The late Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu made an affectionate remark about Motor City decades ago when he said if he were to live outside South Africa , “Detroit would be very high on the list.
The global icon, known for her tireless and non-violent fight against apartheid in South Africa, died in South Africa on Sunday at the age of 90. And he has been sadly missed by the world – including those who met him on his many trips to Michigan.
In 1986, Tutu visited Detroit with his family as part of an American tour of 12 cities.
The Tutu family landed in Detroit on the birthday of the late Martin Luther King, and they were greeted at the Detroit metro airport by a sea of local politicians and activists, according to Free Press reports from the time. Tutu met with former Mayor Coleman Young, former Governor James Blanchard, former US Senator Carl Levin, former City Council President Erna Henderson, members of the clergy and civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
As someone asked Tutu and Parks to come closer for a photo, the Bishop
intervened to spare the still private parks discomfort, the newspaper reported.
Meeting Parks, Tutu said, “She’s a shy woman” and refused to let her strike a pose.
Tutu said Parks was “someone who started it all”.
As part of his visit, Tutu addressed a crowded Cobo Arena, filled with more than 10,000 singing voices, reports the Free Press. It was there that he mentioned his thoughts on living in Detroit.
Tutu also spoke at an Economic Club luncheon, which drew a diverse crowd of Detroiters to 176 tables, with 12 seats each.
At St. Paul’s Cathedral Church, Tutu delivered a sermon in which he spoke about the struggle against apartheid, according to Free Press reports.
“And please know that every human being is to be held in great reverence. … You and you and you, and the blasphemy of apartheid is that it can make a child of God doubt that he is a child of God, “Tutu told the crowd.” We now want to be able to scream loudly, finally free, thank you Almighty God, finally free. “
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Traveling in Michigan
The Archbishop visited Michigan several times during his life.
In 2003, the Archbishop spoke at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, WMU News, from Western Michigan University, reported.
In 2008, Tutu addressed a crowded hall at Western Michigan University, where he advocated for peace and reconciliation. The host, the Fetzer Institute, recorded and published excerpts from Tutu’s speech.
In 2009, the Archbishop spoke at the start of Michigan State University, where he received an honorary doctorate in human letters, MSU’s website said.
More recently, Tutu returned to Kalamazoo in 2019 to talk about peace and reconciliation, MLive reported. He addressed a packed house of about 3,000 people at the Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University.
Desmond Tutu’s legacy
Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his leadership in the nonviolent movement against apartheid in South Africa; apartheid legislated ended in 1994. He was South Africa’s second winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
He was the first black bishop of Johannesburg in 1985 before becoming the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town a year later. When he retired in 1996, the Anglican Church gave him the title of “Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town”.
The anti-apartheid leader, laureate and former South African president Nelson Mandela called him “archbishop of the people”. AP reported.
During his lifetime, Tutu also served as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel tasked with investigating human rights violations committed by pro and anti-apartheid groups. He has also fought against child marriage, homophobia, the death penalty and acts of general violence.
In 2010, the South African icon retired from public life.
“Now is the time to slow down, sip rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoon, watch cricket, travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than lectures, conventions and college campuses, ”Tutu said.
Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and had been hospitalized several times in recent years.
He spent his final years in a retirement community outside of Cape Town with his wife, Leah.
The loss felt in the world
The news of Tutu’s death was felt across continents.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement on Sunday: “The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of mourning in our nation’s farewell to a generation of exceptional South Africans who left us a liberated South Africa.”
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said in a statement on Sunday: “Desmond Tutu has followed his spiritual calling to create a better, freer and more equal world. His legacy transcends borders and will resonate through the ages.”
Contact Minnah Arshad: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @minnaharshad.