SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) – The official funeral for internationally acclaimed poet and Barbadian academic Kamau Brathwaite, was held last Friday at James Street Methodist Church, Bridgetown, Barbados.
The family of Kamau Brathwaite, including his wife Beverley, son Michael Kwesi Brathwaite, and an elderly sister sat in the front pews. Friends, colleagues, and noted Bajan cultural artists and scholars were among the near 200 people at the final farewell. The remains of the deceased were placed before the altar in a gold colored casket, said Jacqueline Sample, president of HNP, Brathwaite’s St. Martin publisher.
“I had to be here for Kamau and for the St. Martin people who love his work,” said Shujah Reiph while paying his respects to the widow. Reiph, coordinator of St. Martin Book Fair, had organized Dr. Brathwaite’s first visit to St. Martin in 2000, to deliver the annual Black History Celebration Lecture.
Following Dr. Brathwaite’s death in Barbados on February 4, at age 89, there has been a stream of news from the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and the Americas about the poet who celebrated Caribbean peoples and cultures with what the Griffin International Poetry Prize has called “high lyricism.”
In The New York Times of February 17, Dr. Brathwaite was called “a scholar of history, literature and philosophy.”
At the funeral service, tributes of drumming, African dance and song, streaming video, choir singing, organ music, poetry, and speeches were made to the life and work of the man literary critic Fabian Badejo once called a “high priest” of 20th century poetry.
With the Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason and other officials in attendance, the Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM, H.E. David Commissiong, hailed Kamau Brathwaite as a “quite warrior” of extraordinary consciousness. The country’s Prime Minister Hon. Mia Mottley said the “titan” of letters was a “Caribbean revolutionary.” Kaisonian Dr. Anthony “Gabby” Carter saw Brathwaite as “my friend.”
The Professor Emeritus Gordon Rohlehr, a leading kasio scholar, traveled from Trinidad to deliver the eulogy for his friend of over 30 years. Well known St. Lucian poets John Robert Lee and Kendel Hippolyte and St. Martin writer Lasana M. Sekou were among the cultural workers from abroad at the funeral for Kamau Brathwaite.
Sekou also represented House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), the publisher of Kamau Brathwaite’s poetry books Words Need Love Too (2000) and Liviticus (2017).
The officiants at the James Street Methodist Church were lead by Rev. Adrian S. Odle, who delivered the homily. The body of Kamau Brathwaite was interred at Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens.