From left: CLF President Shujah Reiph, Barbadian poet Margaret Gill, Barbados Ambassador to CARICOM David Commissiong, author and lecturer Dr. Yvonne Weekes and Barbadian poet Winston Farrell at James Street Methodist Church after the funeral of Kamau Brathwaite. (CLF photo)
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados–The official funeral service for internationally acclaimed Barbadian poet and academic Kamau Brathwaite was held at James Street Methodist Church in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Friday, February 21 and was attended by St. Martin cultural activists and writers Shujah Reiph and Lasana Sekou.
Sekou also represented House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), the publisher of Brathwaite’s poetry books Words Need Love Too (2000) and Liviticus (2017).
Brathwaite’s family, including wife Beverley, son Michael Kwesi Brathwaite and an elderly sister, sat in the front pews. Friends, colleagues and noted Barbadian cultural artistes and scholars were among the almost 200 persons attending Brathwaite’s final farewell.
“I had to be here for Kamau and for the St. Martin people who love his work,” Conscious Lyrics Foundation (CLF) President Reiph said to Brathwaite’s wife Beverly. Reiph, coordinator of the St. Martin Book Fair, had organised Brathwaite’s first visit to the island in 2000 to deliver the annual Black History Lecture.
At the funeral service, tributes of drumming, African song and dance, video streaming, choir singing, organ music, poetry and speeches were made to honour the life and work of the man St. Martin literary critic Fabian Badejo once called a “high priest” of 20th-century poetry.
With Barbados Governor-General Sandra Mason and other officials in attendance, Barbados Ambassador to the Caribbean Community CARICOM David Commissiong hailed Brathwaite as a “warrior” of extraordinary consciousness.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called Brathwaite a “titan” of letters and a “Caribbean revolutionary.”
“Kamau Brathwaite was a quiet Caribbean revolutionary with Barbadian roots, a passionate warrior fighting against the language, history and culture of our colonisers, his battle strategic and painstaking, but acquiring foot soldiers one student at a time, one reader at a time.
“Kamau didn’t want us so much to rebel and banish English language and English literature as much as he wanted us to acknowledge and embrace the languages and rhythms of Africa, the motherland and ultimately to craft a national identity and to embrace and celebrate our nation’s language,” newspaper Barbados Today quotes Mottley as saying.
Leading Kaiso scholar Gordon Rohlehr travelled from Trinidad to deliver the eulogy at Brathwaite’s funeral.
Well-known St. Lucian poets John Robert Lee and Kendel Hippolyte were also among several persons from abroad at Brathwaite’s funeral.
The funeral was officiated by Reverend Adrian Odle. Brathwaite’s body was interred at Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens.