(formerly J. Ashton Brathwaite)
Barbados Author: 14 Books & 3 CDs of Poetry You ought to read him and judge for yourself!
A poor young teenager back in the day, still known by his given name John Ashton Brathwaite, but some years later changed to Odimumba Kwamdela –– somehow found a way to leave his poor Penny Hole village in his native Barbados and settled in the totally different metropolis London town, and there “became a man overnight”.
From as a little Barbados schoolboy, he had internalized the certainty of becoming a versatile writer and knew that his achievement depended not on wishing on some miraculous success, but primarily on constant pursuit and experiences. No wonder all his teachers were so impressed that such as youngster always showed an obsession with writing his poems, short stories and essays, based on what he observed, thought up and through the readings, for which he often showed an obsession. No wonder he made his early move to London, as was the case of his sudden feeling of change into adulthood. It being normal back in that time that many youngsters as young as 14 years of age were a major part of the Youth Employment Workforce, made to work like adults but paid a much lower wage, he did the same. While still as teenager, he became a British soldier. Reaching his mid-20s years later, he returned to civilian life, became a postman with the extremely busy main British post office. Come one year later, he took up residence in Canada, and became: postal worker; lithographer-printer; higher education-seeking night school student; occasional freelance writer continuing his writing-reading obsession; authored first book; founded, edited, and co-published Canada’s first Black magazine, Spear, around the time of authoring his third book, Niggers this is Canada. Both these accomplishments, gained him much exposure, positive and negative. Mainstream media labeling him “controversial writer” and “militant,” as also believed by government, contributed to his sudden disappearance from Ontario.
Employed in New York City daily by the graphic arts industry, he also did full time university night studies. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. As in Canada, some NYC professors also praised his writing abilities, yet often expressed some resentment over what they viewed as militancy in some of his attitudes. He had adopted the name Odimumba Kwamdela soon after moving to New York. He later made a change to teacher of writing and graphic arts at various NYC high schools, even one in volatile Rikers Island Jail for the many teenagers always locked down there. At the end of the normal school day, he also often taught evening adult education. After 20 years of such, he accepted the New York City Board of Education “early retirement deal”. Fitting into the above were his book writings, and a lot of “rapping” of poetry. For a few years, he also published and edited the monthly pocket-sized magazine The Root. Not to be forgotten, is his daily dealings with NYC adolescent students which can be so harsh to erode the health of teachers.
About his writing abilities, Kwamdela always insists: It did not come from university education, but from a birthright talent, one, dedication primarily, life experiences through living in major world cities, and travels while as a British soldier and after African countries included. Brief information here must tell why so many readers see Kwamdela as an interesting captivating writer. Two reasons he always gives in regards: “I was totally dedicated to writing for as long as I can recall.” “What a pity those who eventually got credited as “Great Writers’ got this due credit years after they died.”
You ought to read him judge for yourself.