His words were simple, his message magnificent. “All of you are amazing,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu told some 350 North High students, teachers and youth leaders. “I come here to salute you.”
The world-renowned 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate addressed the crowd on Saturday, April 12, in North Community High School’s auditorium as part of his weekend visit to Minnesota. “You are going to be the ones to help change the world,” he said.
“Young children will know war no more. Young children will have clean water to drink. Young children will have enough food to eat. And young children will have a decent home.”
The archbishop’s words were nothing short of inspiring to many of those in attendance. His message to youth in North Minneapolis was an uplifting, positive breath of fresh air for a neighborhood that has had its share of negative press. Enough of the crime, violence, and home foreclosure stories — the North Side was on center stage last weekend, showing its bright side to the greater Twin Cities.
“His visit has really brought a positive focus to North Minneapolis,” said Dave Ellis, a North Minneapolis resident and manager of United Way’s Nurturing Children and Families Program.
“Yes, we have our issues here, but what city doesn’t?” asked Ellis. “Everyone in the community can be proud of Desmond Tutu’s visit, because how many times has someone of that magnitude come here? When has that happened?” Never in the 10 years that he’s lived on the city’s North Side, according to Ellis.
Archbishop Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his courageous leadership in efforts to find a nonviolent solution to the conflicts associated with apartheid in South Africa. His faith in young people is a shared faith among other Nobel laureates.
The laureates are partnering with youth worldwide to develop a “Global Call to Action” to be released this September. The goal of the call is to fix 10 global issues in a 10-year timeframe. These issues include current devastating problems such as infectious disease, little or no access to clean water, and poverty.
North Minneapolis youth have already gotten a head start in helping to correct these global issues with the help of two youth-oriented organizations called youthrive and PeaceJam.
PeaceJam is an international program that works with youth to inspire new generations to transform their local communities for the betterment of the world. Every year, PeaceJam works with youthrive to bring a Nobel laureate to the Twin Cities during its annual PeaceJam conference.
youthrive is the upper Midwest affiliate of PeaceJam Foundation and has brought youth together with Nobel Peace Prize laureates including Betty Williams of Northern Ireland, Dr. Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala and Wangari Maathai of Kenya.
youthrive’s planning for Archbishop Tutu’s visit started almost a year ago, all at weekly Wednesday afternoon meetings around a table consisting of 20 area middle- and high-school students, along with seven adults. But Tutu’s visit last weekend was only part of the story.
As a part of the “Global Call to Action,” the Nobel laureates have charged youth to complete one billion service-learning peace projects. Not one million — one billion. On April 12, hundreds of participants helped complete close to 20 of these service-learning projects, all the while working locally but thinking globally.
The projects help educate youth on ideas that aren’t always easy to understand: concepts like peace-building skills, social justice, anti-racism, human and environmental rights and ethical leadership.
One service project completed at the Cub Foods on West Broadway was compiling food boxes for delivery in North Minneapolis. The global cause for this action is to eliminate extreme poverty. Another project was the construction and stuffing of 600 knitted teddy bears to be sent to South Africa for children afflicted with HIV/AIDS. The global cause: fighting global disease.
An additional project involved painting a peace mural illustrated with messages of peace by local youth who stopped by to participate. The mural, colored on canvas, will be sent to Eastcape Training Center in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where high school graduates go to help develop career skills and gain full employment.
Gregory Rose is a North Minneapolis resident and local community college art instructor who helped students create the peace mural. “I’ve worked with about 20 or 30 students today creating this,” said Rose. “I just ask them, ‘What is your idea of peace?’ Some students painted a butterfly, some a heart, some a sun.”
Rose believes the skills students learn through art — skills like critical thinking, problem solving, tolerance and patience — are skills that will benefit them when it comes to making good decisions in their personal lives.
“I would like to see everything changed here in North Minneapolis,” said North High freshman Karyssa Linsey, who works with classmates on video productions that help her get in touch with the greater community. Through these videos, classmates have interviewed people in the community about topics such as war, violence and PeaceJam.
Linsey has gotten her own taste of violence in the community after being grazed by a stray bullet just a few weeks ago. “The experience really changed my life,” she said. “I had nothing to do with the situation. Now I am afraid to be outside as much as I used to. Anyone can get hurt. This violence needs to stop.”
Drakirah Glenn is a PeaceJammer who came to listen to Archbishop Tutu’s address. Through her participation with PeaceJam, Glenn is learning different ways to achieve peace within herself and others: “Be nice to each other, work together, and get along with each other,” she said.
Sydney Coffey, another eighth grader and PeaceJammer at the event, has her own agenda for finding harmony in her world. “In order to find peace, it has to start with you,” said Coffey. “You can’t sit around waiting for it to happen.”
Archbishop Tutu answered questions from students after his address at North High. His answers to tough questions were sweetened with the archbishop’s sense of humor, applicable to everyone’s life, and just plain honest.
On being happy: “It has to do with temperament. Some people are just more grumpy than others, and they just can’t help it… But at the center of the universe is love… There is a lot of good in a lot of things.”
On the most important value a person can have: “Love…the kind of love where you desire the very best for that person.”
On poverty: “You could have material things and be poor… We [my family growing up] were not rich — but [we were] rich with compassion. With love, a little bit goes a very long way.”
Felicia Shultz welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.