The death of poet
on December 26 at 85 has created an incalculable void. Not merely because he was beloved as the “singing voice of the South African Liberation Movement,” a man who broke stones with
in prison, but because he remained a tireless freedom fighter. Whatever the issue, Dennis was there acting as a voice for the voiceless.
But another part of his legacy merits mention. Like no one before him or since, Dennis used sport as leverage to fight for social justice–in his case, to shed light on apartheid. He organized entire blocs of the world around a simple question: how can Olympic officials claim the Games stand for “brotherhood” if apartheid nations are able to participate? It worked. Dennis changed international sports forever. Over the course of decades, the organizations he founded, like the
South African Nonracial Olympic Committee
, hammered nails into apartheid’s coffin.
Until the final days of his life, Dennis was in the streets, protesting the demolition of low-income housing to make way for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. In December 2007 he publicly rejected induction into the South African Sports Hall of Fame, saying, “I cannot…join a hall of fame alongside those who flourished under racist sport.” It was a remarkable life. As Dennis replied when I asked how he stayed so active in his 80s, “This is no time for laurels. This is no time for rest.” DAVE ZIRIN
KEEP ON TRUCKIN’:
, the blue-collar intellectual, truck-driving internationalist and globally respected author who died in December at 64 (from pancreatic cancer), fully embraced the anti-corporate globalization slogan: “Another World Is Possible.” Costello was the energetic founder of groups such as the
Campaign on Contingent Work
North American Alliance for Fair Employment
Global Labor Strategies
, and he wrote (with
) groundbreaking books like Global Village or Global Pillage (1994) and Globalization From Below (2000), which forged newer and deeper understandings of the importance of international solidarity on economic and social issues.
Costello delighted in the late ’90s renewal of activism around globalization, and he celebrated the new tools available to organizers. In one of his last articles for The Nation (“Social Movements 2.0,” January 15, 2009), he wrote with Brecher and Smith that the “online universe is not simply another place for people to congregate, circulate a petition, debate politics or mail out a newsletter…. Instead, the web is increasingly looking like the invention of the printing press, which radically changed the lives of even those who could not read, by spurring the Protestant reformation and scientific revolution.” That was classic Costello: rooted in the old struggle between privilege and the cooperative commonwealth, yet ever at the ready to employ new technologies, adopt smarter tactics and build broader coalitions. JOHN NICHOLS