Four essential Black Lives Matter reads
Compiled by Mila de Villiers
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in the US, and the police brutality and violence to which black South Africans — and immigrants from across the continent — are subjected, has galvanised global Black Lives Matter protests, reiterating the potentially fatal extent which institutionalised racism holds within law enforcement.
In light of the movement, novelists and short story writers Niq Mhlongo and Phumlani Pikoli, Sunday Times Books editor Jennifer Platt and slam poet Xabiso Zanabo Vili share the one title about the black experience they recommend as essential reading for all South Africans.
Afrika, My Music by Es'kia Mphahlele. Each time I read this book, it seems my whole history as a black person in SA under apartheid is summarised within it.
Kindred by Octavia Butler. What's dope about it is that it came out in 1979 and was a time travel story about a black woman in a mixed-race relationship with a white dude. She keeps being pulled back in time to slavery and has to deal with her ancestors on a plantation. It's a super-prescient or cynical idea around the complexity and layers of American racism from the roots. It's an uncomfortable read but thoroughly engaging. It explores the idea of how a black woman travelling to the past and armed with knowledge from the future is still unable to do anything to protect herself against racism and slavery.
One of my favourite books I read last year was Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. It spoke about the experience of being black and a woman in today’s world — not only London, as Queenie’s story resonates everywhere. She has just won the Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. The awards have been around for 30 years, and this is the first time a black female author has won. How the hell does this happen? Black lives matter.
Xabiso Zanabo Vili:
I suggest Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma. While Black Lives Matter, in SA Women's Lives Matter. This collection of poetry speaks to the lived experiences of being black and being a woman while living in SA. It has already become a best-seller and has been translated into seven or eight languages, and it is only two or three years old. Get your copy to support the South African poetry industry.