Benjamin Zephaniah is a British poet, author, lyricist, musician, TV and Radio presenter. He writes poetry, YA novels, non-fiction, and books for children. In 2008, the Times put him on the list of Britain's 50 best writers of the post-war era.
Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Zephaniah was born and raised in Birmingham, England. He is the son of a Barbadian postman and a Jamaican nurse. His family were Christian, but he chose a Rastafari at a young age.
Zephaniah became a vegetarian at age 11 and a vegan at age 13. At the same time, he had finished full-time education. His poetry is heavily influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica.
At age 22, he published his first book, Pen Rhythm (1980), printed by Page One Books, a small cooperative publisher from East London. Three editions were issued.
Benjamin Zephaniah has published a total of 7 books of poetry, most recently Too Black, Too Strong Bloodaxe Books in 2001. While Zephaniah was poet-in-residence in Michael Mansfield's chambers, he was heavily involved in various investigations, including the investigation into the tragic event of Bloody Sunday, which led to the poetry collection.
In 1982, Zephaniah released the album Rasta, which featured the Wailers' first recording since Bob Marley's death, as well as a tribute to the political prisoner Nelson Mandela. The album gained him international prestige and topped the Yugoslavian pop charts.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Zephaniah made brief appearances in various television programs, such as The Bill (1994), "The Comic Strip Presents…" (1994), and Crucial Tales (1996).
In 1994, Zephaniah wrote the first book of poetry for children, titled Talking Turkeys. In 1999, he wrote a novel for teens, The Face, the first of four novels released.
In 2003, Benjamin Zephaniah was offered an appointment as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire but publicly rejected the honor. In a following article for The Guardian, Zephaniah said: "Me? I am profoundly anti-empire."
Between 2013 and 2022, Zephaniah portrayed the character of preacher Jeremiah "Jimmy" Jesus in the BBC drama series "Peaky Blinders," appearing in 14 episodes. In 2020, he participated as a panelist on the BBC television program "QI," specifically in the episode titled "Roaming."
In 2016, Zephaniah wrote the foreword to Angry White People: Coming face-to-face with the British far-right by Hsiao-Hung Pai.
His frank autobiography, The Life And Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah (2018), was published to coincide with his 60th birthday. BBC Sounds broadcast him reading his own text.
Benjamin Zephaniah now spends much of his time in China but continues working throughout Asia, South America, and Africa.
Photo credit: benjaminzephaniah.com