Leading by Example


“When you look at the news today there are so many issues facing us” – Reverand Nontumbi Naomi Tutu

“A person is a person only through other people,” said Rev. Nontumbi Naomi Tutu on Friday, September 23 during her cityCURRENT speech. The renowned speaker and human rights activist enlightened her audience with her journey to understanding respect and forgiveness through recognizing humanity of oneself and others by recounting hard-hitting stories from her childhood where she dealt the apartheid in South Africa. Being the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, she shared how growing up, there were often times where she would rebel whether it be in her schoolwork, situations with her siblings, or even her thinking on the abusive government system, yet her father often reminded her to be mindful of her thinking. He repeated the phrase, “a person is a person through other people” to tell Tutu and her siblings that no matter how others treat them, their humanity rests in the way they show respect to others.

Before she graced the stage with the recounting of her personal stories and her overall message, she sat for an interview with Signpost. When asked what issues she finds herself dealing with the most, and why she continues to tackle them, the reverend had a lot to say, including, “When you look at the news today, there are so many issues facing us.” She spoke of the kidnapping of Memphian Eliza Fletcher and the killing of the Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, for wearing her hijab ‘too loosely’. “The fact that as a woman, she was not safe doing something she was doing for her own selfcare are issues that I tackle in both my work and my everyday life,” said Tutu. The empathy that characterizes Tutu is what truly compelled her to speak on these issues and many more that continue to plague our society. Although she vowed at a young age to not follow her father’s footsteps, Tutu has committed to making the world a safer place for all kinds of people, especially young women of color because of her first hand experience of dealing with injustices from the apartheid in South Africa to fighting her way through the American educational system as a black, female immigrant. Building onto her previous point, Tutu revealed that she continuously speaks on issues both because they are so prominent in the world as well as because some people simply refuse to change. She said, “Part of the issue is to bring issues like this to our awareness, and also people tend to get comfortable [with their circumstances]”. In her eyes, much of her work stems from the notion that people would rather live in a world of harm as long as they personally are comfortable, which is quite unfair to the mass majority of humans that live in struggle and fear on a daily basis. The reverend firmly believes that in order for real work to be done, people must not only be aware of these issues, but they must also understand that as a community, everyone must work together to ensure the safety of each individual.

As a black woman, she understands firsthand the struggles of young women of color, but she never let these stop her. Her perseverance is something to be admired. Finishing up the interview, she left with some advice for those wishing to fight for their community just as she has done by saying, “find your allies and find your safety.” According to Tutu, it is just as important to care for yourself as it is to care for others, so finding a community of like minded people who care about you and your cause will ensure the wellbeing of everyone involved.

Reverend Naomi Tutu gave a powerful speech about the importance of recognizing other’s humanity, and her words left a lasting impression on her audience as a whole. Moving forward, she plans to continue to speak up for those who cannot and be an example for other young women of color.