One of Britain’s most prolific literary voices, Professor Benjamin Zephaniah has died aged 65 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor eight weeks ago.
In a post shared on the revered poet and author's X account, a statement read: “It is with great sadness and regret that we annouuce the of our beloved husband, son, brother in the early hours of this morning, 7th Decemeber 2023. Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumour 8 weeks ago.
“Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed. We shared him with the world and we know many will be shocked and saddened by this news. Benjamin was a true pioneer and innovator; he gave the world so much. Through an amazing career, including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television, radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy.”
In July 2022, the Birmingham native solidified his position as an Academy Honorary Fellow. He had earlier turned down an OBE in 2003 due to its association with slavery and as a form of protest against the Iraq war.
“I’ve been fighting against Empire all my life, fighting against slavery and colonialism all my life,” he told The Big Narstie Show three years ago. “I’ve been writing to connect with people, not to impress governments and monarchy. So how could I then accept an honour that puts the word Empire on to my name? That would be hypocritical.”
Born to Jamaican mother and Barbadian father, Zephaniah moved from Handworth, Birmingham, to London at the age of 22, where his career kicked off—starting out as a dub poet to releasing a number of books and teaching literature—and continued to shine until his very last day.