Cont…) Before entering wood end I bought a book about Bob Marley called Catch a Fire. I read it over and over again. The music led me to his lyrics and in particular The Survival album which seemed to depict what I was going through at the time. “don’t let them change you, or rearrange you” he sang. “you copy all your poems off bob Marley records” barked Mr Henderson one of the staff. Still I wrote.
When I left the lock up after after seventeen years in the care system I was given my birth certificate and upon it was my name Lemn Sissay. I was also given a letter from my mother pleading for my return in 1968. She had me fostered for a short period of time while she studied but the social worker had no intentions of returning me to her and never did. Also he’d illegally named me after himself – Norman.
From then, alone, I took my name and began the search for my family, my roots. At 29 years old I found my father – dead. He was a pilot for Ethiopian Airlines. But there’s one grainy black and white picture of him taken in the early seventies. On his finger, a ring. You can clearly see the black onyx square inlaid with the golden Lion upholding the Ethiopian Flag. It’s the exact same ring Bob Marley wore.