September 12, 2009

Remembering Biko

September 12, 1977 - the day Steve Biko,a thirty year old anti-apartheid activist and leader of the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa was murdered in a prison. In memory of Biko, i wrote this piece, a long time ago....

Even though we might occupy different social political geographic spaces, and might have different histories, i think (through a philological understanding) there is something in each of us that Biko speaks too...

Remembering Biko

he was named "bantu"
an isiXhosa word meaning "people"
but it is a rare individual who can
live up to such a name
stephen bantu biko was not just a person
but a collectivity, a movement, a legacy
the spoken conscience of a people
that lives on 32 years after his cold blooded murder
in a south african prison.

32 years later biko,
it's still a cruel world.
just life, not a just life.
the politics of exclusion have similar but different hues
difference is still considered dangerous
colour still fractures, corrupts, taints, estranges
but colour is not rational, not deterministic, not definite

brown could be black
somewhere black is brown, brown is red
somewhere coloured is black+white
somewhere else coloured is black/brown/red/yellow...
not to forget that white is also a colour
so we are all coloured
or we are all colourless
just as we are all people

puerile semantic gymnastics? yes and no.

mutable mutating illusionary boundaries, but also
strong labels forging stronger identities
and often immutable realities

racism is not just about "race"

but about
power politics
phobias prejudices
historical distortions, relegations
incontestable insecurities
selective ignorance
self aggrandizement
concerted conditioning
fallacy perpetuation
cultural imperialism

lamentably, not much has changed, biko.

black consciousness (BC) is alive
but BC is still not always "PC"
why not?

BC is an attitude, an ethos
"a way of life"
a celebration
of identity, of oneness, of difference

BC is also
brown consciousness
coloured consciousness
subaltern consciousness
oppressed consciousness

BC is about
breaking the silence
trampling ideologies of racial (gender/religious/class/caste) supremacy
liberating the mind

BC is about
shattering stereotypes
strengthening resistance
reclaiming spaces

BC is about
rescinding historical amnesia
confronting hegemony
creating praxis

BC is about
overhauling the 'system'
shunning tokenism
engendering equality

BC is about
balancing power imbalances
instituting revolution
making justice live

BC is about
redefining 'normalcy'
annihilating racism
creating real integration

BC is about
attaining a realm of
colour unconsciousness
through organic consciousness...

in some sense, biko, we are all black.
we are all "bantu"

one day i will wake up
and 'they' will be able to
get under my skin
get over my colour


  1. Am a huge Biko fan. Great to read this excellent piece of yours and know that people in other parts of the world still think about him and that his philosophy lives on... Thanks for this post.

  2. i dont know if you saw Amandla, but there were several such people like him who were featured.