Youth Fellows September Meet-Up
On September 17, 2016, the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice, the Peace Learning Center, and the Desmond Tutu Center Youth Fellows came together for our September Youth Fellows Meet-up. During the meet-up — our first since the Youth Fellows returned from South Africa — we reflected on our study trip and the lessons learned there; engaged in discussion with Desmond Tutu Center Executive Director Dr. Allan Boesak; and discussed the Fellows’ progress toward implementing their social justice initiatives.
Each fellow and mentor present had a chance to speak about what they found remarkable from the trip to South Africa. Common topics were the beauty of Cape Town; the resilience, self-reliance, and sense of community among the people they met; and the excitement of meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu in person.
Speaking about meeting Archbishop Tutu, one Fellow reflected, “that was a moment that really changed me.” Another said, “he was so refreshing to be around … I felt so appreciative to be in his presence.”
Then followed a discussion with Dr. Boesak on South African history, as well as some conversation on the current state of South African politics. Dr. Boesak related the cultural and political significance of the African National Congress, the anti-apartheid movement and political party Nelson Mandela led to victory in 1994, which continues to dominate South African politics today. According to Dr. Boesak, “moral leadership has given people hope” in South Africa. However, the leadership of the African National Congress has not been without its problems, and massive unemployment and lack of education persist in South Africa’s poorest communities. As a result, the ANC has suffered a significant loss in political and moral capital in the past few years as the South African people hold the party’s leaders accountable.
Dr. Boesak also told of his own history within the anti-apartheid movement. Active in the movement from a young age, he recalled that much of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa was led by young people — all the more reason for the Youth Fellows to be aware of their potential as leaders in social justice. “As long as I live,” Dr. Boesak told the group, “I will not forget how the people of South Africa changed their situation.”
After learning from Dr. Boesak, we discussed the progress some of our fellows have made in their social justice projects. Youth Fellow Sierra Nuckols has enjoyed tremendous success so far in implementing her Community Food Box Project. Recently, Community Food Box Project connected with inmates from Pendleton Correctional Facility to create small food pantries out of unused newspaper boxes, which will be installed in or near food deserts throughout Indianapolis as a free resource for hungry community members. The food-sharing project has three outposts so far – at IPS School 56, Rock of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, and Martin Luther King Community Center.
Winding down the meeting, the Desmond Tutu Center Managing Director, Waseema Ali, asked each group member to summarize their feelings about the meet-up in one word. “Inspiring,” “motivational,” and “instructive” were a few of the words Fellows and mentors had to report. Throughout the course of the meeting, the group adhered admirably to the Respect Code, which was developed collaboratively by the Fellows as a way to engender respect and constructive conversation within the group. Once again, the Fellows demonstrated their promise as agents of change in the Indianapolis and global communities.
– by Olivia Pratt, Youth Fellows Assistant