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Bantu Stephen Biko was a South African anti-apartheid activist. As an African nationalist and socialist, his ideological stance was at the forefront of the grassroots campaign known as the “Black Consciousness Movement” during the 1960s-70s. The movement rejected apartheid policies and motivated black people to take pride in their identities and cultural heritages.
While striving to bring awareness to the injustice of apartheid, he was also the co-founder of the South African Students Organization and the Black People’s Convention in 1972.
He was arrested several times and detained for months at a time for his anti-apartheid work. In 1977, when he was only 30 years old, he died from injuries sustained while in police custody. He had been severely beaten and tortured. In 1997, two decades after his death, five former police officers confessed to murdering him. They applied for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; amnesty was denied in 1999 but South Africa’s justice ministry announced later that the five officers would not be prosecuted because the statue of limitations had elapsed.
The biography Biko was written by liberal white South African Journalist Donald Woods, who had become a personal friend of Biko’s. Woods was forced into exile for trying to expose the truth surrounding Biko’s death.
The book went on to be the inspiration for the 1987 British-South African film Cry Freedom. Denzel Washington portrays Biko and Kevin Kline plays Woods.
“History from time to time, brings to the fore the kind of leaders who seize the moment,who cohere the wishes and inspirations of the oppressed.Such was Steve Biko,a fitting product of his time;a proud representative of the reawakening of a people.”- NELSON MANDELA
“He taught that black people must investigate and validate their own existence, irrespective of other people’s opinions of them; that they must see themselves in the warm light of their own genius – the unique gift that they come into the world carrying to deliver to all of humankind; that they must have faith that they are made perfectly for the singular expression of the divine that they are. This is why one reveres Steve Biko. Because, in short, he fully understood that the foundation of any true liberation, any true liberation, is self-love.” –ALICE WALKER
Watch the Cry Freedom trailer (1987):