Benjamin Zephaniah's school visits fondly remembered by fans following poet's death

Benjamin Zephaniah's school visits fondly remembered by fans following poet's death
Music Box revisited: Benjamin Zephaniah reveals how he became an author
The Independent

People are fondly remembering the British poet Benjamin Zephaniah and sharing their memories of his school visits following his death.

Zephaniah, 65, passed away on 7 December, eight weeks after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, as per a statement shared by his family on his Instagram account.

“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 (7 December),” the statement read. “Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks ago.”

Zephaniah was known for his creative writing and activism, fighting for social justice and racial equality.

His poems “Talking Turkeys” and “No Problem” were often taught in schools, and it was on regular school visits that the poet would recite his work and encourage young people to write.

Following the announcement of his death, people have been sharing their memories and tributes about how Zephaniah’s school visits influenced them.

Journalist and author Samira Shackle wrote on X/Twitter: “This is really sad news. I have such a strong memory of Benjamin Zephaniah performing at an assembly at my primary school in Kilburn, and telling us that you didn't have to look or talk a certain way to be a writer.”

Another person shared: “I’m so sad to hear this. Benjamin Zephaniah used to visit my school and instilled a real lifelong love of poetry in me and thousands of children. A titan of poetry. May he rest in peace.”

Someone else wrote: “Unbelievably sad to hear about the death of Benjamin Zephaniah. Poet, actor, polyglot doesn’t sum him up. Always a beacon of hope in this world.

“Remember him turning up to my school, one of the worst performing in London, and reciting poetry. Beautiful soul. Rest in peace.”

“I’m so sad to hear this. Benjamin Zephaniah visited my primary school to read us poems, I had a chance to speak with him and he encouraged me to write.

“I will always be grateful to him for making me feel heard & seen as I was getting bullied at school. RIP Benjamin,” another person shared.

Another person added: “This is incredibly sad. Benjamin Zephaniah came to my primary school and inspired me to love poetry and English literature. A fearless pioneer. RIP.”

Someone else wrote: “Benjamin Zephaniah came to speak at our extremely white, extremely sheltered Lincolnshire school when I was in year seven or eight (late 90s), and he was literally like nothing I’d ever seen before.

“It was electrifying, inspiring, I loved him. A great loss.”

“Devastated by this news - I met Benjamin Zephaniah at primary school and he read ‘Talking Turkeys’. I remember this poem word for word.

“As a brown child living in North Norfolk seeing this representation was so important to me and had such a profound effect. Rest in Power.”

Zephaniah famously turned down an OBE (Order of the British Empire) from the Queen in 2003 in protest against colonialism and remained politically active throughout his career.

In a 2017 Guardian interview, he talked about how poetry can break down barriers and engage people in topics they previously had no interest in.

He explained: “One of the things I’m really good at is talking about politics and ideas to people who are not interested in it for one reason or another. They don’t think it’s for them, but usually, I can explain why it is.”

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