[Marxism] Dennis Brutus yesterday: CT speech, award in NYC, "Gull", Tutu/Seeger tributes

Patrick Bond pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Sep 19 02:57:58 MDT 2009

Hi comrades,

For those interested in Dennis' progress fighting cancer, climate chaos 
and capitalism, our guru poet was phenomenal last night, starting at 6pm 
as the surprise guest star of a Cape Town booklaunch party. He first 
gave us commentary on the 1999 Seattle WTO protest in the context of his 
prior work kicking the white South African team out of the Mexico City 
and Montreal Olympic Games in 1968 and 1972. This was to give background 
evidence for his stirring call, demanding African unity between social 
justice activists and state rulers at Copenhagen, in order to prevent a 
damaging deal in mid-December similar to the failed 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

In short, Dennis hopes the Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi will follow 
through on last week's threat to walk the African Union out of the 
Conference of Parties once it's clear the North won't provide its 
overdue payment on ecological debt, or cut emissions sufficiently (40% 
by 2020 at minimum), or abandon counterproductive carbon trading 
gimmickry (a.k.a. 'privatisation of the air'). Dennis wants activists 
outside the Copenhagen meeting to recall the way 70 000 courageous 
protesters in Seattle a decade ago locked down, telling negotiators to 
reverse direction. Since they didn't, the Africans said bye bye and the 
Seattle talks imploded.

(The post-Seattle lessons are important, too. Having shown the strength 
to deny consent in 1999, the African rulers got a major concession at 
Doha two years later in the form of Trade-Related Intellectual Property 
Rights exemptions on AIDS medicines, again thanks also to social 
movement pressure from the Treatment Action Campaign and its allies. And 
at Cancun in 2003, with activists massing outside, the AU again showed 
spine by walking out, in spite of efforts by South Africa's negotiating 
team to generate a subimperial middle-ground stance, which is also a 
possibility at Copenhagen given that SA is leading the G77 delegates, 
quite counterintuitively given SA's role as one of the world's worst CO2 

Dennis concluded the booklaunch with a moving read of his eco-poem Gull 
(below). For an hour and a half in front of a fantastic crowd of 100 at 
the Book Lounge in Long Street, this was Dennis' first public appearance 
since being feted at Washington's Busboys&Poets celebration in May (via 

And in New York City a few hours later (1-3am!), he received the War 
Resisters League's Peace Award (alongside courageous Zimbabwean womens 
and gay/lesbian groups, and his old friend Bill Sutherland), which 
Archbishop Tutu applauded (below) and for which four YouTube shorts were 
prepared (URLS below). Transmitted live via skype, his discussions with 
old comrades - peering in at a laptop at the dinner table before the 
ceremony - were a thrilling highlight of the evening; he was so happy to 
see everyone who had come to honour him. Transmission of his thankyou 
broke down after a short while, but no matter, we were prepared with a 
short speech and two poems recorded the day before, so everyone can 
enjoy them on the web.

Dennis is surviving what must be the hardest, most painful months of his 
84 years, even worse in medical terms than the recovery after nearly 
dying from a gunshot through his mid-section during an escape from 
apartheid police in central Joburg forty-six years ago and then being 
tossed into Robben Island prison. However, spending yesterday and this 
morning with Dennis at his new Cape Town home, with an incredibly caring 
family (Tony, Jenny and the two grandsons), it's clear to me that his 
status is far improved from when I saw him last, on his departure from 
Durban a month ago. There's no more of the acute pain that characterised 
the prostate cancer symptoms, he's eating heartily, and he combines his 
wit and optimism with quiet reflection about his amazing life. One of 
his own mentors and buddies, Pete Seeger, wrote a comradely note for the 
WRL (he is also a past Peace Award recipient), and it reminded Dennis of 
the poems he'd done for Seeger's 90th birthday a few months back and in 
July (below).

Prior to the downturn in his health in late April when he fell and broke 
a rib, Dennis received two honorary doctorates on April 17 (Rhodes and 
Nelson Mandela Universities), and his magnificent 50-minute acceptance 
speech at Rhodes - a deconstruction of his latest political poem - will 
be online soon. He has also been as active as possible on the 
reparations front, filing testimonials in July about the apartheid 
profits case (through the Alien Tort Claims Act) now moving quickly into 
the New York courts, and assisting the Khulumani and Jubilee movements 
in U-turning the SA government's position away from Thabo Mbeki's former 
opposition to the case (a front page story in the Sunday business 
newspaper records this, a couple of weeks ago, and is at 

And in August Dennis worked with the emerging network of 'Climate 
Justice Now! South Africa' activists to fashion a call to 'seattle 
Copenhagen', his current fetish. Give him a call at 27 79 706 6971, and 
you'll get an earful on that topic, and lots more to think about as well.

