the life of Stephen (Steve) Bantu Biko, the intellectual giant largely responsible for the formation of the Black Consciousness Movement, is being remembered in South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world, 40 years after he was murdered by apartheid police.
While there are numerous reflections on Biko’s philosophy, political role, and life, few recognise the powerful Pan African message his life encapsulates. Biko’s often overlooked message for the world is abundantly clear: Africa is the cradle of human civilisation and symbolic of the Creator’s design in making people who they are – African and human.
In Biko’s philosophy and world view, being African is not an aberration as we are brainwashed into believing by media-hype and constant indoctrination by a colonialising history that has resulted in perverted constructions of African humanity as deficient beings and cultures.
Biko emphasised that African cultures historically had always viewed the universe as beautiful, the community as foundational so that humans enjoyed being with each other, and considered notions of hell and judgment as terrifying and unnatural. Christianity frightened Africa into adopting a false sense of fear and morality, Biko asserted, based on a Manichaean dualism of good and evil, unlike the African view of humans as essentially good and spiritual.
While Biko was a brilliant political analyst and giant intellectual, he was also a theological genius, dipping into the wellspring of Pan African tradition and history to formulate black theologies of liberation for the African context.
Today, South Africa and the rest of Africa continue to struggle with acceptance of a positive association of being African. Africa has been ideologically distanced from South Africa to the amusing point that South Africans travelling to other parts of Africa describe their visits as “going to Africa.”
Africa Month | Celebrating being African
How do we overcome these entrenched self-deprecating images and notions of Africa and Africanity in a world which celebrates globalisation generally couched in Western cultural and socio-economic terms?
How do we deal with this internalisation of African negativity that has resulted in even academically propagated terms like “Afro-pessimism?” The constant rebuff that we often hear is: “What is fundamentally wrong with us?” and “Why is Africa crazy and unable to get its act together?” To these questions, we need to respond in the vein of Steve Biko’s philosophy: Mother Africa is neither absurd nor innately deficient; the problem is that Africans have attempted to move away from her in world view and cultural orientation and to persist in becoming something else that is out of synch with Africa’s evolution and beauty.
We need to return to Africa in our hearts and souls as Amilcar Cabral proposed and Biko implied and restore our self-confidence in the power that Africa wields: a continent of over 1.1 billion human beings with tens of millions in the African Diaspora in Europe and the Americas.
Africa has the most valuable resources for living: fertile forests, extensive rivers and waterways, some of the most diverse ecological systems globally, and most of the world’s vital mineral and energy resources for industrial development.
The lack of Pan-African confidence has produced the ironic anomaly that while Africa is the wealthiest continent on Earth, she is the most impoverished of all.
Africa’s wealth and potential does not benefit the African continent because of the ugly scar of colonisation and the existence of neo-colonialist capitalism that Biko sacrificed his life in resisting, what he referred to as a “dog-eat-dog” system.
The Underground Railroad: A Secret Path to Freedom over Niagara Falls | Global Lens
Niagara Falls, NY, is a central location in the history of African American resistance to slavery and discrimination. During the 19th century, Niagara Falls was one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad – a network of secret routes and safe houses that allowed enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. This episode of Global Lens examines the pivotal role of the Underground Railroad in establishing African American resistance, and celebrates the courage of those who risked their lives to help others escape, including the legendary Harriet Tubman. Our lead character is educator, author and human rights advocate Saladin Allah, a descendent of Underground Railroad forerunner Josiah Henson, whose life was the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As a visitor experience specialist at the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, Saladin is an expert storyteller who takes us on an unforgettable journey through African American history, and reminds us that we all play a role in shaping the next generation. Only through education and historical truth-telling can we achieve a recognition of past wrongdoing, and work toward a more just world. There are around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent. Whether as descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade or as more recent migrants, they constitute some of the poorest and most marginalized groups. Studies and findings by international and national bodies demonstrate that people of African descent still have limited access to quality education, health services, housing and social security. In many cases, their situation remains largely invisible, and insufficient recognition and respect has been given to the efforts of people of African descent to seek redress for their present condition. They all too often experience discrimination in their access to justice, and face alarmingly high rates of police violence, together with racial profiling. The United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 68/237 to be observed from 2015 to 2024, provides a solid framework for the United Nations, Member States, civil society and all other relevant actors to join together with people of African descent and take effective measures for the implementation of the program of activities in the spirit of recognition, justice and development. https://www.un.org/en/observances/dec… Illustrations by E.B. Lewis, Courtesy of Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center
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