In October, 1988, the African Studies Association held its conference in Chicago. Guild Books had a reception for the authors attending the meeting. Guild also took the opportunity, during this important meeting, to salute Dennis Brutus with a reading of his then recently published Salutes and Censures. Below are some items from that event, including 3 notes in Dennis’ handwriting.
Poet Mwatabu Okantah’s poem about Dennis appears on the lower left of the flyer to the left on this page, a tribute we wished to celebrate. We had met with and corresponded with two leading publishers of books on Africa, Heinemann and Zed, and worked with both to increase our stock not only for the event and the convention, but as a way of bringing this literature to the forefront of our regular stock. Many people who frequented Guild had become involved in the campaign to keep Dennis from being deported back to South Africa (and certain death). But many of our friends were also active in other causes, from the battle to elect Mayor Harold Washington to the fight against homelessness to the fight against music and literary censorship. So it gratified us to receive this note from Dennis, written on a copy of the Guild Calendar:
“I am, of course, delighted,” Dennis wrote, “both with the Salute and the increased exposure of African literature: Guild has been doing a valuable job for many years and we are grateful to you.” His concern was always for the understanding of the context in order to evaluate the particularity. He elaborated further in this note to us written after the event:
Dennis seized the occasion to suggest “that this become an Annual event and that others be similarly honored at an annual Guild Books Salute.” He went further, to say that being so honored is significant, but not as significant as “getting things done and . . . helping others to get things done.” So there are two things here. One, there are many hands on the effort that need to be recognized. There is no “commandante” figure to turn to and depend on. And two, that the recognition is only important in relation to getting things done.
The last note, written October 31, two days after the Salute, carries the argument even further: a haiku written on a University of Pittsburgh notepad: