Renowned Jamaican-British dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson briefly swapped his trademark homburg hat for a floppy academic bonnet this week when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University.
After being capped by Rhodes Registrar Steve Fourie, the dapper Johnson whipped off the black Tudor Bonnet and slapped his homburg back on his head to deliver the graduation address.
Johnson said he had, as a young Black Panther, decided he wanted to write reggae poetry after being arrested in Brixton in London for nothing more than being black.
“My voice would be a cultural weapon in the black liberation struggle.”
He said he was proud of his Jamaican heritage and very proud that Jamaica was the first country that refused to have anything to do with apartheid South Africa. He spoke fondly of his close relationship to South Africa throughout his life. He said when arrested by the police in London as a young man, he had been represented in court by Pan Africanist Congress stalwart Barney Desai who had been living in exile at the time. He had been found not guilty and, he said, Desai’s clinical cross-examination had exposed the police as liars and racists. He had, since 1994, visited South Africa a number of times.
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