Steve Biko was a South African anti-apartheid activist, African nationalist and African socialist at the forefront of the Black Consciousness Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s.
Biko’s work is the inspiration behind our flagship Black Consciousness Workshop so in this article we review some of the best articles on the man and the movement available on the internet.
Mubarak Aliyu (London School of Economics), LSE Blog (2021) : Winner of the LSE Black Forgotten Heroes Writing Competition, this short but sweet article looks at the philosophical underpinnings of Black Consciousness. Considering Black Consciousness’ appeal to history, humanism and the African personality, the article is a great starting point for those new to this area of Black liberation thought.
Elleke Boehmer et al (University of Oxford), Journal of Postcolonial Writing (2021): Mindful of 2020’s global focus on questions of systemic racism, this article looks at the continuing salience of Biko’s ideas about Black Consciousness as it impacts young people’s empowerment in Africa. The writers consider the ongoing relevance of Biko’s thought in helping with changing mindsets, challenging institutional racism, interrogating economic dependency, and transforming the narratives young people in Africa tell themselves. An academic yet easy to read piece that asks very real questions about the current state of esteem in the Black experience.
Read more: What is Critical Race Theory?
Mashupye Herbert Maserumule (Tshwane University of Technology), The Conversation (2018): This article highlights the importance of understanding how Biko’s philosophy has transcended into the worldviews of the South African youth today. Theologian Ndikho Mtshiselwa argues that the fundamentals of the apartheid colonial social order are still in place, with the democratic regime unwittingly administering them, instead of changing or providing leadership to facilitate their destruction. Interestingly, the piece discusses how Biko’s philosophies are gaining traction among the country’s youth born after the end of apartheid in 1994. The appeal of Black Consciousness among the so-called “born-frees” is reminiscent of the way it influenced the generation that took part in the liberation struggle. An interesting read that suggests complicity at best and a lack of consciousness at worst in explaining the contemporary South Africa.
Sean Jacobs, William Shoki and Dan Magaziner, Jacobin Magazine (2020): In this wide-ranging and deep-diving conversation, the speakers explore memory and revolution. A largely historical overview, the speakers place Black Consciousness within its South African context, which is where its historical framing should always begin (in my opinion). Dissecting the different elements of the movement, they discuss how much it was able to penetrate into society in the past before they turn to addressing its “resurgence” among today’s youth. A great conversation from the team behind the influential Africa is A Country blog.
Zama Ndlovu, The Christian Science Monitor (2011): Written by South African writer, Zama Ndlovu, this article details how the writer first rejected the ideas of Steve Biko’s “I Write What I Like” as a teenager before later realising the truth of his arguments. This is a story of self-discovery as Zama shares her life experiences growing up in the ‘whiter’ areas of South Africa, the effect this had on her identity, and the role Biko played in the bolstering of her esteem. A brilliantly insightful and powerful personal narrative.
Take your own journey: Explore our Black Consciousness Workshop
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