Whose table?

Steven Biko, young black leader in South Africa, was killed while detained by the police on September 12, 1977. Founder of the Black Consciousness Movement he was a very controversial figure, with his calls for black pride.

He once said:

“We are aware that the white man is sitting at our table. We know that he has no right to be there; we want to remove him from our table, strip the table of all the trappings put on it by him, decorate it in true African terms, settle down and then ask him to join us on our terms if he wishes.”

Some people might find these words threatening. But when I first read these words, they resonated with something deep in my heart: the desire for the poor to be those who set the table and prepare the menu – for their liberation.

So often people from outside come and think they have the answers. This was first seen in the colonial endeavors of the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English. But it still goes on, not only by the political and military actions of the US and other “imperial” powers,  but also by the many well-meaning but, I believe, misguided, who come to places like Honduras thinking they can save the people from their poverty. It’s another type of colonialism and imperialism.

Let the poor set the table. We can help them, especially by letting them have a table to set.

Let the poor invite us – it’s their table.

Then, maybe, we can sit down together at the Lord’s table.


Donald Woods’ book Biko is a good introduction to Steven Biko, as is the movie Cry Freedom.


One response to “Whose table?

  1. Pingback: Stephen Biko – prophet | walk the way

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