CK, FDB! & LKJ

As Beavis might say: Christian you dumbass.

Linton Kwesi Johnson
Elizabeth DiNovella
The Progressive
February 2007

Lyricist Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamaica but has [along with Benjamin Zephaniah, perhaps] become Britain’s most celebrated black poet. He immigrated to England as a child, part of the succeeding waves of West Indians who arrived in the UK in the last several decades. “My generation is the second generation,” he says. “I call us the Rebel Generation.” This generation would not put up with the racial abuse its parents did. “Through our rebellion, we helped change Britain,” he says.

As a teenager in 1970, he joined the British Black Panthers and by the 1980s was a journalist and editor of the journal Race Today. He’s also reported for BBC and Channel 4.

As a young man growing up in south London, Johnson saw many people his age criminalized under what was known in the neighborhood as “sus law.” The police had resurrected a Victorian era law against vagrancy that had languished on the books. “Sus being short for suspicion,” Johnson explains, noting that the common charge was “attempt to steal from persons unknown.” His poem “Sonny’s Lettah (anti-sus poem)” is about a young man writing to his mother from Brixton prison, telling her his little brother got arrested, as did he…

1981 is perhaps most significant of black experience in Britain,” says LKJ, alluding to the New Cross Fire where thirteen blacks died. No one was ever convicted, but racial tensions in the neighborhood led many blacks to believe it was a firebombing. LKJ wrote “New Crass Massakah” as a protest.

wi did know seh it coulda happn
yu know—anytime, anywhe
. . .
it coulda be mi
it couda be yu
. . .
who fell victim to di terrah by nite

In April that same year, police began “Operation Swamp 81,” and harassed the black community. “It was the last straw,” says LKJ. “There was a riot, and it spread.” He wrote “Di Great Insohreckshan” about it.

LKJ has released a dozen albums. He married verse and reggae music into a new form known as dub. He recorded several albums on the Island label, including Forces of Victory, Bass Culture, LKJ in Dub, and Making History. In the mid-1980s, he established his own music label [LKJ Records].

In 2002, Johnson became the first black poet to have his work published in England by Penguin Classics. He has authored four collections of poetry. Mi Revalueshanary Fren, Penguin’s compilation of selected poems from the 1970s-1990s, was just published in the United States… [More]

di innocent an di fool could paas fi twin
but haas a haas
an mule a mule
mawgah mean mawgah
it noh mean slim
yet di two a dem in common share someting
dem is awftin confused an get used
dem is awftin criticised an campramised
dem is awftin villified an reviled
dem is awftin foun guilty widout being tried
wan ting set di two a dem far apawt dow
di innocent wi habah dout
check tings out
an maybe fine out
but di fool…… cho!

— ‘Sense Outa Nansense’, Tings An’ Times, Shanachie Records, 1991

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
This entry was posted in Anti-fascism, History, Music, Poetry, State / Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to CK, FDB! & LKJ

  1. ben w says:

    quit your harping on Andrew, nobody is listening and nobody is being fooled.

    stick a fork in yourself, you are done.

  2. @ndy says:

    ben ben ben.

    you’re so stupid, it’s funny! what are you, 12?

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