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Nontombi Naomi Tutu      

Race, Gender & Human Rights Activist; Daughter of Desmond Tutu

The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of the Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu’s life as a motivational speaker and 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.

The human rights activist’s professional experience ranges from being an economist and development consultant in West Africa to being a program coordinator for programs on Race and Gender and Gender-based Violence in Education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition, the Rev. Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, the University of Connecticut and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as Program Coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and was a part of the Institute’s delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.

Growing up the “daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu” has offered Naomi many opportunities and challenges in her life. Perhaps one of the greatest struggles was the call to ministry. She knew early in life that the one thing she would never be was a priest. She always said, “I have my father’s nose, I do not want his job.” It refused to be silenced, even as she carried her passion for justice into other fields. The call to preach and serve as an ordained clergyperson continued to tug at her. Finally, in her 50s, she responded and went to seminary. She is an Episcopal priest who most recently served as Associate Rector at All Saints, Beverly Hills. She currently resides in Atlanta where she is a priest associate at All Saints’ Episcopal.

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.

The Rev. Tutu knew from the time she was young that she wanted to help change the lives of others and make a difference in the world. But she wanted to carve her own path. And that she has done.

As well as speaking and preaching, the Rev. Tutu has established Nozizwe Consulting. Its mission 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 is the recipient of four honorary doctorates from universities and colleges in the U.S. and Nigeria. She has served as a curate at Christ Church Cathedral as a Canon Missioner for Racial and Economic Equity, and as a Canon Missioner for Kairos West Community Center for the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville, N.C. She is a single mother of two daughters and a son.

Speech Topics

Striving for Justice: Searching for Common Ground

After more than two years of COVID-19, the world will never be the same. The disease showed us our weaknesses in communities, our country and the world. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, says the Rev. Naomi Tutu. The Race and Gender Justice Activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu says it gives us the chance to create a brighter future, where everyone can thrive. In this keynote, Naomi shares the challenges she faced growing up Black and female in apartheid South Africa and the lessons we can learn from it. You’ll also learn how our differences are just opportunities and how the foundation for a just society is where we accept others and recognize the potential for greatness in each of us. Whether in the workplace, university or school or just your community, these are tools we can all use to help build a just world. Naomi customizes her content for specific audiences, including:

  • Business: Gain valuable insights on how to drive success by creating a culture of inclusion--leading to gains in revenue, innovation, productivity and a place where everyone is at their best.

  • Educators: Foster an environment where students learn to build a just world by being academically prepared, as well as socially conscious.

  • Students: Learn how a path to justice begins by recognizing and accepting that our differences are not a reason to hate but an opportunity to learn.

  • Healthcare: Discover how medical professionals can integrate Naomi’s lessons on striving for justice and seeking common ground into practice and policies.

  • Non-profits: Inspiration, information and guidance for nonprofits striving to make a lasting and positive impact on the world.

Truth & Reconciliation: Healing Wounds

Whether in our personal lives or 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 on others, and 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, the Rev. Naomi Tutu, a Race and Gender Justice Activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, talks about how we can heal as individuals and as a society.

Our Shared Humanity: Creating Understanding Through the Principles of MLK

In this empowering keynote speech, the Rev. Naomi Tutu, a Race and Gender Justice Activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond 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, Naomi encourages us to focus on our shared humanity to build a just world. Both the "Beloved Community" and the proverb share an underlying theme: The importance of not dehumanizing those with whom we are in conflict, but rather concentrating on what we have the power to change.

Intersectionality: Building Gender Coalitions Across Racial Lines

What happens when you accept oppression, division or hate? Everyone suffers, says the Rev. Naomi Tutu. In this empowering keynote, Naomi, a Race and Gender Justice Activist and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, explains how we can create a brighter future for everyone with an intersectional approach in the fight for the rights of women, especially those of color, and others marginalized by listening to each other and our stories, cultivating strong gender coalitions and creating allyship across racial lines. When we hear each other and get to know those who are not like us, the healing begins.

One Body, One Family, One World

Growing up during apartheid in South Africa, the Rev. Naomi 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.

Churches throughout the world offered 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, and 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 talk, which speaks to the connections that exist between the many parts of the One Body. Naomi explores the requirements and benefits of living as people who are connected, one to one another, and the whole of creation through God’s grace to create a more harmonious world.

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