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Steve Biko Lives On

By Mako Muzenda

12 September 1977 is a date that will forever be emblazoned into South African history.  One of its brightest and youngest revolutionaries, Steve Biko, died whilst in police custody.

Almost four decades on, and Biko’s life and death still resonate within South African society.  His philosophy and Black Consciousness movement ignited a hunger and drive for freedom and black pride, especially amongst the oppressed black youth.  Biko’s call for self-pride  and black is echoed in the recent initiatives and movements on Rhodes university campus, Biko’s alma mater. From Rhodes, to University of Cape Town (UCT), to University of Witswatersrand and Stellenbosch University, young black South Africans are taking up Biko’s cause and fighting for the freedom to have their voices and opinions heard.

“We are here to celebrate a life, not mourn a death.”

Njabulo Zwane reads from Steve Biko’s ‘I write what I like’.

To commemorate Biko’s death, the Black Student Movement (BSM) in collaboration with the Cycle of Knowledge and Fingo Festival, hosted ‘Steve Bantu’bonke Biko Still Lives’.  From spoken word, to singing and rapping, artists from Grahamstown and other parts of the Eastern Cape converged at the Environmental building on Rhodes University campus to celebrate Biko’s legacy and teachings.   Performers such as Njabulo Zwane, Yahav Ben Sar Ahmadiel, and Sonz of Law spoke, sang and recited their way through what Biko’s Black Consciousness philosophy means for them.


“You can’t censor yourself for forever.”

All around the venue, posters reminded attendees of the many men and women who, like Biko, fought hard and died young, or disappeared.  “The rest of those who came before is the unrest of those who came after,” the chair of the event repeated throughout the event, reminding everyone that for many, the struggle is still alive.

“Steve Biko was a youth leader, he expressed what we feel,” explains Mbasa Sigcau, an Eastern Cape rapper who performed at the Steve Bantu’bonke Biko Still Lives event.  The struggle for identity and belonging that Biko identified is the same struggle that many young South Africans still have to fight and overcome.  38 years on, Steve Biko remains a visionary, a revolutionary, and an inspiration.

“You are either alive and proud, or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.” – Steve Biko (18 December 1946-12 September 1977).

Photo sourced from sbf.org.za

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