Too Black, Too Strong is Benjamin Zephaniah's third collection from Bloodaxe. It addresses the struggles of black Britain more forcefully than all his previous books. With poems like 'Chant of a Homesick Nigga' and 'Kill Them Before Ramadan', he showed he was a poet who wouldn't stay silent, who didn't pull any punches, writing out of a sense of urgency and a commitment to social justice. He opened this hard-hitting and blackly funny book of poems with an outspoken comment on where he came from, setting his poetry against the political landscape of Britain. The book includes poems written while he was working with Michael Mansfield QC and other Tooks barristers on the Stephen Lawrence case.
Best known for his performance poetry with a political edge for adults – and his poetry with attitude for children – Zephaniah had his own rap/reggae band. He produced numerous recordings, including Dub Ranting (1982), Rasta (1983), Us and Dem (1990), Back to Roots (1995), Belly of de Beast (1996) and Naked (2004). He was the first person to record with the Wailers after the death of Bob Marley, in a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela, which Mandela heard while in prison on Robben Island. Their later meetings led to Zephaniah working with children in South African townships and hosting the President’s Two Nations Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996.
His first book of poems, Pen Rhythm, was produced in 1980 by a small East London publishing cooperative, Page One Books. His second collection, The Dread Affair, was published by Hutchinson’s short-lived Arena imprint in 1985. He published three collections with Bloodaxe, City Psalms (1992), Propa Propaganda (1996) and Too Black Too Strong (2001). To Do Wid Me, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce (Bloodaxe Books, 2013), includes a full-length feature film on DVD with all the poems performed in the film – taken from all three of his collections – included in the book.
Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me (complete film)
Pamela Robertson-Pearce's feature-length film Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me can now be seen free-to-view online. Click on the Vimeo logo to view full screen.
Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me (trailer)
Trailer for Pamela Robertson-Pearce's feature-length film Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me which can be seen complete on the DVD included in the DVD-book To Do Wid Me along with five music videos made by Zephaniah with the Beta Brothers.
Benjamin Zephaniah performs 'Dis Poetry' at Newcastle's Live Theatre in 2009: a clip from Benjamin Zephaniah: To Do Wid Me