Dennis Brutus, one of South Africa’s most influential activists against the apartheid government, has died at the age of 85.
Terrible news has just reached my ears. The lion has died. The lion sleeps tonight. Professor Brutus fought the apartheid regime and helped bring down some of its structures, almost single handedly.
He was a poet whose poems written while in prison on Robben island are mainly why this blog exists, and why I write poetry. Letters to Martha, the book is called.
What do you begin to say when the pillar falls? Do you cry for the empty future (Brutus's "the weight of the approaching days") or celebrate his life? Dilemma. I have celebrated his life on this blog and privately in the rooms of my heart. I choose to mourn, now. So, what are we gonna do?
Who's gonna step into his shoes? What will them think, now that he is dead? That we're weaker? That they're stronger? We must mourn no matter what. He will live through his action and through his words, none of which spoke louder than the other.
Let us mourn, then, this man who has done so much for you and for me, and so little for himself. Let us mourn because orphans mourn, and let us hope that because of this departure, we will soon move from mourning to morning.
is not so very different from ours:
—who has not joyed in the arbitrary exercise of
or grasped for himself what might have been
and who has not used superior force in the
moment when he could,
(and who of us has not been tempted to these
so, in their guilt,
the bare ferocity of teeth,
chest-thumping challenge and defiance,
the deafening clamor of their prayers
to a deity made in the image of their prejudice
which drowns the voice of conscience,
is mirrored our predicament
but on a social, massive, organized scale
which magnifies enormously
as the private dehabille of love
becomes obscene in orgies.
© Dennis Brutus