Tuesday, 12 September 2017, marks the 40th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death in police detention. Born on 18 December 1946, Biko would have been 70.
In celebration of the life and legacy of the inspirational leader, the Steve Biko Foundation has curated a series of events under the banner “Steve Biko 40 years On: Inspiration Beyond a Lifetime”.
The month-long programme includes youth dialogues, social history engagements, exhibitions and performances, and the 18th Annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture – the details of which are still to be announced.
In 2016, to honour his legacy, Professor Angela Davis, an American political activist, academic scholar and author, delivered the 17th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture at the ZK Matthews Hall at UNISA.
Angela Davis delivers the 17th Steve Biko Memorial Lecture.
Many others have publicly reflected on Biko’s life and legacy – some at UCT – since the founding of the lecture series in 2000. These are some of their reflections:
“He possessed an incisive and indeed massive intellect. Yes, a charismatic individual who made a unique assessment of why black people were always at the end of the queue, at the bottom of the pile. It was a daringly novel diagnosis – that we were collaborators in our own oppression and subjugation – and so he provided the genesis for the Black Consciousness Movement.” — Desmond Tutu (2006)
“From the gigantic death of Stephen Bantu Biko 30 years ago today, must, in time, arise an enormous birth. Stephen Bantu Biko died, but his vision has not perished.” — Thabo Mbeki (2007)
“Let me repeat the lesson that Biko taught us. Democracy is something to fight for, constantly. Development is not something handed out at the welfare office. It is a conscious process of building capabilities, giving communities power to change their lives, empowering young women and men to make a contribution to our beautiful country.” — Trevor Manuel (2008)
“We should not lose sight of revitalising our knowledge systems, which are essentially broader than preparing our children to be economically productive, asset-backed citizens of the future. Our knowledge system needs a complete overhaul in which the youth grow to understand their authentic history (less the romance), their cultural progressive value system and what it means to be a good citizen.” — Tito Mboweni (2009)
“He taught that black people must investigate and validate their own existence, irrespective of other people's opinions of them; that they must see themselves in the warm light of their own genius – the unique gift that they come into the world carrying to deliver to all of humankind; that they must have faith that they are made perfectly for the singular expression of the divine that they are. This is why one reveres Steve Biko. Because, in short, he fully understood that the foundation of any true liberation, any true liberation, is self-love.” — Alice Walker (2010)
“We have set out on a quest for true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize ... in time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest gift possible – a more human face.” — Sir Sydney Kentridge, quoting Steve Biko (2011)
“Freedom was just the overture. Indeed, freedom may turn out to be a very small part of the story of a people. The real story begins with what they did with that freedom.” — Ben Okri (2012)
“The decolonisation of the mind starts with our sense of self as Africans, a sense that is developed through our socialisation – both in the families, communities and schools and, increasingly, in today's information age through the media. We must therefore be deliberate in the teaching and dissemination of African history, the mainstreaming of our indigenous knowledge systems and the celebration of African culture.” — Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (2013)
“Just as individuals around the world cared about anti-apartheid activists and human rights defenders, like Biko, and demanded that their governments support our struggle for freedom, so we should watch out for the safety and freedom of human rights defenders, journalists and NGOs who are facing arrests, detention and even death for their critical work.” — Navi Pillay (2014)
A version of this article appeared on this site on 12 September 2016.
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