Another entry from Penn State History major, Amanda Fellmeth, chronicling her experiences during her semester at sea. This entry recounts an evening lecture by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, which Amanda recently attended.
An Evening with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Yesterday and today were very interesting and moving. Yesterday night, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke on the history and legacy of racism and apartheid in South Africa and how he learned to endure it and overcome it through non-violent means. It was incredibly humbling to sit with this man, who was so calm and so happy after the hardships he had experienced. He was a 65 year old man, a Nobel Laureate, an author, and for most of his life he couldn't vote in the country where he was born. And here he is, laughing with us about current events and giving us graduate school advice. It was truly moving.
Another story, just for the heck of it. A man named Moss was sent to Robben Island prison in 1982 after participating in student uprisings in South Africa. He was assigned the prison job of cell painting, which means he moved around the prison every day, painting new cells. One day, he was painting a cell when Nelson Mandela called him over. They chatted for a bit, and then Mandela asked him to bring back a piece of plastic wrapping the next day. Moss did what Mandela asked, and Mandela gave him a piece of paper, asked him to carefully wrap it up in the plastic, and stick it in the bottom of the paint can and take it to another prisoner. Moss, who was uniquely suited to this task due to his mobility, did exactly as Mandela asked. The note passing carried on for a few weeks and the men would take the paper, make notes, add information, and continue passing it around.
Years later, when all these men were released from prison, Nelson Mandela brought this document out with him. It was the new constitution of South Africa. Moss, the man who carried the document back and forth between the prisoners, became the deputy secretary of finance.
Imagine a country where the ruling document was written over the course of several years by prisoners and transported between them in a paint can. In the new South Africa, imprisonment became a badge of honor on one's political resume. It is difficult to imagine that these events took place less than 20 years ago. Given the long history of violent apartheid, it is also amazing to think that when the African National Congress, the current black-majority ruling party, came to power there was no bloodshed, no violent retribution. Instead, they created a Peace and Reconciliation Committee to examine the country's painful past. Imagine the patience and strength that that took.
Just something to think about.