Thurston County students join Desmond Tutu throng featured in The OlympianSaturday, May 14, 2011
By LISA PEMBERTON AND STEVE MAYNARD
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu made one of his last public appearances in the United States on Friday night in Tacoma.« Go Back
Sixteen-year-old Andreya Williams of Olympia was among the 14,000 or so audience members at the Tacoma Dome to witness the event.
“ He’ s trying to encourage the youth, and I think that’ s really important, ” Williams, a sophomore at Avanti High School, said before the event. “ … To give us some uplifting words; to shove us out there. … To start working on things.”
The retired South African archbishop and activist gave the keynote address at the “ Be the Spark, ” organized by the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. Also featured were youth activist and three-time Nobel Prize nominee Craig Kielburger and Qwest Crew, winner of “ America’ s Best Dance Crew.”
About 20 Avanti students purchased tickets that were reserved through their school’ s Social Justice Institute, which offers monthly workshops about topics such as political action and cultural awareness, according to principal Mike Velasquez.
The students paid for the tickets on their own and planned to sit together, he said.
Local Rotary clubs bought a block of nearly 200 seats in the Dome; most were reserved for youths who are part of high school Interact and college Rotaract clubs.
Organizer Denise Keegan, a member of the Downtown Olympia Rotary Club, said the group filled two school buses.
Among them was Kimmy Latsch, 15, a sophomore at River Ridge High School. She said she was looking forward to hearing Tutu’ s stories and motivational speech on world peace, community justice and service to others.
“ I think ‘ be the spark’ means take action, be the first domino to fall down, and start something, ” she said. “ Don’ t just wait around and say, ‘ Somebody should do something.’ You actually have to do it.”
ABOUT THE LIFE OF DESMOND TUTU
Tutu spoke about peace during his speech Friday night.
“ God’ s world is not as it should be, ” he said. “ Trillions ... that is what we spend on instruments of death and destruction.”
Tutu, 79, is a global symbol of peace and justice for his nonviolent struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, then bring healing to its wounds.
He was born Oct. 7, 1931, in South Africa. Tutu became a teacher but left the profession because he couldn’ t accept government restrictions which limited prospects for black South Africans and conditioned them to accept white domination.
After leaving teaching, Tutu entered a seminary and was ordained an Anglican priest in 1961. His first public act against the apartheid government came in 1975, when he was named the first black dean of the Anglican Church of Johannesburg. Tutu refused to move into the dean’ s official residence in a white suburb, instead living in the black township of Soweto.
Tutu urged foreign disinvestment in South Africa to pressure the government to dismantle apartheid.
In 1989, as part of a nationwide campaign of defiance, Tutu led a march to a whites-only beach, where his supporters were chased away with whips and dogs.
As countries increasingly put pressure on South Africa to end apartheid, the government started to dismantle the system of segregation.
On Feb. 11, 1990, South African President F.W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela from prison. The next year, de Klerk repealed apartheid laws.
Mandela was elected president in 1994. At age 62, Tutu voted for the first time.