Benjamin Zephaniah

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah (born 15 April 1958, Cole's Hill, Birmingham, England) is a British Rastafarian writer and dub poet, and is well known in contemporary English literature.


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Publications
  • 3 Rejection of OBE
  • 4 Personal life
  • 5 Achievements
  • 6 Discography
  • 7 Books
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Early life

Benjamin Zephaniah spent part of his childhood in Jamaica. He spent 2 years in prison as a young man for charges related to fighting[1].

However some sources state that Zephaniah was born in Black River, Jamaica (part of the British Empire until August 1962)


Zephaniah published his first book of poems, Pen Rhythm, in 1980. It was so well received that three editions were published. His 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 [1] and topped the Yugoslavian pop charts.[2] It was because of this recording that he was introduced to the political prisoner and soon-to-be South African president, and in 1996, Mandela requested that Zephaniah host the president's Two Nations Concert at London's Royal Albert Hall.

Rejection of OBE

In November 2003, Zephaniah wrote in The Guardian [2] that he was turning down the invitation to accept the honour of the position of Officer of the Order of British Empire (OBE) award from Queen Elizabeth II since it reminded him of "how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalized". He continued to say "Stick it, Mr. Blair and Mrs. Queen, stop going on about empire." It was unusual to do so publicly, since the convention for rejecting the award is to do so privately.

Personal life

Zephaniah currently lives in East Ham, in East London and is a self-described passionate vegan. He is also the patron of the east London based anti-racist organisation Newham Monitoring Project. Benjamin is also a fan of Aston Villa Football Club.


Zephaniah has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of North London (in 1998), the University of Central England (in 1999), Staffordshire University (in 2002), London South Bank University (in 2003), the University of Exeter and the University of Westminster (in 2006).


  • Dub Ranting (1982)
  • Rasta (1983)
  • Free South Africa (1986)
  • Us an Dem (1990)
  • Crisis (1992)
  • Back to Roots (1995)
  • Belly of de Beast (1996)
  • "Dancing Tribes" (with "Back to Base") (single) MP Records, 1999
  • "Illegal" (with "Swayzak") (single) Medicine Label, 2000
  • "Naked"
  • "Naked & Mixed Up" (Benjamin Zephaniah vs. Rodney P)


  • Pen Rhythm
  • The Dread Affair
  • Rasta Time in Palestine
  • City Psalms
  • Talking Turkeys
  • Funky Chickens
  • Propa Propaganda
  • Too Black, Too Strong
  • Face
  • Refugee Boy
  • Gangsta Rap (short-listed for the 2006 Manchester Book Award)
  1. ^ The Brighton Magazine
  2. ^ The Brighton Magazine
  • Rasta poet rejects honour from Queen, by Jane Wardell, Associated Press. Published by the Toronto Star on 27 November 2003.
  • Rasta poet publicly rejects his OBE by Merope Mills, published by The Guardian on 27 November 2003.
  • Benjamin Zephaniah — from The Black Presence in Britain
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