Benjamin Zephaniah expresses feeling of injustice in a vast amount of his poems. Zephaniah does this through the techniques he uses; emotive language, facts and personal experiences. Zephaniah is a dub poet. Dub poetry is a form of performance of the West Indians. It is spoken over reggae rhythms and is mainly about political and social nature concerned with justice. Zephaniah uses plenty of real life examples to support his poems. Using real life examples show that Zephaniah’s point is true because it shows that it happens in reality. ‘Biko the greatness’ is a title of one of Zephaniah’s poems. Already in the title there is a sense of support towards Biko because he is described as ‘greatness’. This makes the reader know that Biko is good and know the message of the poem before even starting it. Biko is a south African man who stood up for the blacks against the whites because they were enslaving the blacks believing the blacks are inferior.
Zephaniah uses metaphors to portray a deeper meaning, describing him constantly as ‘greatness’ and the white people as ‘wickedness’. By doing this Zephaniah gains sympathy from the reader giving Biko a positive heroic image. Zephaniah also uses repetition to carve the message into the readers mind. ‘Wickedness tried to kill greatness’ this line is repeated three times in the poem to reinforce the message. Again Zephaniah repeats Biko’s name three times, ’We chant Biko today/ Biko tomorrow/ Biko forever.’ [34-36]. Here Zephaniah is emphasising Biko’s name to strengthen his point and make the reader more aware of Biko. As well as using many real life examples to support his poems. Zephaniah uses personal experience with emotive language to gain sympathy from the reader. Zephaniah has served a prison sentence for burglary as a young man.
He made a poem about his experience called ‘Chant of a Homesick Nigger’, starting with a monologue. ‘There’s too much time in dis dark night/ No civilians to hear me wail.’ [1-4]. This suggests the jail cell was sad and lonely using the words ‘dark and ‘no light’. Also there wasn’t anyone to listen to what he had to say to justify himself, they would just throw people in jail if they were black. In this poem Zephaniah uses a lot of emotive language to gain sympathy from the reader [6-10]. Zephaniah is implying that he has no-one, making the reader feel sympathy for him. He says he wants someone he can kiss. This shows he wants someone, but only to care for. And he does not want to live like this, he believes change can be made through the encouraging language in his poems [28-29]. Zephaniah curses in his poems, however this can be justified by his suffering and emotive language making the reader accept what Zephaniah has said. ‘No decent folk to hear me cry’ . Zephaniah is signifying that there is no-one decent enough to sympathise for him.
He then goes on to say ‘No god fearers or infidel/ can save me from this Lex Loci’ [26-27]. ‘No god fearers,’ Zephaniah is implying that they are senseless people with no heart to sympathise for him or even care about him at all. Zephaniah exposes the injustice imposed on him and on people who share the same race to both sympathy and empathy. He says ‘You call me nigga, scum and wog/ but i won’t call you master.’ this line implies that the white people deliberately used vulgar language to implement their racial supremacy. Zephaniah is trying to show the reader the harshness stressed upon him and goes onto say that he won’t give up, he will not admit defeat. This makes the reader feel like he/she can be a part of Zephaniah’s courage and even help too. Zephaniah has been awarded an OBE however refused to accept it by saying ‘“empire” evokes brutality and slavery,’ he also said ‘up yours’.
Though this seems harsh and unacceptable behaviour from Zephaniah, Zephaniah has said plenty of times that he does not like anything to do with monarchy. He does say that he made it clear enough in his poem ‘Bought and Sold’. Two things can be taken from this. The government did not understand his beliefs fully / didn’t take it seriously, or maybe the government knew that he had hated monarchy and due to this they gave him an OBE to see his reaction. This can be seen as a form of injustice. Zephaniah expresses his feelings in his poems through anger. Like many dub poets Zephaniah focuses a lot on politics. Linton Kwesi Johnson is also a dub poet who expresses his feelings about injustice through poetry.
Linton and Zephaniah have a lot of similarities in their poems. Both poets Linton and Zephaniah, curse in their poems. Linton calls the government ‘murderers’ and Zephaniah called them ‘White tyrants.’ This shows that Zephaniah and Linton have similar views and mentality because they both share the same race which is oppressed. Though there is a lot of aggression in Zephaniah’s poems, he still keeps the fun of poetry in his poems. This makes his poems pleasant to read, and enjoyable due to the rhythm and rhymes making the poem fluent and easy to remember. This means that the lines will remain in the reader’s mind. Zephaniah keeps a regular beat in some of his poems. ‘Three Black Males’ is a famous poem about the injustice imposed on three black men. Throughout the whole poem Zephaniah keeps a constant rhythm of an average 7 or 8 syllables per line. Having a fun regular rhythm means that the poem is fun to read. In conclusion, Benjamin Zephaniah is a dub poet who believes in equality and freedom. In having a word he says:
‘I have learnt that equality may not mean freedom and freedom may not mean liberation’
This shows that Benjamin Zephaniah believes that society has been brainwashed into thinking that equality means freedom because a mask of ‘equality’ is present, the system is fair, just and unprejudiced. However, they cannot see beyond the system and therefore are foolishly led to believe that equality means freedom and freedom means liberation.