Steve Biko once wrote, “I write what I like.” The founder of South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement, he was also one of the students that launched the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO); Biko belonged to a generation that resisted apartheid, in any manner that they could.
Biko was detained and interrogated several times by the apartheid police. On 7 September 1977 he sustained a head injury during interrogation, after which he became unresponsive. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “The doctors who examined him (naked, lying on a mat and manacled to a metal grille) initially disregarded overt signs of neurological injury.”
Biko died of brain damage on the floor of a cell in the Pretoria Central Prison on 12 September 1977. He was 30 years old. Though Biko could not help South Africa transition into its new democracy, his ideas and his writing lives on.
On the 37th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death, AAISHA DADI PATEL rounds up six of his most memorable quotes:
- “We do not want to be reminded that it is we, the indigenous people, who are poor and exploited in the land of our birth. These are concepts which the Black Consciousness approach wishes to eradicate from the black man’s mind before our society is driven to chaos by irresponsible people from Coca-Cola and hamburger cultural backgrounds.”
- “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
- “Apartheid – both petty and grand – is obviously evil. Nothing can justify the arrogant assumption that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of a majority.”
- “You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.”
- “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”
- “In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face.”
– Featured image via Wikimedia Commons