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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Steve Biko: Your memories
Mourners at the burial of Steve Biko
Steve Biko is seen as a martyr in the struggle against apartheid

It is 30 years since South African anti-apartheid campaigner Steve Biko died in police custody, aged 30. What does the anniversary mean to you?

The leader of the black consciousness movement was arrested and detained under the Terrorism Act by South African police on 18 August 1977.

He died whilst in detention from major head injuries, 25 days later on 12 September.

His contribution to the black fight for freedom from apartheid is often placed as second only to that of former President Nelson Mandela.

"They had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid," Nelson Mandela said of Steve Biko.

Send us your memories of Steve Biko using the postform below. And if his legacy inspires you to write a poem, please do.

World Service radio listeners in Africa can listen to African Perspective which is about Steve Biko this week, on Saturday 15 September at 1900 GMT or online later.


Thank you for sending us your memories and poems. You can read a selection below:

Freedom was his cry
some people wonder why
he died fighting for people like me
without him, where would I be?
He said, "Black man you are on your own"
then he was "small" now he is well known
He is in a grave now somewhere
The extensive pain he couldn't bare
Steven Biko you saved us from
a South Africa of which we would not belong we know you're in heaven looking down
South Africa has changed, no need to frown
Bonolo Makhele (13), Johhannesberg, South Africa

His words of freedom shine like Venus
He never die in vain but for a reason
Whatever he left behind even God knows is beyond colonial understanding
He is the real man though they kill him
The great freedom icon for freedom fighter
Never forget his name and dedication he offered
May your soul rest in peace as you are looking to the existing seed of democracy you've preached!
Kabarika Loliha, South Sudanese in Dallas, Texas, USA

You fought for our rights
Even though you didn't know who we were
You fought for our freedom
Even though you weren't going to get set free
You dedicated your life to us
Knowing what the consequences were
And still you wouldn't give up
Until you had accomplished your goal
Thank You, Steven Biko
Joey Chen, Johannesburg, South Africa

You fought for us
we love you still
you helped freedom
But still we kill

there's still a clash
between black and white
one day there will be
a colourless night
Neal Raath (age 12), Johannesburg, South Africa

A young man
Doing as best as he can

Fighting for the right
To blind them from their sight

Yet doing all of this
Our lives came before his

I praise this dear guy
Even though he had to die
Chanel Tempelhoff, South Africa, Johannesburg

These are his words that rings bell in my ear: "There should be no minority, no majority but just people." This is a person who has seen people above racial and ethnic discrimination. The only way forward to a distorted African development that is playing ethnical politics. When people start seeing themselves above ethnicity, many conflicts in Africa will be solved. He is more of spiritual elevated human being. He wants to see Africans who are self disciplined and Africans who are willing to embrace and be proud of their colour.
Osuigwe Chukwuemeka, Kimberley

Apartheid the brutal monster
Had to be fought
By all means necessary
Outcome never certain!
It could be desirable
It could be un-desirable
Freedom fighter
Must toil on
No second thoughts
No ifs...
No buts...
Freedom fighter
Must toil on
The wife must wait
The son must wait
The daughter must wait for
Freedom fighter
Must toil on
Charles Olak, London, UK

Peter Gabriel's song Biko says it all. "You can blow out a candle but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher." Biko was what it means to be human being. Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja - The man is dead.
Glenn Wade, Swansea, Wales

Brethen,
As we get this day burning out, memories of your death hunts me and all Africans who believed for the struggle. "Steve, you are not dead, you have given us self belief, courage and a strong desire to see Africa free. You made so many Steve Bikos and your spirit will live on till we reach the promise land. Land of justice and plenty.
James Chinda Mah, Douala, Cameroon

Many years back
I met you in a book
You gave me a hope
You gave me a destiny
So I love you Biko
From the bottom of my heart
Dawson Preethi, Dubai

An Esperanto poem about Biko in the Japanese hajko (haiku) tradition:
Afrecindigi
Neordinara ulo
Havis destinon

Translation:
To make African-ness worthy
An extraordinary man
Had a destiny
Miland Joshi, Birmingham

As we remember Steve Biko
a hero
a fighter
a sellfless being
fought not for South Africa
but for Mama Africa
now in a new era
let's emulate his life
help our suffering people
be selfless like he was
he gave his life for us
AFRICA!
Shem Mobisa, Atlanta, US

