WARNING: This post is not suitable for young children. This video creates anger in me. Sadness in me. A rage that died years ago, but apparently never fully died. Because I’m feeling it again right now as I type this. Tears well up in my eyes that don’t feel like tears of sadness. They feel like tears of anger. I’ve matured over the years since I first heard of Stephen Biko. Fewer things make me feel rage. This still does.
At fourteen, Apartheid was my first exposure to genuine evil. I would listen to amazing African music at the Ashkenaz bar in Berkeley, California (yes, at 14) and wonder how anyone could torture this amazing people the way the South African government was doing with near impunity. My journey into the world of right and wrong began with Stephen Biko. It lead to Nelson Mandela. And I felt like I needed to honor both men now that they have both gone home.
The violent death of Stephen Biko was one of the earlier events that brought light to the injustice of Apartheid, which up to that point had been mostly described as a simple method to keep the peace between two races that had a hard time getting along. Little more than a race-based curfew. It was so much more than that. The death of Stephen Biko made Ford start to think twice about manufacturing cars in South Africa. It made a lot of people wonder why they were turning such a blind eye. The death of Stephen Biko was one of the things that energized Nelson Mandela’s lifelong campaign against Apartheid.
Today let’s just remember the amazing long life of Nelson Mandela and his incredible strength. And the tragically short life of Stephen Biko and the heroism he showed standing up to what must have looked like an insurmountable force. But a force that fell at the hands of Biko, Mandela and millions of others. Their candles have been blown out. The fire they started changed the word. It literally changed the world.
We feel like we can’t change the world. We’re wrong. Stephen Biko changed the world. Nelson Mandela changed the world. We are each candles. Together, we are a fire that no one can blow out. No one. Let’s go change the world.
We were built to be heroes. Today we honor two amazing heroes.