Province grapples with identity

26 June 2008 | Story by Myolisi Gophe

Prof William Pick
Sharing experience: Prof William Pick has released an autobiography, in which he thinks back on his time as a black medical student at UCT

Professor William Pick has lived through pre-apartheid, apartheid and post-apartheid regimes, experiences remarkable enough to deserve documentation.

"I thought about writing a textbook for schoolchildren, but then I realised that I was not an author, and that it would be easier to reflect on my experiences," says Pick, an honorary professor of public health at UCT.

On 24 June he released an autobiography, The Slave has Overcome. In it, he reflects on, among other things, his time as a black medical student at UCT, where he completed his MBChB and MMed in 1964 and 1989, respectively.

The transformation committee at the Faculty of Health Sciences invited him to launch the book there as they felt it was important to think back on the faculty's past as well. Associate Professor Gonda Perez, deputy dean for the faculty, said the need to reflect on the past is crucial.

"Unless we understand what happened, and put in place supportive and preventive structures, we will not be able to prevent injustices happening again. This is why this volume, written simply and with no pretention, is so important for us."

Pick believes that the Western Cape is still struggling with issues of identity. "There is no reason for not celebrating our identity, and we should be keen on sharing our ancestry," he says. "It is time for us to speak about it frankly, without shame or fear."

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