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Sent: December 26, 2009 dear friends and colleagues, i just read about the passing of dennis brutus. the encomium posted below gives you sufficient information about his life, but it doesn't indicate his importance to us, the members of the african literature association, over many decades. dennis was one of us, one of the core members of the ala, one of our presidents, one of our founders, one of our debaters, and of course one of our great writers. i say 'our' because he was with us for so many years, was one of those well-known authors and activists who insisted, really really insisted, that the ala, unlike the asa or mla or other "a"s be committed to the freedom of the african continent, and actually do something about it. when the ala was founded, with his collaboration alongside bernth lindfors and all those other texans, where brutus was temporarily attached, it was with the belief that literature and culture needed to serve the people of africa, not simply express their values; that it should be liberating, not simply expressive. brutus came to us as a south african militant, and he put the issue of apartheid, boycotting, struggling, organizing, before us. we debated and argued in meetings that people will never forget, so heated were we over the issue of the boycott. so heated was the commitment to revolutionary politics, liberation politics. eloquent words from lem johnson, steve arnold, and dennis brutus, of course, dennis. his poetry was always part of the readings we held at our meetings, and they woke us up. he rescued us one year when we had no annual conference arranged, and quickly organized the meeting in northwestern. we had poetry readings in black lit bookstores in chicago, bringing into the activist local scene, something we normally miss at college campus meetings. dennis became active in amnesty international, got elected onto the board of directors for aiusa, and carried the struggle to the human rights scene. and always it was the sports organizing that retained a focus in his activism in the states. when he came to michigan state university, students who had studied african lit came to meet him, and it was, for them, intensely exciting to engage a well-known figure who was completely open to their world, who actually wanted them there, to speak to them, to excite them over our issues. i know many of us will say and think that it seems impossible that dennis brutus won't be coming to our conferences again, won't be speaking out about the war, the economies of injustice, the perpetrating of inequity by the global economy. the last speech i recall dennis giving addressed globalization in the most eloquent of terms, signaling how we now needed to reshape our struggle to address issues of justice in ways that were new to us, even if they were based on a spirit of resistance that we had well-understood in african terms for thirty years. i hope that our friends and colleagues on this list will share some of their memories of time spent with dennis--because we did share time with that bearded friend in restaurants and cafes, while mulling over what we needed to do next. i want to hear other friends remember him as we had known him. it seems an important moment for us. ken harrow One of SA's best loved Marxists, Dennis Brutus, performed 'Marx in Soho' - set in South Africa - and we will be posting a video of it at some point. Dennis left us this morning, surrounded by loving relatives, without pain. His final period in Durban, about six weeks ago, reminded all of us of the courage and 'stubborn hope' - and of the need not to mourn, too long, but to celebrate. If anyone would like to assist with memorials, in whatever city and setting, please let us know; events will be announced in coming days. There will also be a website to post the photos Dennis loved so much, and we'll try to have videos of Dennis online for posterity. Mainly, keep struggling for justice, in honour of his politics, and keep expressing, in honour of Dennis' contribution to culture and inspiration. And keep enjoying every minute no matter how grim the enemy and the circumstances, as he always insisted. Patrick (presently at 1 510 525 4802) Statement from the Brutus Family on the passing of Professor Dennis Brutus Professor Dennis Brutus died quietly in his sleep on the 26th December, earlier this morning. He is survived by his wife May, his sisters Helen and Dolly, eight children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren in Hong Kong, England, the USA and Cape Town. Dennis lived his life as so many would wish to, in service to the causes of justice, peace, freedom and the protection of the planet. He remained positive about the future, believing that popular movements will achieve their aims. Dennis’ poetry, particularly of his prison experiences on Robben Island, has been taught in schools around the world. He was modest about his work, always trying to improve on his drafts. His creativity crossed into other areas of his life, he used poetry to mobilize, to inspire others to action, also to bring joy. We wish to thank all the doctors, nurses and staff who provided excellent care for Dennis in his final months, and to also thank St Luke’s Hospice for their assistance. There will be a private cremation within a few days and arrangements for a thanks giving service will be made known in early January. *** Dennis Vincent Brutus, 1924-2009 World-renowned political organizer and one of Africa’s most celebrated poets, Dennis Brutus, died early on December 26 in Cape Town, in his sleep, aged 85. Even in his last days, Brutus was fully engaged, advocating social protest against those responsible for climate change, and promoting reparations to black South Africans from corporations that benefited from apartheid. He was a leading plaintiff in the Alien Tort Claims Act case against major firms that is now making progress in the US court system. Brutus was born in Harare in 1924, but his South African parents soon moved to Port Elizabeth where he attended Paterson and Schauderville High Schools. He entered Fort Hare University on a full