Rev. Naomi Tutu, daughter of legendary activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, speaks at UNCW

The daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu took part in a community conversation at UNCW on Wednesday night.
Rev Naomi Tutu
Reverend Naomi Tutu speaking at UNCW (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu took part in a community conversation at UNCW on Wednesday night.

The event was held in partnership with the YWCA of the Lower Cape Fear as a part of UNCW’s Equity Institute. The institute is all about cultivating positive change, focusing on opportunities based on equity and justice.

Reverend Nontombi Naomi Tutu spoke about her own experience dealing with apartheid in South Africa and how what she has learned over the years can be applied to our community.

Her speech was built around three different African proverbs. The first is “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” meaning “a person is a person through other people.”

“Our connections to one another are what build us as human beings,” Tutu told WWAY. “We cannot do something on behalf of somebody else, we cannot uplift somebody without uplifting ourselves. In the same way, we cannot denigrate or oppress somebody without in a real sense oppressing ourselves.”

The second, “in a time of flood, the wise build bridges, the foolish build walls.”

“That talks about in crisis, in times of difficulties, the wise people look for ways to align themselves with others. Find out those who can best work with them in overcoming the crisis,” Tutu said.

Finally, “if you want to go far, go with others.”

“That proverb speaks to, if you want to get somewhere very quickly, you can try and go on your own,” Tutu said. “But when it is a long journey, and the journey against racism is a long journey, you need compatriots, you need people on the journey with you.”

Following in her father’s footsteps is not always what the reverend wanted for herself, but after answering the call to become a clergyperson, she has taken the opportunity to share her story in hopes of it speaking to others. Again, going back to the first proverb, she says she hopes hearing other people’s stories can help people better understand their own journey.

“My parents made it clear to us growing up that being a part of the struggle for human rights is in fact something that we all should be a part of and how that looks for each of us is going to likely be different,” Tutu said.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are words we’ve heard more often in recent years than in the past, but Chief Diversity and Equity Officer for New Hanover County Linda Thompson says the work in not in fact new and Tutu is a reminder of that.

“Her presence here tonight helps to bring it all together and remind us of how vital it is, that it’s been around for a long time, and my prayer is that we won’t let it go. That we will continue to push it. That we will continue to push, equity, diversity, and inclusion across our community,” Thompson said.

After Tutu’s remarks, a panel of local diversity officers including Thompson shared their thoughts about her speech and big takeaways from it.

The YWCA is hosting a Health Summit on May 19 to “bring together a diverse group of people who are working to advance health equity and who want to ensure that all voices are heard regardless of their race, gender, social or economic status.” For more information on the event, visit here.

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