In countless interviews by Nelson Mandela, when asked of his achievements in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, he was always quick to remove the crown from his head and name people like Steven Biko to be more deserving for the roles they played during the struggle.
Born on 18 December, 1946 in Tarkastad, Eastern Cape of South Africa, Bantu Stephen Biko was a South African anti-apartheid activist.
His ideas were framed around African nationalism and African socialism; he was the flag bearer of the grassroots anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement during the late 1960s and 1970s before his death in police detention on 12 September 1977, Pretoria, South Africa – a death which is till described today as an assassination.
His idea for the black Consciousness Movement was influenced by Martinican revolutionary, Frantz Fanon, and the African American Black Power Movement.
This helped shape his ideology that “blacks had to overcome the feelings of inferiority instilled into them, the ‘oppression within’ before they could deal with whites as equals.”
Some of his famous quotes are:“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
"Being black is not a matter of pigmentation - being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”
“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time.”
In one of his books published in 1978, after his assassination in the hands of apartheid police force, Biko sums up what is till date one of the boldest utterances ever voiced.
An excerpt of the book, I Write What I Like (1978) reads:
“This is the first truth, bitter as it may seem, that we have to acknowledge before we can start on any programme designed to change the status quo.
“It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realize that the only vehicle for change is these people who have lost their personality.
“The first step, therefore, is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.
“This is what we mean by an inward-looking process. This is the definition of ‘Black Consciousness’.”
Another of his book published the same year, The Testimony of Steve Biko (1978) is based on the testimony of Steve Biko, defending his philosophy at the trial of his comrades in 1976. The work further proves that Biko indeed writes what he likes.
According to reports, Stephen Biko was severely beaten and died in a cell alone on 12 September 1977 after 25 days in police custody.
The announcement of his death by the South African government sparked both local and international outrage.
Over 20,000 people from around the world attended his funeral.
Header Image Credit: Huff Post