Monday, November 14, 2005

Stephen Bantu Biko (1946-1977)

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Speech in Cape Town, 1971

I first attempted to read the work of Stephen Biko, Founder and martyr of the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa, when I was in college in 1991. This is when I picked up his book, I Write What I Like. It was a very difficult read for me because my vocabulary and comprehension talents were not fully developed at that point. I struggled a great deal. I put the book back on my father’s bookshelf and picked up the movie, Cry Freedom starring Denzel Washington (In retrospect, this movie didn’t even come close to representing Biko’s ideologies and philosophies on Black Consciousness…although Denzel did an excellent job acting). I revisited the same work in 1995 and I found out that I actually learned something in college. As a matter of fact, I thought that it was a different book because I was able to grasp the language and meaning of what he said so well. This made me very happy.
I will be looking at the Stephen Biko this week and commenting on his philosophy and how it applies to our lives in 2005-2006. Are Black people in this country or the diaspora still living in an oppressed state? These are very heavy questions and I will be attempting to work through them the best that I can. Perhaps you can help me.


Bougie Black Boy said...

very impressive write-up. I look forward to reading more about him and his works and ideologies. You inspire me. I don't know much about him and/or about the movie of which you speak with Denzel Washington. I gotta look them both up--movie and book. Hmmmm....

Anonymous said...

Wow!! It's getting hot in here!!!
Yes Stephen, Bantu Biko did not die of a heart-attack or chronic illness. He was brutally murdered by the Fascist, illegitemate, apartheid regime in South Africa. They killed his flesh, but his spirit, and legacy will linger on for generations to come. He was a valiant brother, a hardy soldier. I look forward to your hearing more.....Brother Stephen :)

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, Biko was an incredible scholar and thinker. He makes me proud that my name is Stephen too. I'm sure that he will do the same for you.

Dumela, Mme. Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated during my postings. I think that you could contribute valuable information since you are a daughter of that movement and land. :)

Waddie G. said...

I never heard of him which makes me deem him as an unsung hero of Black of the many African-Americans who aren't widely celebrated who deserve to be.

Waddie G. said...

oops! I am confused...did he ever live in America?

Stephen A. Bess said...

Stephen Biko was South African. He never lived in America. However, I think that his life in America at that point in history would've been similar to his experience in South Africa. I will be posting more information about Stephen Biko tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.

M. Akamau said...


Good stuff. Looking forward to all you have to share, as I think the history lesson would do us plenty good. I've heard of Stephen Biko, and may even have a book around here somewhere by him. His name is very familiar to me, but I admit knowing little about him, so I am looking forward to your future posts.
Have a great day,

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thank you Michele. I will do the best that I can to represent Biko and all that he has done to fight for liberation of South Africa. He is one of the many little known warriors who struggled for freedom in that country. In the future, I need to focus on some little known African Americans who did the same. Always a pleasure.

Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful said...

I never heard of him and I want to know why?

I hate how African culture is censored in America.
My parents who both originated in Africa hate how African culture is censored here.

I am looking forward to learning.

Teach on teacher!

Yes, I do feel that we are in an opressed state.

Stephen A. Bess said...

You and your parents have a right to be upset. African culture is extremely censored here in America. I think that they (US Gov) realize that it would be empowering to the Black Americans who has so few Black heroes and heroines. They know that it would make it even more difficult to keep us as thoroughly colonized as they have so many of us now. They know that if we found out too much about who we are as a people that it would get us upset. We would gain strength from characters like Stephen Biko, Robert Sobukwe, Kwame Nkrumah, and Sekou Toure just as people in the African struggle gained strength from Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Shirley Chisholm, W.E.B Dubois, and even James Brown screaming "Say it loud...I'm Black and I'm Proud!"

Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful said...

This is so true!
I'm angered.

See I have Black Pride and alot of it and I try to find out about the greats, but its hard.

You don't know where to begin and when I hear about someone knew I'm enraged that this is my first encounter with the legacy of such a great person.

Why can't they teach us what we need to be taught?

How am I supposed to advance if I don't even know about the great sucesses of my own people?

Thoroughly colonized? Have they gone mad? We're not ants!

For goodness sake...

Stephen, would you believe that for a long time I blamed African chieves for slavery? My parents would tell me different but I believed what they taught us i the school books.

I was so misguided

Please go read a past posting in my blog titled a letter to my Professor, ( I addressed many angers in this letter b/c in this class I was learning so many things that were foreign to me and I couldn't comprehend why now, so damn late in my life!
The post following "A Letter to my Professor" is the response to my letter from my Prof. (

Stephen A. Bess said...

Wow! I think that it's great that you wrote a letter to your professor concerning something so important (esp now in 2005). I was misguided at one time too (I still am to a certain extent). I remember when I first learned of our history as Black Americans. I was astonished at how much was held back in the classrooms. I had so many questions as you did. I learned from others and then on my own. I also attended a predominantly African American college (which doesn't always ensure a lesson in Black history) with professors that taught a great deal about who I am. Yes, it makes you angry when you think about it. However, I can tell that you will continue to seek this knowledge of self. The great thing is that it will take a lifetime because there is so much to learn about us. Thanks for sending this to me. See, I told you that you were the bomb! :)

Black Men in Life Space: A Change for the Better

Photo Source: Showtime The late great Chicago soul singer, Sam Cooke sang and announced that "A Change is Gonna Come." On season f...