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American Program Bureau Speaking to the world for over 50 years

Nontombi Naomi Tutu

Race & Gender Justice Activist
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Biography

The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of Nontombi Naomi Tutu's life as an activist for human rights. Those experiences taught her that our whole human family loses when we accept situations of oppression, and how the teaching and preaching of hate and division injure us all. In her speeches she blends this passion for human dignity with humor and personal stories.

Tutu is the third child of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nomalizo Leah Tutu. She was born in South Africa and had the opportunity to live in many communities and countries. She was educated in Swaziland, the US, and England, and has divided her adult life between South Africa and the US. Growing up the "daughter of..." has offered Naomi Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Most important of these has been the challenge to follow her own path and role in building a better world. She has taken up the challenge and channeled the opportunities she has been given to raise her voice as a champion for the dignity of all.

Her professional experience ranges from being a development consultant in West Africa to being program coordinator for programs on race & gender and gender-based violence in education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, and was a part of the Institute's delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.

She started her public speaking as a college student at Berea College in Kentucky in the 1970s when she was invited to speak at churches, community groups, and colleges and universities about her experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa. Since that time she has become a much sought-after speaker to groups as varied as business associations, professional conferences, elected officials, and church and civic organizations.

As well as speaking and preaching, Naomi Tutu has established Nozizwe Consulting. Nozizwe means "Mother of Many Lands" in Xhosa and is the name she was given by her maternal grandmother. The guiding principle of Nozizwe Consulting is to bring different groups together to learn from and celebrate their differences and acknowledge their shared humanity. As part of this work she has led Truth and Reconciliation Workshops for groups dealing with different types of conflict. She also offers educational and partnership trips to South Africa for groups as varied as high schools, churches, hospices, K-12 teachers, and women's associations. These trips emphasize the opportunities to share our stories and experiences.

Nontombi Naomi Tutu plans to pursue a Masters in Divinity and is the single mother of two daughters and a son.

Topics

Truth & Reconciliation: Healing the Wounds of Racism

Whether in personal life or in the larger society, we have wounds that block our ability to be the wonderful gifts that we are meant to be in the world. We too have inflicted wounds unto others, but all these wounds can be healed. However, it takes courage and the willingness to speak and hear the truth. That first step to healing is so often the hardest. We are afraid to speak our truth for fear of judgment, rejection and anger. We are also afraid to hear truths that might question our images of ourselves. Yet the pain is only the first step, what comes after that is healing and wholeness. Using South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a starting place and model, in this presentation Tutu talks about how we can heal and be healed as individuals and a society.

Our Shared Humanity: Creating Understanding Through the Principles of MLK

In this empowering keynote speech, Naomi Tutu combines Dr. King's dream of the "Beloved Community" with the teachings of a South African proverb, speaking to the need to understand how our actions – or inactions – affect all with whom we come in contact and ourselves. Rather than focus on what separates us, Tutu encourages us to focus on our shared humanity in order to build a just world. Both the "Beloved Community" and the proverb share an underlying theme: the importance of not dehumanizing those with who we are in conflict, but rather concentrate on what we have the power to change.

One Body, One Family, One World

Growing up during apartheid in South Africa, Ms. Tutu had firsthand experience of how the prayers and support of the worldwide church are a real means of encouragement for struggling and suffering people. Concrete steps were taken by churches throughout the world to offer support to the people of South Africa as they sought to change their country from one built on the separation of people based on race, to one that celebrated the different gifts and cultures that their country has been blessed with. Churches sent letters of support to political prisoners and their families, sponsored communities in the Bantustans, wrote letters to government and business leaders calling on them to live the Gospel imperative to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

This experience of being part of a worldwide community that sought the best for all God’s people became the basis of this presentation, which speaks to the connections that necessarily exist between the many parts of the One Body. The presentation explores the requirements and benefits of living in this world as people who are connected, one to one another, and the whole of creation through God’s grace.

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