In the poem below Dennis Brutus relates an incident that occurred in Sharpeville near Johannesburg on March 21, 1960, when South African policed opened fire, killing 69 civilians. Demonstrators were protesting the establishment of apartheid pass laws which restricted movement of non-whites. In addition to those killed, 176 were wounded with 63 people shot in the back. Over 13,000 were jailed. Dennis often referred to this event as radicalizing him to act on behalf of the poor.
Because it epitomized oppression
and the nature of society
more clearly than anything else;
it was the classic event