Monitoring Project
Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) is a grassroots community-based anti-racist organisation in the London Borough of Newham, London, England with a remit to provide support work against racial discrimination and violence, police misconduct and around civil rights issues. It provides advice, support, advocacy and a 24-hour emergency helpline to members of the black community facing racism. It undertakes community outreach and educational projects and campaign work around issues arising from its casework.
The patron of NMP is the poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah.Plashet
Plashet is a locality of East Ham in the London Borough of Newham in East London located between West Ham (Upton Park) and Manor Park. It contains Plashet Jewish Cemetery, Plashet Park, and several places of worship.The area was home to prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, who lived in Plashet House from 1809-1829, and also her daughter Katherine who lived in Plashet Cottage. Both of these properties were demolished in the 1880s to make way for the terraced streets that now characterise the area.Steve Marriot lead singer of the Small Faces was born at East Ham Memorial Hospital located in the Plashet area.
The poet Benjamin Zephaniah has also lived in Plashet.Poetry Africa
Poetry Africa is an international poetry festival held annually in Durban, South Africa.
More than twenty poets, predominantly from South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent, participate in the 7- to 10-day Poetry Africa, an international poetry festival that is based mostly in Durban, South Africa, during the final quarter of the year. The festival's extensive programme includes theatre performances, readings, music and book-launches with a festival finale at BAT Centre. Day activities include seminars, workshops, open mic opportunities, and school visits.
Poetry Africa is organized by the Centre for Creative Arts which is a multi-disciplinary arts organisation within the Faculty of Human Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. From the CCA Mission statement:
The Centre fulfils a function as facilitator, promoter, networker, and capacity builder, and plays a vital role in bringing to fruition the artistic potential of the region. The CCA co-ordinates four annual festivals which are the foremost of their kind in the region; Time of the Writer, Poetry Africa, the Durban International Film Festival, and the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Festival. The CCA is also involved in other projects and programmes. These festivals reflect artistic integrity, are professionally produced, and receive excellent media coverage. All have strong international links that enhance intercultural artistic relationships with and within South Africa, the African continent, and the global community. All activities have important development components that reach into communities that do not have access to top-level art practitioners such as those participating in our festivals. Schools and tertiary institutions are a particular focus; as are grass roots community arts organisations.
Over 300 poets and writers have attended the festival in its 15 editions, including:
Chris Abani, 2002
Didier Awadi, 2011
Gabeba Baderoon, 2005
Dennis Brutus, multiple years
Sutardji Calzoum Bachri, 2004
Gary Cummiskey, 2008
Kwame Dawes, 2011
Bob Holman, 2003
Stanley Onjezani Kenani, 2007
Werewere Liking, 2004
Gcina Mhlope, multiple years
Bantu Mwaura, 2008 (also for Poetry Africa at the World Social Forum, Kenya 2007)
Pitika Ntuli, multiple years
Lesego Rampolokeng, multiple years
Mamta Sagar, 2005
Benjamin Zephaniah, 2000, 2006Refugee Boy
Refugee Boy is a teen novel written by Benjamin Zephaniah. It is a book about Alem Kelo, a 14-year-old refugee from Ethiopia and Eritrea. It was first published by Bloomsbury on 28 August 2001
. The novel was the recipient of the 2002 Portsmouth Book Award in the Longer Novel category.Sari Squad
Sari Squad is the name chosen for themselves by a group of women, mainly of south Asian origin, who helped to defend multicultural clubs and gatherings in London, United Kingdom, from racist attacks in the early 1980s.Skanky Skanky
Skanky Skanky is the debut album by the artist Toddla T. It features collaborations from artists including Matt Helders, Roots Manuva, Tinchy Stryder, Hervé & Benjamin Zephaniah. There are also more regular contributions from Serocee and Mr Versatile.The Pattern of Painful Adventures (radio play)
The Pattern of Painful Adventures is a 90-minute 2008 radio play by Stephen Wakelam on the circumstances surrounding the writing of the play Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare and the sickness of his brother Edmund's child, introduced by a flashback by his daughter Susannah, playwright John Marston and William's secretary Robinson. It links the play to the marriage of Susannah and the birth of her daughter and to the similar themes of daughters, forests, storms, shipwrecks and lost infants from As You Like It, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest. It is named after The Pattern of Painful Adventures, a main source for Pericles. It was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 8pm on 23 November 2008, directed and produced by Jeremy Mortimer, and was followed in the same slot on 30 November by a repeat of a 2005 radio production of Pericles, with Tom Mannion as Pericles and Benjamin Zephaniah as Gower.Theatre Centre
Theatre Centre is a UK-based theatre company touring new plays for young audiences aged 4 to 18. Founded in 1953 by Brian Way, the company has developed plays by writers including Lisa Evans, Noël Greig, Mike Kenny, Bryony Lavery, Leo Butler, Brendan Murray, Philip Osment, Manjinder Virk, Roy Williams and Benjamin Zephaniah. Theatre Centre is a member of Theatre for Young Audiences UK (TYA-UK), a network for makers and promoters of professional theatre for young audiences.Brian Way and Margaret Faulkes founded Theatre Centre in 1953. When they produced a shortened version of Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Man Born To Be King, the production inspired Sayers to donate £200 to help establish the company. The company's "initial aim was to provide a place where unemployed actors might meet and practise their art", Laurence Harbottle (of Harbottle & Lewis) reported in 2006. "What it became was the launch pad for educational theatre in schools - and what Brian became, in the next half century, was the seminal influence on that movement, worldwide.”
Many of Theatre Centre’s early plays were written by Brian Way himself. Way believed plays should be written for a specific age group., and "argued that the quality of performance deteriorates" when audience numbers increase. Theatre Centre productions were “presented informally on the floor of the school hall, in the round.” Today, Theatre Centre shows tour to schools and venues around the country and the company has a focus on writers creating “exciting work for young audiences.”
Theatre Centre is a registered charity and is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.Too Black, Too Strong
May refer to:
Too black, too strong, the short form of a Malcolm X quotation from his Message to the Grass Roots speech that has been sampled by the rap group Public Enemy and others: "It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep."
"Bring the Noise", a Public Enemy track that uses the Malcolm X sample.
Too Black, Too strong, a poetry collection by Benjamin Zephaniah
"Wrapped in Black", a Hideki Naganuma track from the 2005 video game Sonic Rush that uses the Malcolm X sample.UK Chagos Support Association
The UK Chagos Support Association is an interest group based the United Kingdom that exists to promote the right of return of Chagos Islanders. Its patrons include Ben Fogle and Benjamin Zephaniah; its honorary president is Louis Olivier Bancoult.Zephaniah (disambiguation)
Zephaniah may refer to:
Zephaniah, name of several people in the Bible Old Testament and Jewish Tanakh
Book of Zephaniah, book
Apocalypse of Zephaniah, pseudepigraphic text
Zephaniah Kingsley Plantation Home and Buildings, site of a former estate in Jacksonville, Florida
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet