Steve Biko – father of the Black Consciousness movement
Steve Biko was a well-known fighter for the rights of black South Africans. He is considered the founder of the Black Consciousness movement.
Stephen Bantu Biko was born on December 18, 1946 in King William’s Town, South Africa into an ordinary family. He was the third of four children.
Since childhood, Steve was interested in politics. For political reasons he was expelled from the prestigious Lovedale School in Alice (South Africa), and then continued his studies in the more liberal Roman Catholic St. Francis College.
In 1966 he entered the Medical Faculty of the University of Natal in Durban. There he met his future friend and mentor Joshua Mboya Dada. Biko became a member of National Union of South African Students.
But soon he decided that the non-European students (black, Indians and “colored”) should have their own organization to fight for their rights. Therefore, in 1968 he co-founded SASO (South African Students’ Organization) and became its first president. Then, the organization joined Black Consciousness Movement.
In 1970 he married Ntsiki Mashalaba, then a nursing student in Durban.
Biko was also involved in the activities of World Student Christian Federation. In 1972, Steve was elected honorary president of Black People’s Convention.
In 1973 he was expelled from the university, and in the same year he was forbidden to leave the city, to talk with more than one person and speak in public. Despite the bans, he acted as a leader of the resistance movement and published Frank Talk newspaper. He was repeatedly arrested.
August 18, 1977, Steve Biko was arrested near King William’s Town on suspicion of terrorism.
Steve Biko died on September 12, 1977 in the prison hospital in Pretoria. The South African government stated that the reason for Steve’s death was starvation, but his death was the result of brain damage.
Biko became the symbol of the resistance movement against the apartheid regime. His funeral was attended by many journalists, politicians and diplomats, including those from the US and Western Europe. There were more than 10 thousand people.
In 1987, Richard Attenborough made the film Cry Freedom. Denzel Washington who played the role of Steve Biko was nominated for Oscar.
Many rap, hip-hop, jazz, reggae and rock singers sang about Biko. Peter Hammill, Public Enemy, Patrice, Peter Gabriel, Dave Matthews, System Of A Down, Simple Minds, U2 and others are among them.
Biko is the author of the book I Write What I Like, which was published a year after his death.