Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze Claimed Madness, Rainbow and Song

I recently wrote an obituary for Jean Binta Breeze for Global Voices, wiping away a tear or two as I wrote. I was very grateful to Jamaican broadcaster Fae Ellington for her contributions, and also to poet and performer Owen “Blakka” Ellis. I saw Jean in performance more than once, in London, and it was an emotional experience for me (perhaps because I have also had mental health issues in my life, and still fight those battles). I very much enjoyed this post by Professor Carolyn Cooper… The reference to “Jane Eyre” resonates with me – it was my favorite book as I was growing up and still right at the top of my list. There are some powerful connections here. Thank you Prof for this very touching tribute.

Jamaica Woman Tongue

In her poem “Red Rebel Song,” Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze created a familiar character sounding a lot like her own self:

“I is de red rebel

woman

accepting I madness

declaring I song

nah siddung eena attic

tek no fire bun

I singing it loud

I singing it long

Think seh I done

well

I jus a come

I I I own rainbow

I I I own song”

On August 4, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze joined the ancestors. She is certainly not done. Death will not silence her song. And her rainbow promise will not fade. Breeze has left a legacy of poems, short stories, scripts for theatre and film as well as numerous recordings of her vibrant performances that will, indeed, endure. Her exceptional body of work confirms her place as a major figure in Caribbean literature. From the sturdy roots of dub poetry, Breeze branched out into other literary genres…

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