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Benjamin Zephaniah, Poet and Author, Died at the Age of 65

Explore the legacy of Benjamin Zephaniah, the renowned dub poet and activist, known for his impactful poetry, novels, and role in Peaky Blinders. Learn about his life, art, and influential contributions.
on Dec 08, 2023
Benjamin Zephaniah, Poet and Author, Died at the Age of 65 | Frontlist

In the hit TV programme Peaky Blinders, Dub poet noted for his poetry for refugees portrays Jeremiah Jesus.

Benjamin Zephaniah, a British poet whose poetry frequently addressed political injustice, died at the age of 65.

Zephaniah died in the early hours of Thursday morning, eight weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, according to a message on his Instagram page.

"Benjamin's wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed," according to the article. "We shared him with the world, and we know this news will shock and sadden many people." Benjamin Franklin was a true pioneer and innovator who provided so much to the world.

Benjamin leaves us with a joyous and beautiful legacy through an incredible career that includes a massive corpus of poetry, fiction, music, television, and radio."

Zephaniah was born in Handsworth, Birmingham, which he described as a "cold suburb of Kingston, Jamaica" in April 1958. He began performing poems in his early adolescence. He had dyslexia and dropped out of school when he was 14 years old.

He relocated to London in 1979, and his debut collection, Pen Rhythm, was published the following year. He began performing at protests, youth gatherings, and in front of police stations. "I was a vocal opponent of both racism and apartheid." "We are a multicultural society, but institutions must catch up," he stated in 2019.

His poetry frequently addressed historical and present issues. The Dread Affair, his second poetry collection, was published in 1985 and included a number of pieces criticising the British court system. Rasta Time in Palestine, a poetry and travelogue based on a tour to the Palestinian occupied territory, was released in 1990.

As part of the fight to uncover the murderers of the 18-year-old southeast Londoner, he wrote What Stephen Lawrence Has Taught Us in 1999.

His work, which was taught in schools, was highly influenced by Jamaican music and poetry, and he was frequently labelled as a dub poet. He also had a number of CDs released and was the first person to record with the Wailers after Bob Marley's death in a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Mandela was in prison when he heard the homage and later sought to see Zephaniah. Mandela requested Zephaniah to hold a concert celebrating Mandela at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996.

His publications increased in the 1990s, and he issued many collections, including Talking Turkeys, Inna Liverpool, and School's Out: Poems Not for School. He also focused his performances outside of Europe.

Zephaniah also appeared in 14 episodes of Peaky Blinders as Jeremiah "Jimmy" Jesus. Cillian Murphy, his co-star, said he was "so saddened" to learn of his passing, adding, "Benjamin was a truly gifted and beautiful human being - a generational poet, writer, musician, and activist." "I'm a Peaky Blinder and a proud Brummie."

Zephaniah turned down his OBE in 2003. "Me? I wondered, OBE me? "I thought, up yours," he wrote in the Guardian. "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."

He published numerous novels, including Refugee youngster, concerning political asylum, and Face, about a youngster who is injured in an accident and suffers facial injuries. The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, his autobiography, was released to coincide with his 60th birthday. - Protector

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