Steve Biko 1946 – 1977

The cover of "I write what I like"
The cover of “I write what I like”

September 11 is a date that will forever live in infamy in the United States and around the world as the day terrorism showed its ugly face. September 12 is a date that will forever live in infamy around the world as the day after the day that terrorism showed its ugly face.

For South Africans and all involved in the black consciousness movement September 12 has a different significance. It is remembered as the day that Steve Biko died. He was one of the founders of the black consciousness movement in South Africa.

If one relied solely on television for news, one could be forgiven for letting this date slip past without much pomp. Even for a struggle hero it’s tough when your memorial has to compete with the memorial of two jumbo jets crashing into two very iconic buildings as far the New York skyline is concerned.

I watch TV a lot and I must say during that week, I saw planes, I saw explosions, I saw aliens, I saw Ben 10 but I didn’t see Steve Biko much.

Steve Biko’s question to the world at the time was very simple: ‘what is the state of the black world?’ Today my question is just as simple: what is the state of the African world?

Well, where do I start? We are held to ransom by politicians who were born in an age where having your picture in black and white was just the way you had to have it and not a choice. In between burps that smell of foie gras and caviar, they go on and on in their speeches about how the youth of today have lost focus and how they died for this freedom that we take for granted.

We have a leader in South Africa who has 5 wives, goes on record as saying he took a shower to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and reads slower than the cookie monster on Sesame Street. We have a leader in Zimbabwe trying to be president and yet he ignores a court order to marry a second wife.

Still in South Africa, we have a situation were black people and other groups are still massively under represented in decision making roles especially in upper management roles in business.

We have a police commissioner who presides over the killing of 34 miners who were protesting (carrying weapons) for better wages. This commisioner replaced the commissioner who replaced the commissioner who was put in jail for corruption.

Plan A is not working. Come election time, what do we say to ourselves? Let’s try plan A again! We vote these same people into power then spend the next five or however years complaining about how corrupt they are.

Steve Biko died attempting to put together a united black front. I wonder what he would say were he alive today about the state of the black world. What is abundantly clear is that at the rate we are going, the black world and the Trade centre Towers might have more in common than we think. Just like the people on those American Airlines planes, we are on our way to crash but unlike them we are in a position to do something about it.

To quote Ben Okri, who spoke at Biko’s memorial lecture “there are three Africas. The one we see every day. The one they write about. And the real magical Africa we don’t see unfolding through all the difficulties of our time, like a quiet miracle.”

In years to come the Africa we become will depend on each and every one of us.

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