Bantu Stephen Biko was born on 18 December 1946 and Raised in a poor Xhosa family, Biko grew up in Ginsberg township in the Eastern Cape and died on 12 September 1977. He was a South African anti-apartheid activist. Biko’s given name “Bantu” means “people”; Biko interpreted this in terms of the saying “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” meaning “a person is a person by means of other people”
Biko spent two years at St. Andrews Primary School and four at Charles Morgan Higher Primary School, both in Ginsberg. Regarded as a particularly intelligent pupil, he was allowed to skip a year.] In 1963 he transferred to the Forbes Grant Secondary School in the township. Biko excelled at Maths and English and topped the class in his exams In 1964 the Ginsberg community offered him a bursary to join his brother Khaya as a student at Lovedale, a prestigious boarding school in Alice, Eastern Cape.
Within three months of Steve’s arrival, Khaya was accused of having connections to Poqo, the armed wing of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), an African nationalist group which the government had banned. Both Khaya and Steve were arrested and interrogated by the police; the former was convicted, then acquitted on appeal. No clear evidence of Steve’s connection to Poqo was presented, but he was expelled from Lovedale. Commenting later on this situation, he stated: “I began to develop an attitude which was much more directed at authority than at anything else. I hated authority like hell.”
Ideologically an African nationalist and African socialist, he was at the forefront of a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement during the late 1960s and 1970s. In 1968, Bantu Stephen Biko formed an exclusive black South Africa Students Organisation (S.A.S.O) driven by the philosophy of black consciousness
Black consciousness is in essence the realization by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the world to show the cause of their subjection – the blackness of their skin and to operate as a group in order to rid themselves of the shackles that bind to perpetual servitude. It seeks to demonstrate the lie that black is an aberration from the “normal” which is white. It seeks to effuse the black community with a found pride in themselves, their efforts, their value systems, their culture, their religion, and their outlook on life.
South Africa’s “Black Consciousness movement” was grounded in the belief that African-descendant peoples had to overcome the enormous psychological and cultural damage imposed on them by a succession of white racist domains, such as enslavement and colonialism. Drawing upon the writings and speeches of Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, and Malcolm X, advocates of Black Consciousness supported cultural and social activities that promoted knowledge of black protest history. They actively promoted the establishment of independent, black-owned institutions, and favored radical reforms within school curricula that nurtured a positive black identity for young people.
Bantu Stephen Biko desired to re-appropriate the label “BLACK” into a positive identity. The identity of black was one that the apartheid system wanted to remain in perpetual servitude and one that will always be dependent on the whites. The apartheid government used education to oppress the black community by enacting the Bantu Education Act Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd believed that “there is no place for him (Bantu) in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour and that black South Africans could not aspire towards a future without back-breaking labour.”
Bantu Stephen Biko was not just an Anti-Apartheid Activist but he was a Pan-Africanist who believed in the emancipation of the Africans and give the black community a positive identity. His desire for a positive identity to the black community is fast gaining ground and will surely yield the desired results. Bantu Stephen Biko died a hero among the African communities for his immense courage and commitment to the total emancipation of the black community from racism.