Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu captivated her audience of fellow Berea College alumni and donors while speaking at the Dialogue on Race and Education hosted by Berea College at the Newseum in Washington D.C. on April 27. Tutu, a 1983 alumna, shared experiences from her own life—both as the daughter of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu growing up in Apartheid in South Africa and as a mother in the U.S.—to illustrate the challenges that people of color face in dealing with race in their everyday lives.
“With my son I found out all kinds of things about our education system,” Tutu said. “What racism does and where racism exists is not simply to do with class or economics. We have a [public] educational system that judges our children based on their ethnicity and race. Educational access or lack of access has [great] impact on the ability of young people of color to dream to be whatever it is they want to be.”
“The biggest lesson I got from the experience was truly a sense of community can built with people from different countries, different languages,” Tutu continued, reflecting on her time at Berea College.”
Tutu pointed out that addressing racial issues should begin much earlier than college.
“If we want the Berea Colleges of the world to be diverse places, where students of color feel comfortable, where faculty of color are represented and respected, then we have to put our energy earlier on in the food chain,” she said. “We have to . . . speak out about what is happening in public education. We have to be those who speak out on what is not available in public education.”