IN a somber announcement on Instagram, the family of Benjamin Zephaniah revealed that the acclaimed poet and Peaky Blinders actor succumbed to a brain tumour at the age of 65. The family disclosed that Zephaniah received the devastating diagnosis just eight weeks ago, marking a swift and unexpected end to a prolific career that spanned poetry, literature, music, television, and activism.
The heartfelt statement shared on Instagram read, “It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the death of our beloved husband, son, and brother in the early hours of this morning, 7th December 2023. Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago. Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed.”
Zephaniah, born on April 15, 1958, in Birmingham, rose to prominence in the 1980s as a pivotal figure in the UK’s performance poetry scene. His impactful and politically charged performances addressed issues of social justice, race, and politics, reflecting his own experiences as a person of mixed racial background.
His notable poetry collections, including “The Dread Affair: Collected Poems” (1985), “Propa Propaganda” (1996), and “Too Black, Too Strong” (2001), solidified his place as a literary force. Beyond his written work, Zephaniah was a fervent activist, advocating for animal rights, veganism, and anti-racism.
Acknowledged not only for his literary prowess but also for his musical contributions, Zephaniah seamlessly blended reggae, dub, and spoken word poetry in his albums. His unique voice and advocacy for social change established him as a significant figure in contemporary British culture.
In the television realm, Zephaniah showcased his versatility by portraying the character of Jeremiah Jesus in the popular series “Peaky Blinders.” As a preacher and political leader leading the charismatic “Noah’s Ark” movement, Zephaniah’s portrayal added a distinctive and intense dimension to the show, illustrating his prowess beyond the realms of literature and poetry.
As news of Benjamin Zephaniah’s passing reverberates, tributes pour in, acknowledging the profound impact he had on British culture and the arts. His legacy, marked by a commitment to justice, equality, and artistic expression, will undoubtedly endure in the hearts of those touched by his work.
The family’s statement concluded with gratitude: “Thank you for the love you have shown Professor Benjamin Zephaniah,” encapsulating the collective sentiment of a nation mourning the loss of a true pioneer and innovator.