My blood red sticky stains
darken police bully black boots
A body broken bruised and battered
my spirit set free flies unfettered
serves to nourish dreams of freedom.
Mick Donoghue, Glasgow Scotland

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed" - the words from the man himself Steven Bantu Biko, and continues by saying: "In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift - a more human face." The concept black is beautiful intepreted by saying blacks as well are intelligent and should not be ashamed of being black.
Bushy Mosibi MD, Cape Town

Nineteen seventy seven years and
eleven days past September the blows fell.
The colony's rotted fruit wept gold
that flowed in a stream along
the trade wind routes in a haste,
as the end drew near.

The ember coals of Soweto smouldered,
where twenty souls lay still
in the wake of protest.

On September twelfth,
they announced your death,
and so died the colonies.

The guilty left to live with the
legacy of their actions and watch
the walls come down from the weight
of global scrutiny.

We will remember that the few cannot a hold greater weal, while the many die for one great idea.
Dimitri Del Castillo, Los Angeles, CA, US

As a 12 year old at the time of Biko's death, I still remember the poignant images on Zambian television of Steve Biko's son filmed outside their house awaiting his dad's return. The images were so moving, that I have since followed events in South Africa closely. In apartheid SA, Steve Biko and many more were an inspiration, selfless and risked their lives fighting for basic human rights. Steve, and the likes of Hani didn't live in vain. Amandhla!
Faustin, London, UK

30 years on still in our hearts
though we forgive lest we forget
days gone by nights of pain
only human but willing to risk all
self-made legend freedom hero
Bawo Steve Biko none like you
they tormented your body never your spirit
blood streaked your soul rejoiced
for you were a real warrior that fought
for the upliftment of the people
fulfilment of the dream
pain never stopped you
blood never frightened you
for the land you stood for you are
BANTU man born for the people!
Nwabisa Bota, Port Elizabeth

The Hero to the downtrodden
The Champion of the hopeless
The Martyr of the disenfranchised
The Victor of Nihilism
We know your spirit and we respect you
REJOICE
Wilson Mugambi Arimi, Atlanta, USA

I have twice spoken to South Africans who met Biko face to face. The first, an Indian doctor described him as 'terrific - very calm'. The second, a black priest described him as 'charming'. Both are consistent with Donald Wood's portrait in his book Biko which first made me fascinated with his country's politics.
Miland Joshi, Birmingham

In times of trouble
when democracy is in danger
I think of you and Mandela
of Malcolm X and Ken Saro-Wiwa.

You have not lived in vain.
Or died.
We remember.

Some of us are busy trying to clean up the mess this planet is in.
Our poetry doesn't scan.
We don't care.

We thank our lucky stars.
We know you are there.
Luci Smith, Copenhagen, Denmark

Blood moon
African dust
at dusk

Blessings to those fallen.
Chibi, Rome

One man's dream,
Another's vision,
One man's hope,
Another's mission.
You stood up when we all cowered,
Fought against the highest powers.
A man who perished for his brothers,
An example to all others,
Who pray to God for men like him,
To fight our wars and hope they win.
If here today, where would you lead us?
For we still cry, but they don't heed us.
The skin we wear is still our burden,
In our own land, we still are servants.
If you're still up there watching us,
Reaching down and touching us,
Show us now which way to go,
And may your wisdom guide us home.
Vulindlela Moyo, Wollongong, Australia

The have maimed,
They have killed,
They have stopped you.

But did not stop us,
They did not kill the Dream,
You did not die in vain.

Dear Biko, rejoice on your journey,
We are victorious,
Cry not, sing for joy.

We won the men in Black,
We won the baton and guns,
We won the walls of the dark room,

Comrade Biko, we are still winning,
They are now losing,
Liberty is here at last.
OBIOHA GODSPOWER, Auchi, Nigeria

Hi. I'm a South African journalist. In 1977, while living in Johannesburg I was inspired to write a song about Steven Biko. I did perform the song at rallies, union meetings etc. but it was never published or recorded in any serious way. Here are the words:

Steven Biko died
of no natural causes
They put an end to his life
with Section 6 and its inhuman clauses

Steven Biko died, that much can't be denied. They've taken away his life. How I don't want to know, all I ask is why...

