04 September 2007

Public Lecture: Black Intellectual Traditions and Democratic Thought: from Fanon to Biko

Date: 12 September 2007
Time: 5:30-6pm
Venue: The Great Hall, University of the Witwatersrand.

On September 12th democrats all over the world and throughout our country people will remember one of the most tragic days in our long and brutal history. This is the day when the life of one of the brightest political thinkers our country ever produced was brought to an end by the apartheid police. Steve Biko represented everything that was beautiful and honourable about that long struggle- courageous, witty, intelligent and magnanimous. Together with his peers in the black consciousness movement, Biko gave back identity, meaning and the courage to act to a people who were on the verge of psychological defeat. His greatest achievement was the restoration of consciousness to black people so we could journey on to where we are today. Without his intervention we would literally never have achieved our democracy. But now that we did Biko's name has often been used to buttress all kinds of essentialist, nativist discourses - to attack and besmirch opponents and shut down debates. This would have been the anti-thesis of Steve Biko political practice and personal demeanour. This attempt to corral debate by appeals to racial nativism would have been the antithesis of black political and intellectual history in general. As we rebuild our country it is absolutely vital that we do not forget those tolerant traditions in black politics. For if we forget we will find ourselves going down the same path of intolerance and destruction that has been visited on our continent by many of its brutal dictators. Remembering Biko, and remembering the broader history of which he was so much a vital part, is as much about the past as it is about the present and the future. If we are to save our democracy we need to go back to the sources and find out what they had to say about the democratic enterprise. The Platform for Public Deliberation has asked Achille Mbembe, one of the world's leading thinkers on the postcolonial condition in Africa, to deliver a public lecture on Black Intellectual Traditions and Democratic Thought, from Fanon To Biko. The lecture will take place at the Wits Great Hall on September 12 at 6pm.

Hosted by the Platform for Public Deliberation.
For the full framing text please visit: www.public-conversations.org.za