The Atlanta tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu took place at the Alliance Theatre at Woodruff Arts Center Wednesday morning. The event was in honor of the late religious leaders life and legacy as one of the world’s leaders in social justice reform and human rights.
A number of video tributes by clergy such as Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, the former South African Ambassador to the United States, Minister Trevor Manuel, former Minister of Finance to South Africa; loved ones, Tutu’s widow Mrs. Leah Tutu; and politicians, Stacey Abrams and Congresswoman Nikema Williams (District 5) played throughout the ceremony.
Guest speakers include Archbishop Tutu’s daughter Reverend Naomi Nontombi Tutu, who was dressed in a beautiful black and white ensemble, and spoke about how the leadership at Emory University, where Tutu spent two sabbaticals, and Coca-Cola and others, embraced the family when they first arrived in Atlanta. “I give thanks for all the leadership in this community that stood with us and the people of South Africa,” she said while on stage. “The rewards come in hearing the way daddy touched lives.”
She spoke of being moved by the ways people started their journeys of social justice after hearing his speak at a peace jam or something.
Tutu’s impact on the world and more specifically on Atlanta led many in attendance and via those tributes to speak about Atlanta as his “second home.”
The Archbishop’s relationship with Atlanta dates back to 1985 during the height of Apartheid when he requested and ultimately received a disinvestment in South Africa from soft drink giant Coca-Cola Company. “It became a very strong and powerful relationship,” said former Coca-Cola Company Executive Vice-President Carl Ware.
“Archbishop Tutu was a leader and patriot of peace without equal,” said E. Neville Isdell, former Coca-Cola Company Chair and CEO.
At the time South Africa was the company’s 10th largest market and the country’s largest employer of Black men and women. The move was one of the first anti-Apartheid stances on an economic scale and helped bring forth change in what was once one of the most racist countries on Earth.
During his time as a visiting professor at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University he continued to touch lives from his pulpit in the classroom. Reverend Dr. Lyn Pace, the current Chaplain at Oxford College at Emory University remembers being in the Archbishop’s class in 1991 and spoke of how it helped shape his religious and academic career.
Dr. Jan Love, the Mary Lee Hardin Dean at the Candler School of Theology called the Archbishop, “an uncompromised advocate for human dignity,” during her remarks.
Musical performances by the Clark Atlanta Philharmonic Society, Morehouse College Glee Club, Candler Singers and Candler Voices of Imani took place throughout the ceremony. The Ndlovu Youth Choir, a South African musical group, performed a trio of songs and dances that continued to bring the crowd to its feet during the tribute.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens also made an appearance and closed his remarks by saying, “The need for the messages of Archbishop Tutu remain strong.”