From a young age, Steve Biko knew that his home country was deeply unjust. South Africa was ruled by a small white minority, with a dehumanizing official segregation policy - apartheid.
In college, he collaborated with peers in the NUSAS, a multi-racial activist group - but was soon disillusioned. Like many organizations today, it was dominated by white leadership and Black voices went unheard.
Biko believed that Black people had to lead their own movements, and that “integration” wasn’t enough - a full dismantling of the oppressive regime was necessary.
But he wanted to focus on building Black power. Biko launched the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), an attempt to reframe internalized racist beliefs. He popularized the phrase “Black is Beautiful,” and encouraged Black people to see themselves in a better 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 abolished!
White supremacy wants 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 can win!