Dead Palestinian Children – Gaza – July 2014
Photo Credit: Aanirfan Blogspot
In my Poetry Corner this month, in remembrance of over 500 Palestinian children who died in the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian 50-Day War, I feature the poem “Isaiah” by Jamaican dub poet Jean “Binta” Breeze. Her chosen African middle name ‘Binta’ means ‘close to the heart.’
Brought up by her grandparents, peasant farmers in the hills of rural Jamaica, Jean “Binta” Breeze lived as a Rastafarian – commonly known as Rasta in Jamaica – during the early years of her life.
Rooted in a blend of Ethiopian-Hebrew-Christian spirituality, Rastafarians worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia (1930-1974), as their spiritual leader. They regard Ethiopia, considered the birthplace of humanity, as their Zion: a utopia of unity, peace, and freedom. In contrast, Babylon is the degenerate society of materialism, oppression, and sensual pleasures.
To commemorate the Millennium, BBC Radio invited Breeze, who lives in England since 1985, to contribute a poem for their live poetry event. Selecting the BBC’s Old Testament theme, Breeze portrays the prophet Isaiah as de rastaman who comes down from the mountains to remind Israel (equated with Babylon) of God’s plan and calls on them to remember what love mean.
For readers unfamiliar with the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah was born around 765 B.C.E. In the year of King Uzziah’s death (733 B.C.E.), Isaiah received his prophetic mission to proclaim the fall of Israel and of Judah as punishment of the nation’s infidelity to God.
While Breeze’s poem was well-received by the British public, it was rejected for presentation at a 2005 Human Rights Watch (HRW) fund-raising event in London. The Middle East Department of the HRW New York Head Office censored the poem as “unsuitable and inappropriate” (57 Productions).
Rasta Prophet Isaiah breathe brimstone pon Babylon / Israel, you forget God plan. He calls out the sins of Israel:
Israel, yuh forget yuh God
Corruption mek yuh choose de bad
Wickedness defile yuh
De lust for blood done spoil yuh
[Note Breeze’s Caribbean Creole English and the Jamaican dub/reggae rhythm.]
Recalling the Holocaust, Rasta Prophet Isaiah tells the people of Israel that they should know better:
stop pushing others to where you’ve been
you of all should find genocide obscene
He warns them of God’s anger:
Israel be humble and prepare
God’s wrath is drawing near.
Inspired by recent events in Gaza, my Haiku poem “Israel” is a reflection on the nature of the God of Israel.
Read “Isaiah” and learn more about Jean “Binta” Breeze at my Poetry Corner September 2014.