Naomi Tutu

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Short take: Naomi Tutu

  • Article by: DENISE JOHNSON
  • Star Tribune
  • January 20, 2012 - 8:40 PM

As a daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Naomi Tutu has in some ways followed in her famous father's footsteps, advocating for peace and human rights like her Nobel Peace Prize-winning dad.

But she has also carved out her own place as an advocate on race and gender.

Born in South Africa, she alternated between there, the United Kingdom and the United States most of her life. She was in the Twin Cities last Monday as the keynote speaker for the 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

Here are excerpts from her speech and an interview.

On Martin Luther King: "He was such an important part of the global struggle for human rights, and we understood that under apartheid. When Dr. King spoke about the beloved community, it was very familiar to me.

"It's a community based on ubuntu, which in South Africa means ... our shared humanity. It's a person who looks at another person and sees a brother or sister. Someone who looks at one who oppresses ... and refuses to see just an enemy but [instead sees a person] who needs to be lead back to their own humanity."

On King's dream: "We are so far from [King's] promised land. What we in the developed world use to buy ice cream each year could ensure clean water for every single human being on this planet."

On race: "Having the Obama administration somehow makes many people think we don't need to talk about race any more. ... [It has] allowed more racist speech to creep into our conversations. That's a dangerous place for us to be."

"When I do training on race and gender, I start by saying that someone is going to get their feelings hurt ... someone may get angry. Then I ask them to think about any relationship that they value ... a sister, brother, parent, spouse.

"In those relationships we get our feelings hurt, we get angry. But those relationships are important enough for us to work through them. Issues of race are also important enough."

On the global status of women: "We live in a world where in many communities girls still have no access to education ... where the aspiration for too many girls is to marry them off as early as possible. But there are bright spots -- Rwanda now has a large number of women in government. And the civil wars in Liberia ended largely because of women activists."

On being "the daughter of'': I had many opportunities ... because of my father. ... But there is also an expectation that children of clergy act in certain ways -- that I would believe everything he believed. ... I'm not a carbon copy -- I make my own choices and have found my own way.

On living the legacy: "The [King holiday] should be just an energy boost, a fueling up for taking action on social justice. If we say we are striving to create the beloved community, for ubuntu, then we have no choice but to raise our voices for healing ... for community."


Denise Johnson is a Star Tribune editorial writer.


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