scholarship in 1940, graduating with a distinction in English and a second major in Psychology. Further studies in law at the University of the Witwatersrand were cut short by imprisonment for anti-apartheid activism. Brutus’ political activity initially included extensive journalistic reporting, organising with the Teachers’ League and Congress movement, and leading the new South African Sports Association as an alternative to white sports bodies. After his banning in 1961 under the Suppression of Communism Act, he fled to Mozambique but was captured and deported to Johannesburg. There, in 1963, Brutus was shot in the back while attempting to escape police custody. Memorably, it was in front of Anglo American Corporation headquarters that he nearly died while awaiting an ambulance reserved for blacks. While recovering, he was held in the Johannesburg Fort Prison cell which more than a half-century earlier housed Mahatma Gandhi. Brutus was transferred to Robben Island where he was jailed in the cell next to Nelson Mandela, and in 1964-65 wrote the collections Sirens Knuckles Boots and Letters to Martha, two of the richest poetic expressions of political incarceration. Subsequently forced into exile, Brutus resumed simultaneous careers as a poet and anti-apartheid campaigner in London, and while working for the International Defense and Aid Fund, was instrumental in achieving the apartheid regime’s expulsion from the 1968 Mexican Olympics and then in 1970 from the Olympic movement. Upon moving to the US in 1977, Brutus served as a professor of literature and African studies at Northwestern (Chicago) and Pittsburgh, and defeated high-profile efforts by the Reagan Administration to deport him during the early 1980s. He wrote numerous poems, ninety of which will be published posthumously next year by Worcester State University, and he helped organize major African writers organizations with his colleagues Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. Following the political transition in South Africa, Brutus resumed activities with grassroots social movements in his home country. In the late 1990s he also became a pivotal figure in the global justice movement and a featured speaker each year at the World Social Forum, as well as at protests against the World Trade Organisation, G8, Bretton Woods Institutions and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. Brutus continued to serve in the anti-racism, reparations and economic justice movements as a leading strategist until his death, calling in August for the ‘Seattling’ of the recent Copenhagen summit because sufficient greenhouse gas emissions cuts and North-South ‘climate debt’ payments were not on the agenda. His final academic appointment was as Honorary Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society, and for that university’s press and Haymarket Press, he published the autobiographical Poetry and Protest in 2006. Amongst numerous recent accolades were the US War Resisters League peace award in September, two Doctor of Literature degrees conferred at Rhodes and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in April - following six other honorary doctorates – and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the South African government Department of Arts and Culture in 2008. Brutus was also awarded membership in the South African Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, but rejected it on grounds that the institution had not confronted the country’s racist history. He also won the Paul Robeson and Langston Hughes awards. The memory of Dennis Brutus will remain everywhere there is struggle against injustice. Uniquely courageous, consistent and principled, Brutus bridged the global and local, politics and culture, class and race, the old and the young, the red and green. He was an emblem of solidarity with all those peoples oppressed and environments wrecked by the power of capital and state elites – hence some in the African National Congress government labeled him ‘ultraleft’. But given his role as a world-class poet, Brutus showed that social justice advocates can have both bread and roses. Brutus’s poetry collections are: * Sirens Knuckles and Boots (Mbari Productions, Ibaden, Nigeria and Northwestern University Press, Evanston Illinois, 1963). * Letters to Martha and Other Poems from a South African Prison (Heinemann, Oxford, 1968). * Poems from Algiers (African and Afro-American Studies and Research Institute, Austin, Texas, 1970). * A Simple Lust (Heinemann, Oxford, 1973). * China Poems (African and Afro-American Studies and Research Centre, Austin, Texas, 1975). * Strains (Troubador Press, Del Valle, Texas). * Stubborn Hope (Three Continents Press, Washington, DC and Heinemann, Oxford, 1978). * Salutes and Censures (Fourth Dimension, Enugu, Nigeria, 1982). * Airs and Tributes (Whirlwind Press, Camden, New Jersey, 1989). * Still the Sirens (Pennywhistle Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1993). * Remembering Soweto, ed. Lamont B. Steptoe (Whirlwind Press, Camden, New Jersey, 2004). * Leafdrift, ed. Lamont B. Steptoe (Whirlwind Press, Camden, New Jersey, 2005). * Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader, ed. Aisha Kareem and Lee Sustar (Haymarket Books, Chicago and University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg, 2006). He is survived by his wife May, his sisters Helen and Dolly, eight children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren in Hong Kong, England, the USA and Cape Town. (By Patrick Bond) -- You received this message because you are subscribed to the "USA-Africa Dialogue Series" moderated by Toyin Falola, University of Texas at Austin. For current archives, visit http://groups.google.com/group/USAAfricaDialogue For previous archives, visit http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa/ads/index.html To post to this group, send an email to USAAfricaDialogue@googlegroups.com To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to USAAfricaDialogue- email@example.com Kenneth W. Harrow Professor of English Michigan State University firstname.lastname@example.org 517 803-8839 fax 353 3755