Today we remember Dennis Brutus, a poet and international anti-apartheid activist who died ten years ago. While in exile in the U.S., he became a founding director of the National Whistleblower Center. Brutus understood the power of whistleblowing and pushed to expand the center’s efforts internationally.
He led the effort to get apartheid South Africa barred from the Olympics. His activism landed him in the same Robbin Island prison as Nelson Mandela and then, on to exile. In the U.S., he taught, wrote poetry and promoted the divestiture movement. When President Ronald Regan ordered him deported, NWC founding board members Michael and Steven Kohn successfully defended him. He returned to South Africa in 1991 and continued pushing for justice there and worldwide.
Patrick Bond a professor of political economy at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa offers this tribute to Brutus.
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. But in his role as a world-class poet, Brutus also taught us well, that social justice advocates can have both bread and roses.