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Human Rights

Back to listSep 8, 2007

SGI-South Africa Celebrates Life of Steve Biko

On September 8, 2007, SGI-South Africa paid tribute to Steve Biko (1946-1977), a hero of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, with a combined dance, music, song, storytelling and poetry recital titled, "My Revolution--Revealing the Jewel Within," at its center in Johannesburg. The event was held on the 50th anniversary of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda's historic declaration against nuclear weapons, and commemorated the 30th anniversary of Steve Biko's death (September 12, 1977).

Biko, a young medical student, became a noted anti-apartheid activist who inspired blacks in South Africa with new pride and consciousness during the country's darkest hours. Biko's efforts to empower blacks and awaken them to their inherent dignity and overcome ruthless segregation laws through nonviolent protest cost him his life. At age 30, Biko died following a massive brain hemorrhage. He had been detained, beaten and tortured by the police. Biko today is remembered for his courageous struggle against oppression and the hope and inspiration he gave to all of South Africa, especially to its youth.

In the planning stages leading up to "My Revolution," SGI-South Africa members recalled SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's speech during his trip to Germany in June 1991 in which he commended Steve Biko as a youthful leader of the Black Consciousness Movement that focused on "self revolution," which Mr. Ikeda described as a kind of a "human revolution" movement. The planning group also remembered Mr. Ikeda's meeting in May 1991 with South African poet Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, during which the two discussed the poetic spirit. Mr. Mtshali shared his hope that a revival of the poetic spirit would bring about "a century of human rights." Mr. Ikeda expressed his belief that the task of the "true poet" is to create balance and harmony, fostering connections between and among people, nature and the cosmos.

Inspired by Mr. Ikeda's words, SGI-South Africa members determined to create a joyous tribute to Steve Biko's life and celebrate the symbiosis between Biko's ideals and the principles of Buddhism that uphold the inherent dignity of life.

Some 200 people gathered for "My Revolution," at which several poets performed original poetry, among them Khosi Xaba, a renowned South African poet and feminist, and a talented 15-year-old poet. The program included traditional African storytelling and dance, which had the audience dancing in their seats. A director of the Steve Biko Foundation spoke, and the chairperson of the Steve Biko Remembrance Group shared anecdotes from Biko's life.

A highlight of the event was the appearance of poet Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, who recited an original poem and shared his perspective on Steve Biko.

[Adapted from an SGI-South Africa report and an article in the October 5, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of SGI-South Africa]