“So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.” – Steve Biko 1946-1977
The 11th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture was delivered this year by American Alice Walker, best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Colour Purple. The annual lecture is organised by the Steve Biko Foundation and is one of the activities aimed at building on the legacy of Biko, who espoused community development and the restoration of dignity and identity to an oppressed people.
In the sound clip presented above, recorded during apartheid, shortly before Biko’s death, he speaks about the principles of Black Consciousness which formed his political mindset. He said that under apartheid black people suffered a psychological oppression which made them feel inferior. Biko wanted black people to free their minds and elevate themselves.
According to him, the Black Consciousness Movement had diminished the fear in the minds of black people who were previously too scared to get involved in politics. Suddenly there was “more political talk, debate and condemnation of the system than there had ever been since 1964″.
South African History Online says Biko was arrested in 1977 and died in police custody in Pretoria. The police claimed that he died of a hunger strike, but an inquest revealed that he had been tortured to such an extent that he suffered brain damage before dying.
The number of people gathered for the Memorial Lecture at UCT’s Jameson Hall to celebrate his life and what he stood for, is a testimony to the impact that his thoughts and actions had on this country.
His legacy lives on in his writing, such as I write what I like, but also in projects such as:
The legacy of Steve Biko inspired News24 columnist Khaya Dlanga to write: “What I know of Biko from his writings makes me believe that he would have played no part in the greed-infested politics of patronage that we are witnessing”.
Also, according to Dlanga: “When the ANC proposed its media bill that would curtail media freedoms, I suspect he (Biko) would have said, ‘I will continue to write what I like’.”
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