Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Black Consciousness Movement

Steve Biko on the cover of Drum Magazine
By Mbulelo Vizikhungo Mzamane, Bavusile Maaba and Nkosinathi Biko

The period 1967–1977 produced a substantial and coherent body of thought that was inspired by the ideas of Black Consciousness (BC). The writings in the SASO Newsletter and other BC publications, along with the outpouring of creative writing, constituted an unprecedented intellectual legacy in South Africa. From its beginnings as a student movement, BC became an intellectual movement surpassing the 1950s ‘Sophiatown renaissance’ that, in intellectual terms, produced a small group of journalists and creative writers.3 As BC spread into various communities it also became the training ground, through its ‘small scattered organisations’ (such as health clinics) that became the chosen path to black empowerment. Its programmes linked with people’s ‘material’ interests and were designed to train hundreds of followers who would in turn train thousands of others. Activity, not activism as such, marked BC strategy. It sought as far as possible to avoid direct political confrontation with the state, hoping to prevent premature elimination before it had even got off the ground. Its most astute exponents understood that if they formed a rigidly structured organisation the police would immediately destroy it. They intended their programmes to translate into responsibility and organisation, as in leadership training at formation schools.

Click here to download this chapter from The Road to Democracy in South Africa in pdf.