Hero of the day: Bantu Stephen Biko

Steve Biko South Africa activist

Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it. -Malcolm X

Heroes are the foundation of every great nation, That’s why I stand with Malcolm X because life itself is a free choice. We should fight for our in any situation, take your freedom and stop asking For it.
​Today we have choosen Stephen Bantu Biko an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. A student leader that later  founded the Black Consciousness Movement which would empower and mobilize much of the urban black population. Since his death in police custody, he has been called a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement. While living, his writings and activism attempted to empower black people, and he was famous for his slogan “black is beautiful”, which he described as meaning: “man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being”.

Steve Biko was one of South Africa’s most significant political activists and a leading founder of South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement. His death in police detention in 1977 led to his being hailed as a martyr of the anti-Apartheid struggle.

Date of birth: 18 December 1946, King William’s Town, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Date of death: 12 September 1977, Pretoria prison cell, South Africa

Early Life

From an early age, Steve Biko showed an interest in anti-Apartheid politics.

After being expelled from his first school, Lovedale, in the Eastern Cape for “anti-establishment” behavior, he was transferred to a Roman Catholic boarding school in Natal. From there he enrolled as a student at the University of Natal Medical School (in the university’s Black Section). Whilst at medical school Biko became involved with the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). But the union was dominated by white liberals and failed to represent the needs of black students, so Biko resigned in 1969 and founded the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO). SASO was involved in providing legal aid and medical clinics, as well as helping to develop cottage industries for disadvantaged black communities.

Biko and Black Consciousness

In 1972 Biko was one of the founders of the Black Peoples Convention (BPC) working on social upliftment projects around Durban. The BPC effectively brought together roughly 70 different black consciousness groups and associations, such as the South African Student’s . (SASM), which played a significant role in the 1976 uprisings, the National Association of Youth Organisations, and the Black Workers Project, which supported black workers whose unions were not recognized under the Apartheid regime.

Biko was elected as the first president of the BPC and was promptly expelled from medical school. He started working full time for the Black Community Programme (BCP) in Durban which he also helped found.

Banned by the Apartheid Regime

In 1973 Steve Biko was “banned” by the Apartheid government. Under the ban Biko was restricted to his home town of Kings William’s Town in the Eastern Cape – he could no longer support the BCP in Durban, but was able to continue working for the BPC – he helped set up the Zimele Trust Fund which assisted political prisoners and their families.

Biko Dies in Detention

Biko was detained and interrogated four times between August 1975 and September 1977 under Apartheid era anti-terrorism legislation. On 21 August 1977, Biko was detained by the Eastern Cape security police and held in Port Elizabeth. From the Walmer police cells he was taken for interrogation at the security police headquarters. On 7 September “Biko sustained a head injury during interrogation, after which he acted strangely and was uncooperative. The doctors who examined him (naked, lying on a mat and manacled to a metal grille) initially disregarded overt signs of neurological injury,” according to the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa” report.

By 11 September, Biko had slipped into a continual, semi-conscious state and the police physician recommended a transfer to hospital. Biko was, however, transported 1,200 km to Pretoria – a 12-hour journey which he made lying naked in the back of a Land Rover. A few hours later, on 12 September, alone and still naked, lying on the floor of a cell in the Pretoria Central Prison, Biko died from brain damage.

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