I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon today’s Google Doodle which featured South African anti-apartheid activist and father of the Black Consciousness movement; Steve Biko.
Growing up, the only knowledge I had of him stemmed from the movie Cry Freedom, starring a perfectly-cast Denzel Washington as Steve Biko. I was much too young to fully grasp anything beyond “racism=bad”, and assumed racism was over once the credits rolled.
I didn’t fully comprehend the struggle, his influence and just how relevant his writings and thoughts were and still are to this day, considering the state of Africans across the globe.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Mandela House, and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg a few years ago. If you’re ever in Jozi ( as the cool peeps call it) and have a day to spare, I implore you to spend it in its entirety here. It’s a truly moving experience.
You’re given a ticket at random which classifies you as either White/Blankes, or Non-White/Nie-Blankes. This determines which entrance you use upon entering the museum; a somber and humbling moment as you realize this was the day-to-day reality for Non-Whites living in South Africa not too long ago.
No photography is allowed in the Apartheid Museum. The majority of the exhibit is dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s legacy. It does an excellent job at giving some insight on South Africa’s tumultuous past, however it can (unintentionally) minimize the roles some key players had in the struggle for liberation in South Africa. I was surprised at how little room was dedicated in telling Steve Biko’s story. Needless to say, the first thing I did was buy Steve Biko’s book, I Write What I Like, from the Museum’s bookstore. It features excerpts of Biko’s writings under the pseudonym ‘Frank Talk’, published under the South African Students Organization (SASO), a group dedicated to the Black Consciousness movement.
I had a 21+ hour journey back to Toronto and I read the book cover to cover, cursing myself for not getting my hands on it sooner.
Much like cocoa butter, I Write What I Like should be a mainstay in every Black home.If you’re of African descent or a part of the African diaspora, or ya know, anybody that wants to get some insight on the beautiful mind of Mr. Biko I would suggest you get yourself a copy.
Things have certainly changed since his passing nearly 40 years ago. Steve Biko lived in a world where he could not spread his word to others, as he was banned from speaking to one person at a time. Forever grateful that his work lives in this book, a book that I hope to pass on to my 4 year-old daughter. Not sure she’ll appreciate this as a stocking-stuffer just yet…
“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed” – Steve Biko.