From a young age, Steve Biko knew that his home country was deeply anti-Black. South Africa was ruled by a small white minority, with a dehumanizing official segregation policy called apartheid.
In college, he collaborated with peers in a multi-racial activist group, but was soon disillusioned. Like many organizations today, white leadership dominated it. Black voices went unheard.
Biko believed Black people should lead our own movements and that integration wasn’t enough. A complete dismantling of the oppressive regime was necessary.
Biko launched the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) to reframe internalized racist beliefs. He helped to popularize the phrase “Black is Beautiful” and encouraged Black people to see themselves in a positive light.
Biko also formed the SASO, a Black-led, Black-centered political organization. For this, he was targeted by the government, jailed, and eventually murdered by police.
Though his ending is tragic, over 20,000 people attended his funeral, and his martyrdom energized the movement. Less than 20 years later, South Africa was free, and apartheid was abolished.
They want us to hate ourselves, believe we deserve mistreatment, and take abuse quietly. Biko reminded us that we deserve more, and if we fight for what we deserve, we will win.