Desmond Tutu visits Minneapolis, promotes peace


Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu was in Minneapolis this weekend, promoting peace and supporting youth-led service projects.

Tutu and his daughter Naomi participated in a PeaceJam conference put on by local nonprofit youthrive, which has been working on community service projects for the past year.

He spoke Friday to a crowd of more than 3,000 at the Minneapolis Convention Center and Saturday to a packed North High School auditorium.

Dressed in fuchsia-colored robes on Friday, Tutu talked about turning enemies into friends.

“We forget that we are family,” he said. “You can’t, in fact, be human in isolation.”

Desmond Tutu received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work to end human rights violations in apartheid-era South Africa. He was recognized for speaking out against racial injustices and promoting reconciliation. In 1986, he became Archbishop of Cape Town, a position he used to unite black and white Anglicans in South Africa. After retiring from that office, he was granted the title of archbishop emeritus. In 1995, President Nelson Mandela appointed him chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated human rights violations that occurred under apartheid. Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa, in 1931. After working as a teacher, he entered the Anglican ministry in 1958. Following his ordainment, Tutu earned his bachelor of divinity honors and master of theology degrees from King’s College in London. Archbishop Tutu holds honorary degrees from more than 130 universities, including Harvard, Cambridge and the University of South Africa.

The primary purpose of the visit was to support youth-led community service projects in north Minneapolis. Dave Ellis, a north Minneapolis resident who helped plan the conference, said the projects are meant to feed the body, mind, community and spirit, and include food drives, voting initiatives and HIV/AIDs awareness campaigns.

Taylor Reed, 15, is on the youthrive board of directors. She said Tutu’s visit helped bring the community together.

“Like he said, you can’t do it yourself,” said Reed. “It definitely gives us an opportunity.”

Members of the organization showed off their projects at a rally in a Cub Foods parking lot following Tutu’s Saturday speech. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Ward 5 Councilman Don Samuels attended the events.

A drum and dance group and a D.J. were also on hand.

Samuels, who represents much of the north side, said Tutu’s visit to that area was significant because it represents what can be accomplished through equality and forgiveness.

“That’s what it’s going to take to bring peace to our community,” Samuels said.

Naomi Tutu spoke about community pride at the rally on Saturday, and about the work north Minneapolis’ young people are doing.

A one-year grant from the Greater Twin Cities United Way sponsored the service projects.

Tutu and his daughter have visited Minneapolis more than once in the past several years as part of youthrive projects.

Metropolitan State University also sponsored this year’s events.

The program’s previous educational sponsor, the University of St. Thomas, barred Archbishop Tutu from speaking at the University last year because of controversial comments he made about Palestinians and Israel.

Following harsh criticism, the Rev. Dennis Dease, St. Thomas’ president, reinvited Tutu to the University.