I’ve just come back from a tribute celebrating the life of Dr. Roi Ankhkara Kwabena. I am moved to write because I was move beyond my expectations. I met Roi a few times through Writers Without Borders – did one of his workshops and thought him an unusual man. The last time I saw him was a few weeks before his death when he came to do a poetry reading as part of the Equiano exhibition at the Art Gallery in Birmingham. I remember he missed his slot because his train was late. His audience had gone and so he performed to four of us who had gone to say hello. He looked very frail (more so than usual) and propped himself up on the lecturn when he spoke. I can’t really remember what he said because a) I was cold, and b) I was too busy watching the movement of his face. He had a very mobile and expressive face. I remember Sue saying he was very ill, but I took it to mean with one of the numerous bugs that was going around then. Not with the cancer that was diagnosed too late for treatment.
I’m not too brilliant myself at the moment, coming down with a head cold but decided to go to his 21 Drum Salute at (very fittingly) The Drum tonight. I’m so gald I went. I learned so much more about him by going. I didn’t know he played the drum – which seemed to have been such a big part of his life – and now I’ll never hear him play. I never knew he was so well travelled. I knew he was an activist but I didn’t know to what extent. The more I heard, the more humbled I felt because you would not know these things from talking to him. He was extremely unassuming. Someone said he had no ego; that he was a very spiritual man; that he quietly went about the business of fighting the battles of the oppressed, the displaced, those without hope and those with talent who needed a mentor to bring it out. And as I listened I realized that he was all the things I aspire to be, and I felt even more humbled. But by the time they did the second 21 drum salute I felt priviliged to at least have met him.