Steven Biko lies
overweight in a grave
Starved himself to death
in just over seven days

Steven Biko died, that much can't be denied They've taken away his life. How I don't want to know, all I ask is why...

Some slip on tiles,
others die by suicide
Some just quietly die,
while others get themselves crucified

But Steven Biko died, that much can't be denied They've taken away his life. How I don't want to know, all I ask is why...
Stan James, Hong Kong

Steve Biko dared and for his daring
Died
Was his death worth it?
Your answer to this
Defines your Blackness
Your humanity!
Arise, make a difference, say no to racism!
Gitobu Imanyara, Nairobi, Kenya

Steve Biko was only killed to instil fear in the non-moved minds of the native African people only to awaken their quest for their own freedom. He died for us.
Stephen Njoroge Kamau

Steven Biko
Steven Biko we remember,
Twelfth day of September,
As a hero you died,
Apartheid defied,
Your life as a fee,
South Africa is now free.
Margaret Rose Mbonya, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I am, I was, I will continue to exist,
You bury me I will rise like the greenery from the ground
You kill me in the darkness of the night, I will be in the headlines when day breaks
I have to look after some of my people
I will live for them, even if I have to fight with death
Tehsin Ullah Jan, Peshawar, Pakistan

"Why do you call yourself black?" asked the Judge, "you are more brown than black." "Why do you call yourself white?" asked Biko, "you are more pink than white." One of my favourite scenes in Cry Freedom, a film on the legacy of Biko.
Akram, Singapore

Steve Biko
Son of the soil
You spilt your blood
To free us all
You are our hero
Black or white
You are sorely missed
Son of the soil
Our nation is peaceful
Because of you
Rest in peace our hero
We are eternally grateful
To you
Son of the soil
Charles Olak, London, UK

I am hereby sending my loving memories to our gallant anti-apartheid heroes especially Steve Biko, departed from this world on the struggle for the liberisation of the black people in Africa. May his soul rest in perfect peace
WUYEH JATTA, The Gambia

The man whom love for his people replaces death. He didn't see death as existing in this earth while considering freedom for his people. Death as many may think scary and unaccepted was whole heartedly accepted by him for his people. Not him but people exist in his very life and as a result he has to shed his blood amongst the law keepers who were stubborn and couldn't recognise the agony humankind went through. With all that has happened to him, humility and firm heart for his people was all about him.
Timothy Talasivo, Suva, Fiji

Long live the King of Black Consciousness!
Steve Bantu Biko is a legend that is in the same calibre as Nelson Mandela it is a pity that we have decided to embrace him 30 years later and not everyday as other legends are being hailed. Today I enjoy the fruits of freedom and exercise the rights of my democracy because of Biko. I converse and dine with those that once where said to be superior than myself. I am liberated, educated. I am a product of the Black Consciousness. Long live Black Consciousness.
Mmakobedi Choabi, Pretoria

His image resonates with truth on my T-shirt, on the colour of my skin and on the realities I face in modern day South Africa. His ambition lives on in my heart and my being. Bantu abantu bayaku khumbula, Qabani.
Mxolisi, Katlehong, South Africa

We all lay in his cell
still in pain
shackled by subtle chains
no longer black and white
but oppressed all the same
a time to break free
K Aisthorpe, Poland

Battered trampled
your body was thrown
on the floor of a cell
alone.
Postponed,
your victory came
when all your brethren
could call South Africa
their home.
Julian Hopkins, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

His words were seen as daggers.
His eloquence stunned them.
He was a man of his word.
He was against crime yet he was criminalised.
All he wanted was freedom for the people,
Yet they silenced him, but his words and heart still live on...
Nomsa Naidoo, Chiswick, UK

I look at you
face bruised
and more black
from apartheid hate
and attack
than from colour
and think those sweet sounds
some song of long ago
when a man sang
birth by a river
running ever since
and change has come, Biko
and it's because of you, Biko.
Orion Mfuma, Dublin, Ireland




SEE ALSO
Black Brazilians learn from Biko
25 May 05 |  Americas
Row clouds Biko anniversary
12 Sep 02 |  Africa

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