Healing the wounds

Human rights activist Naomi Tutu spoke to Ferris about injustice

Nontombi Naomi Tutu has been speaking out on matters of injustice for more than thirty years.

The Globalization Initiative and Office of Diversity Inclusion brought Tutu to speak at Ferris’ Williams Auditorium on Tuesday, March 2.

Tutu, an activist for human rights, grew up during apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid was a system of legal segregation enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. White residents determined the rights of black residents during this period.

Being the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nomalizo Leah Tutu, Tutu said her parents were fortunate enough to send her to another country. She has lived in Lesotho, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Tutu has been speaking at college campuses about apartheid South Africa since the 1970s.

“I was raised in the system and people needed to know what was going on,” said Tutu.

The opportunity to travel was what pushed Tutu to speak out on the effects of racism and segregation, during apartheid and throughout the rest of the world.

Tutu said many “daily kinds of indignities” took place in the system. She said she was not allowed to be free in her own country.

“We didn’t have freedom of movement,” said Tutu. She said blacks had no access to beaches, as they were reserved for whites. Education systems were segregated as well.

She said that she would register at the police station in order to see her grandparents.

“You had a passport telling you where could go and where you could be,” she said.

Tutu uses the South African model of “Truth and Reconciliation” to speak of South Africa trying to heal after the apartheid. Truth and Reconciliation is the model of sitting down and hearing one another, said Tutu. She said it was specifically a South African model, but it’s an idea to be used in other countries.

Stories of those who were killed and tortured, as well as the survivors, are important to be told, according to Tutu.

Dr. David Pilgrim, Chief Diversity Officer, said Ferris was interested in having Tutu speak in order to establish connections to South Africa.

“I want Ferris students to have the same opportunities to hear the great speakers that students at the University of Michigan hear,” said Pilgrim. “I want our students to be connected in meaningful ways.”

Todd Stanislav, Director of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, said it was a real collaborative effort between the Globalization Initiative and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Stanislav said they were able to bring Tutu to Ferris because she was in Michigan and could fit a visit to Ferris into her schedule. He said she was “very gracious.”

Most of Tutu’s stories focused on apartheid and the people’s experiences in the system. In terms of racism, segregation and injustices, there are parallels with the United States.

“It’s not hard to see the parallel,” said Stanislav.

One of the examples Tutu used in reference to the Truth and Reconciliation model was that in high school history textbooks, there is not a lot said about slavery in the United States. She said to not only focus on talking about good things, but to talk about things people are ashamed of.

Tutu feels that wounds can be healed, but it takes courage and willingness to speak and hear the truth.

Stanislav said it was a great model of a way to resolve injustices, and “something that we can learn from.”

Tutu said the step to all types of healing is sitting down and listening to one another.

“My sense is that even if there is one person who hears it and asks about their life’s role, they can make a difference,” she said.