He's meeting with the reparations lawyer Charles Abrahams today, and a 
climate strategy meeting will be held in his lounge with Amandla! 
magazine tomorrow. After his daughter Tina arrives from SF, Dennis will 
check in for a week at St Luke's to get more treatment but expects to be 
back on Christow Road by early October, when more visitors will be 
warmly welcomed. I'll check in again a couple of weeks after that and 
file an update. Feel free to send me any correspondence you'd like 
Dennis to have and we'll get it printed for him to enjoy, as his own 
email is just a bit challenging right now. But cancer, climate crisis 
and capitalism are not - he aims to defeat all three, you'll see!

PS, I nearly forgot to mention the World Cup here in 2010. He's not 
shying away from that challenge either, and a fantastic new doccie, 
Fahrenheit 2010, captures Dennis (from November 2008) and other 
sports-tourism sceptics (Ashwin Desai, Dale McKinley, Eddie Cottle) in 
debate with the local elite. As SA's social protest rate has only been 
increasing over the few months since the new president took power, and 
with not much hope for improved political-economic trends or public 
policy (aside from National Health Insurance), there's lots more to be 
said on that topic in coming months. I'll be sharing this powerful film 
with comrades in San Francisco, Boston and Washington over the next two 
weeks, so if you're interested in checking it out, let me know via this 
email address.


DENNIS ON YOU TUBE, 17 September 2009

(Thanks hugely to Bjorn Rudner for this filming)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQCiwJb-og0 Dennis Brutus War
Resisters League award

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ok8hoPlQ1s Dennis Brutus comments
on Pete Seeger

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RRLnEo85xw Dennis Brutus poem 'Gull'
Copenhagen conference

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RtuWT9MTSw Dennis Brutus Climate
Change & poem 'Longing'


(read by Dennis for his War Resisters League award ceremony, 18 
September 2009)

Gull gliding against
gray-silver autumn sky
sees a vast miasma of greed
slowly encompass our entire planet
cries out to unheeding stars
to whom wails of children rise
in shrill unending caterwauls

Gull sees traps and snares
lethal pellets of noxious lead
noisome sewers of excreta
dribbling across continents
rivers of pesticide
oozing from lush golfcourses

Gull gasps, chokes on acrid billows
from rainforests rampaging fires
rancid with roasting flesh
ashen with cindered bones

Gull breasts with buckling wing
fierce gusts of questions
strives, resists against questions
slowly droops against questions
succumbs twisting against question
submits to extinction: Questions

October 18, 1995


WRL 2009 Peace Award
September 18, 2009

Archbishop Tutu Statement

It is a pleasure to congratulate Dennis Brutus, and the good members of 
WOZA and GALZ, upon their receipt of the War Resisters League 2009 
annual Peace Award. We must also congratulate the War Resisters League, 
for recognizing the significance of the struggles in Southern Africa in 
our global efforts for an end to violence and for a just peace.

When we in South Africa needed the support of the international 
community to end the vicious system of racial oppression called 
apartheid, we had to have eloquent advocates to tell the world our story 
and persuade it to come to our assistance. We had none more articulate 
than Dennis Brutus, our wonderful poet-campaigner. We owe him an immense 
debt of gratitude.

In the difficult situation that Zimbabwe has been in, the members of 
WOZA and GALZ have courageously continued fighting for human rights 
there—specifically, for the rights of women and the rights of lesbians 
and gay men. Homophobia and the unequal treatment of women are crimes 
against humanity, every bit as unjust as apartheid. WOZA and GALZ show 
the world that once a people decide they must be free, there can be no 
stopping them.

We have long understood that militarism around the world is fueled by 
racism and, indeed, by every suppression of human rights. For the War 
Resisters League to expand its Peace Award to the international 
community by honoring WOZA, GALZ, and Dennis tonight is but another step 
in its eighty-six-year history of linking efforts for peace with efforts 
for justice.

Finally, I am happy to know that WRL is also honoring its longtime 
colleague and my dear friend, Bill Sutherland. For all those reasons, I 
am glad to be part of this historic evening. God Bless you all.

The Most Rev. Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Archbishop Emeritus,
Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Nobel Peace Laureate, 1984


A tribute to Pete Seeger
by Dennis Brutus

On his 90th birthday, 3 May 2009

There is joy in that voice
and lilting courage in that music
his message will endure, will endure
will endure, will endure
even while the years roll along

He has sung his songs in the face of hate
he has endured the storm’s bitter cold
he has preached his faith, his tolerance
confronting scorn he said “Be bold,
we will not be trapped or lured by gold”

His voice joins a mighty chorus
Arlo, Paul Robeson, Dylan and Joan
and all who sing in support of Freedom:
we know we are never alone
we know we are never alone

2 May, 2009, Durban


Honoring Pete Seeger
Remembering a fundraising-benefit concert
Northeastern University Law School, Boston 1980’s

“There is a season” we sang
and our hopes rang high
our voices rang clear
like bells in frosty air

There is a time to live
and a time to die
a time to hope
and a time to despair
and a time to survive
to survive, to survive

July 5, 2009
Parklands Hospital, Durban

More information about the Marxism mailing list