The founding father of the Black Consciousness movement, Steve Biko, famously said: The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. This week, on the 12th of September 39 years ago, Steve Biko was killed in a Pretoria detention cell, while in police custody. He died for his principles, his ideals, something the apartheid government feared greatly because he was so reasonable, because his arguments were so coherent. The fundamental tenet of his Black Consciousness philosophy was that being black is not a matter of pigmentation but rather a reflection of a mental attitude. That was why, he said, liberation was of paramount importance in the concept of Black Consciousness. It wasn’t about being above or below, but equal to absolutely everything and everyone. Like Nelson Mandela, he wanted a society in which all South Africans, black, brown and white, lived side by side in harmony. I was in my first year at Rhodes University in 1977, an innocent learni...

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