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Steve Biko

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Author: Jane Mark

Steve Biko, an icon in the anti-apartheid movement, died in the custody of security police on 12 September 1977. He was arrested and held in Port Elizabeth for interrogation - then carted 1 200km to Pretoria, naked in the back of a Land Rover. Steve Biko was born on 18 December 1946 just months before the racist National Party, which introduced apartheid in South Africa, came to power. His father died when he was four and his mother worked as a domestic servant for white families in King William's Town in Cape Province. Steve Biko's importance for informal and community educators lies in the emphasis he placed on the role played by consciousness and awareness-raising in his work as a black activist. Like Marx in the Nineteenth Century, Biko thought that only the oppressed could liberate themselves, no one could do it for them.

Steve Biko was one of the foremost figures in South Africa's struggle for liberation from the apartheid regime. Murdered by the police when he was only 30, he had already established himself as a leader through his work as a political activist and his writings on Black Consciousness. Steve Biko excelled in school as a youth but his political activities caused him to be expelled from Lovedale High School. Biko was still able to continue on to college where he received a scholarship to attend St. Steve Biko was the number forty sixth person to die in security police detention in South Africa. And for the first time, the inquest revealed full and horryfying details of how political detainees are treated.

Steve Biko was only 23 years old when he began to develop his ideas about black consciousness. Even more remarkably, he was then a medical student, studying to become a doctor. Steve Biko was expelled from medical school but went on to work on the Black Community Programs which was involved in several community projects. Despite the banning order, Steve continued his community works and also set up a Trust Fund for political prisoners and their families. Steve Biko was a central participant; he listened and challenged ideas as they emerged, concretised them, and brought them back for further development. This was a small group of men and women who were medical students, but joined regularly by some of us from other universities, especially at weekends.

Steve Biko was an amazing, inspiring leader who, as one of the founders and first president of the South African Student's Organization (SASO), helped mobilize thousands of students to opposition of apartheid. The quote from Biko is a reminder that when we confront the system of exploitation we live in, we must also confront the way we have internalized that system ? Steve Biko was a legend and in a way, was successfull in what he had been trying to do. I still think that his legacy will live on forever. Steve Biko was at the top of his list because he taught the people that South Africa belongs to the black people and they should fight to take it.

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