Linton Kwesi Johnson – Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem) Brilliant lyrics concerning racism.

Linton Kwesi

In the 1980s there was a lot of racism in Britain. We had attacks on the Black community by the National Front, riots in Brixton and harassment by the police.

Black youths would be systematically picked up by the police, insulted and treated poorly. It caused a seething anger and distrust of the establishment. The Sus laws have since been scrapped. Nobody can be arrested on suspicion anymore. There has to be good grounds. Tensions have eased and racism has found new targets.

Linton Kwesi Johnson was a giant of a poet. He set out the song in the form of a letter home to his mother in Jamaica. He summarised the problem in these brilliant words:

Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus poem)

From Brixton Prison, Jebb Avenue London S. W. 2 Inglan
Dear mama
Good day
I hope that when these few lines reach you they may
Find you in the best of health
I doun know how to tell ya this
For I did mek a solemn promise
To tek care a lickle Jim
An try mi bes fi look out fi him

Mama, I really did try mi bes
But none a di less
Sorry fi tell ya seh, poor lickle Jim get arres
It was de miggle a di rush hour
Hevrybody jus a hustle and a bustle
To go home fi dem evenin shower
Mi an Jim stan up waitin pon a bus
Not causin no fuss

When all of a sudden a police van pull up
Out jump tree policemen
De whole a dem carryin baton
Dem walk straight up to me and Jim
One a dem hold on to Jim
Seh dem tekin him in
Jim tell him fi leggo a him
For him nah do nutt’n
And ‘I’m nah t’ief, not even a but’n
Jim start to wriggle
De police start to giggle

Mama, mek I tell you wa dem do to Jim?
Mek I tell you wa dem do to ‘I’m?

Dem thump him him in him belly and it turn to jelly
Dem lick ‘I’m pon ‘I’m back and ‘I’m rib get pop
Dem thump him pon him head but it tough like lead
Dem kick ‘I’m in ‘I’m seed and it started to bleed

Mama, I jus couldn’t stan up deh, nah do nuttin’

So mi jook one in him eye and him started fi cry
Me thump him pon him mout and him started fi shout
Me kick him pon him shin so him started fi spin
Me hit him pon him chin an him drop pon a bin
– an crash, an dead

More policman come dung
Dem beat me to the grung
Dem charge Jim fi sus
Dem charge mi fi murdah

Mama, doan fret
Doan get depress an downhearted
Be of good courage

Your loving son – Sonny

8 thoughts on “Linton Kwesi Johnson – Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem) Brilliant lyrics concerning racism.

  1. Wow that is really sad. Racism is just so pathetic how can anyone treat someone else differently based on nothing but their skin color. And the worst part is not much has changed in the world. You’re still judged differently based on your skin color.

    1. Well Pooj unfortunately that is still true. It goes deeper than that though I think. Human beings are really very primitive. We’ve only just begun. We’ve hardly evolved at all. We are basically fascistic and tribal with a thin layer of civilisation over the top. When you rub it the primitive urges break through. Evolutionary, I believe, we are still psychologically geared to operate in small tribal groups. It is not just colour or race; it is gang mentality, cliquey groups, prejudice against sexual orientation and hair colour, religion, which football team, music genres – you name it. We don’t need much of an excuse. We have a cruel, nasty and vindictive streak.
      But – on a positive note – if you take the long view of history with it’s torture, wars and fundamentalist crap – we are definitely getting better!
      I just hope we learn quickly enough before we breed out of control and successfully destroy the planet!

      1. Yeah I mean we are evolved to be a certain way and we have always both segregated others and been segregated and I guess because of that we just evolved to be protective against people who are different than us.
        Yeah I mean we are doing a lot better I just don’t think we’re doing as great as we could be doing.

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