John Briley: Cry Freedom
One of the ways to learn from history is to dig out the dirt and feel the wounds… understand, read, look for signs… but always feel – feel deeply for the exploited, discriminated, and the oppressed – when justice failed time after time, when despotism and imperialism stumped innocent lives, and for those deplorable times when color triumphed, yes, that’s right, “color”…
“Woza Moya! Yilha Moya!
Come, Spirit! Descend, Spirit!
Woza Moya Oyingewele!
Come, Holy Spirit!”
Cry Freedom by John Briley screams out indignantly against apartheid in South Africa in the 1960s and communicates true incidents and lives of Steve Bantu Biko and Donald Woods.
“Whatever we do, we will be called black in the inferior sense by some. And it is precisely because of that that we choose to use the word positively. To alter its negative image. To challenge the very roots of the black man’s belief about himself. To say, ‘Man, you are ok as you are.’”
He was not just ok as he was, he was extraordinary and yet common, just like all his brothers and sisters. And he was very proud of it!
“You can beat or jail me or even kill me, but I am not going to be what you want me to be!”
The book touches upon Biko’s life as an anti-apartheid activist during the 1960s and 1970s, how it empowered and mobilised the South Africa’s black population and most importantly, how it inspired and changed the attitude and life of writer and editor, Donald Woods.
In the first half, Biko and Woods meet and become friends. You gradually understand Biko and his people’s struggle as Woods takes it all in…
“I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just the jobs that were white; the history we read was made by white men, written by white men… medicines, cars, television, airplanes, all invented by white men. In a world like that, it’s hard not to believe that there’s something inferior about being born black.”
Injustices unparalleled and facts mired in grey – always lost between black and nothingness.
“And all this time his ministers are preaching to us about brotherly love. So in the end, what we’ve got is brotherly love, and they’ve got all the land.”
The second half of the book talks about Biko’s arrest and death, followed by Wood’s exile. The rest of the book is about Woods escape – his eagerness to share the story, the truth, to make people understand and most importantly, feel – and that’s how Biko was born again, through Wood’s words.
Though this is all pretty much basic history written to drive facts home – It’s a straight arrow, unvarnished and powerful. That’s the word, powerful!
Judge: Why do you people call yourselves black? You look more brown than black.
Steve Biko: Why do you call yourselves white? You look more pink than white.