Obituary: Ken Bodden

Ken

Ken Bodden

8 April 1950 – 20 October 2013

Ken Bodden’s sudden death at the age of 63 was a shock to those who knew him as a resilient fighter against racism and injustice and as a force of life, music and fun. Ken was an outstanding practitioner at the highest level of song-writing and performance. He was an international competitor at the winter Paralympics, a piano tuner and sports masseur. He was also a member and supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Group for 30 years.

Ken was born in Panama and lost his eyesight at a very early age. As educational opportunities for blind children were severely limited in Panama, his family sent him to school in Jamaica, from where he moved to Britain at the age of 14.

Ken’s magnificent voice, excellent ear and memory for thousands of tunes, his gift of mimicry and excellent speaking abilities were all offered in the service of the struggles he engaged with. Thousands remember him leading the singing on the Non-Stop Picket against Apartheid in the 1980s when he taught hundreds of people South African liberation songs. And his signature tune for the picket – ‘We are here till Mandela’s free, on a non-stop picket of the Embassy’ – will still be buzzing round many memories. But Ken made music too for the Irish political prisoners in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, for the Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign’s long march from Manchester to London, and for the miners’ 1984-85 strike against pit closures.

Ken’s physical courage went beyond the daring of cross-country skiing. As mourners at his funeral on 8 November were reminded, Ken participated in an FRFI delegation to Belfast in 1984 during which the RUC attacked marchers with plastic bullets. And for over two years he was one of the RCG comrades who regularly visited and supported the hundreds of defendants on the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham which was locked down by the police following the 1985 uprisings against state racism.

During a sit-down occupation of the foyer of the Odeon cinema in Holloway, north London, to demand more space for wheelchair users, Ken was told he was causing an obstruction. ‘Yep’, he said ‘Let’s get in the way of the bosses all the time and in every place’.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

 

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