Lest we forget Biko’s lessons

2010-09-11 11:42

Today, September 12, marks the 33rd anniversary of the assassination of African liberation movement icon Steven Bantu Biko.

His passing should not go unmarked in the annals of African and world history.

He is considered the pioneer of the black consciousness movement in the 60s and 70s.

Biko’s view of black consciousness inculcated pride in indigenous African values, intellect and history.

He urged resistance to a Eurocentric culture and economy.

Biko was viewed as anathema by the apartheid regime that tortured and murdered him for his resistance to colonial oppression.

Biko embodied the life principle of caring and sharing with others.

And all young people today – regardless of race, class, gender, age, culture and religion – need to study and understand the life of this spirited person who never sought material gain at the expense of others.

He would have been supportive of the recent workers’ strike for economic justice and repulsed by the planned government legislation that institutionalises a media tribunal to limit press freedom.

Similarly, he would have deplored the racism that continues to devalue black life, where the word of a drunken, white rugby player, who took the life of a police officer, is viewed as legitimate.

Biko reminds young people in particular, and all women and men in general, of the irrepressible historical truism that we have been placed on Earth with a purpose – to live in community with everyone, including the rest of the natural world: animals, birds, insects and plants.

Biko – like Gandhi, and the heroine fighter in Ghana’s independence struggle, Yaa Asantewa – found a cause in life for which he was willing to give his own, making his life richer for all of us and not just a few.

If the purpose of our existence is materialistic and individualistic gain, we become blinded to the beauty of the world and the needs of others, and fail to understand the purpose of life itself, which is to care for creation and live in harmony with our diverse and complex universe.

As Biko put it, Africa’s vocation was to give the world a more humane face.

Would we not be wealthier if we participated collectively in Africa’s primordial vocation?

» Kunnie is an academic and researcher

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