Benjamin Zephaniah, “people’s laureate” Rasta poet from Birmingham, won new friends in Bath with a performance of his poems as part of a national tour.
He spoke about racism, crime and violence from a mature perspective of inclusion, redemption, forgiveness. Particularly moving in the light of the Windrush deportations was his poem The Death of Joy Gardner about the 1993 killing of a mother targetted for deportation.
Benjamin Zephaniah – press photo via Bath365
He spoke of a close Quaker encounter when he came up as a young repeat offender in front of Lady Cadbury in a Birmingham court. To his astonishment the judge decided on this accasion to give him a second chance, with a stern warning that if he came up in front of her yet again it would be a very different story. He did indeed appear in front of her again, but this time as a successful poet on stage. It seems that she tells that anecdote every bit as often as he does. More recently not all his critics have been as forgiving after his revelations about domestic violence, despite the remorse he has expressed.
Mr Zephaniah, who is patron of the Friends of Fairfield House, spoke also about the importance of the legacy to Bath of Rastafari Messiah H.I.M Haile Selassie I.
Benjamin Zephaniah narrated the film In the Footsteps of His Majesty about H.I.M Haile Selassie’s legacy to Bath.