Linton Kwesi Johnson Blog

Riots, Rhymes and Reason

I am often asked why I started to write poetry. The answer is that my motivation sprang from a visceral need to creatively articulate the experiences of the black youth of my generation, coming of age in a racist society. Some of my early work dealt with fratricidal violence and internecine warfare, not too dissimilar to the mindless gang warfare of today. Back in those early days when I began my apprenticeship as a poet, I also tried to voice our anger, spirit of defiance and resistance in a Jamaican poetic idiom. Forty years ago, in 1972, I wrote a poem of resistance titled ‘All Wi Doin is...
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Preface to New Cross Massacre Story published by New Beacon Books

We have not forgotten ‘ … at the present time blacks are really very much inside British society … no longer on the periphery’ – John La Rose, 2003.             The most significant date in the history of the black experience in Britain during the second half of the twentieth century is the year 1981. It began inauspiciously in the early hours of 18 January with a racist arson attack on a sixteenth birthday part in south-east London, which resulted in the deaths of thirteen young black people and twenty-six revellers suffering serious injuries. The response of the police, aided and...
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Short Speech Given At The Unveiling of UNIA Blue Plaque

 UNIA Blue Plaque Unveiling on Marcus Garvey’s 124th birthday At 2 Beaumont Crescent, West Kensington on 17 August 2011 The re- interment of Marcus Garvey’s body in Jamaica in 1964 by Jamaica’s first independent government, and his elevation as Jamaica’s first national hero was, and remains of profound significance for the majority of Jamaicans at home and abroad. Viewed in the context of his time, Marcus Mosiah Garvey is rightly revered as one of the great men of the early twentieth century. Long before the civil rights, black power and anti-colonial movements, Garvey had achieved what...
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Calabashment In Jamdoun

A decade is a significant milestone in the life of any cultural institution, and the 10th annual Calabash International Literary Festival held in May this year, a highlight in Jamaica’s cultural calendar, confirmed its place in the premier league of literary festivals. The organizers, Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes and Justine Henzell, have shown what can be achieved with vision, imagination, focus and hard work in a literary back-water of the Americas. With a unique combination of local, regional and international writers, Calabash strikes a nice balance between ‘high-brow’ and ‘popular’; and...
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Introduction to Lecture on African Consciousness in Reggae Music

The Ambivalence of Race in Jamaica Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I consider it an honour to have been asked by Doctor Carolyn Cooper to give the inaugural lecture at the launch of the Global Reggae Studies Centre. When I am in Jamaica I sometimes listen To Perkins On Line on the radio. A few days before Christmas I tuned in just in time to hear a caller berate a previous caller for talking nonsense about Africans. I have no idea what the previous caller had said. The programme’s host, Joan Williams, who was sitting in for Mr. Perkins, defended the...
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On Black History Month

Black History month (BHM) is perhaps now as ubiquitous in Britain’s inner cities as it is in the USA. The Americans have theirs in February and we have ours in October. It is one of the better ideas we have borrowed from our African American cousins. Here in the UK community organisations, colleges, schools, trade unions and local authorities have all embraced the idea. For some local authorities, BHM is an opportunity to tick race equality boxes and earn brownie points. Others approach the occasion with the seriousness it merits. The London boroughs of Camden, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark jointly...
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