Newswire: Desmond Tutu, South African equality activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, dead at 90

Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Nelson Mandela

 

By: Associated Press

Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist for racial justice and LGBT rights and retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has died, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Sunday. He was 90.
An uncompromising foe of apartheid — South Africa’s brutal regime of oppression against the Black majority — Tutu worked tirelessly, though non-violently, for its downfall.
The buoyant, blunt-spoken clergyman used his pulpit as the first Black bishop of Johannesburg and later Archbishop of Cape Town, as well as frequent public demonstrations to galvanize public opinion against racial inequity both at home and globally.
Tutu’s death on Sunday “is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
“From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Arch distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.”
Tutu died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Trust said in a statement on Sunday. Tutu had been hospitalized several times since 2015, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997. In recent years he and his wife, Leah, lived in a retirement community outside Cape Town.
The Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 highlighted his stature as one of the world’s most effective champions for human rights, a responsibility he took seriously for the rest of his life.
With the end of apartheid and South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Tutu celebrated the country’s multi-racial society, calling it a “rainbow nation,” a phrase that captured the heady optimism of the moment.
Nicknamed “the Arch,” Tutu was diminutive, with an impish sense of humor, but he became a towering figure in his nation’s history — comparable to fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, a prisoner during white rule who became South Africa’s first Black president. Tutu and Mandela shared a commitment to building a better, more equal South Africa.
In 1990, after 27 years in prison, Mandela spent his first night of freedom at Tutu’s residence in Cape Town. Later, Mandela called Tutu “the people’s archbishop.”
Upon becoming president in 1994, Mandela appointed Tutu to be chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which uncovered the abuses of the apartheid system.

Tutu campaigned internationally for human rights, especially LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said in 2013, launching a campaign for LGBT rights in Cape Town. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say, ‘Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.'”
Tutu said he was “as passionate about this campaign [for LGBT rights] as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.” He was one of the most prominent religious leaders to advocate for LGBT rights. Tutu’s very public stance put him at odds with many in South Africa and across the continent, as well as within the Anglican church.
South Africa, Tutu said, was a nation of promise for racial reconciliation and equality, even though he grew disillusioned with the African National Congress, the anti-apartheid movement that became the ruling party in 1994 elections. His outspoken remarks long after apartheid sometimes angered partisans, who accused him of being biased or out of touch.
Tutu was particularly incensed by the South African government’s refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama, preventing the Tibetan spiritual leader from attending Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration, as well as a planned gathering of Nobel laureates in Cape Town. South Africa rejected Tutu’s accusations that it was bowing to pressure from China, a major trading partner.
Early in 2016, Tutu defended the reconciliation policy that ended white minority rule amid increasing frustration among some South Africans who felt they had not seen the expected economic opportunities and other benefits since apartheid ended. Tutu had chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated atrocities under apartheid and granted amnesty to some perpetrators, but some people believe more former white officials should have been prosecuted.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on Oct. 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, and became a teacher before entering St. Peter’s Theological College in Rosetenville in 1958 for training as a priest. He was ordained in 1961 and six years later became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare. Moves to the tiny southern African kingdom of Lesotho and to Britain followed, with Tutu returning home in 1975.
He became bishop of Lesotho, chairman of the South African Council of Churches and, in 1985, the first Black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg. In 1986, he became the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town. He ordained women priests and promoted gay priests.
Tutu was arrested in 1980 for taking part in a protest and later had his passport confiscated for the first time. He got it back for trips to the United States and Europe, where he held talks with the UN secretary general, the Pope and other church leaders.
Tutu often conducted funeral services after the massacres that marked the negotiating period of 1990-94. He railed against Black-on-Black political violence, asking crowds, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” In one powerful moment, Tutu defused the rage of thousands of mourners in a township soccer stadium after the Boipatong massacre of 42 people in 1992, leading the crowd in chants proclaiming their love of God and themselves.
After Mandela became president in 1994, he asked Tutu to head the truth commission to promote racial reconciliation. The panel listened to harrowing testimony about torture, killings and other atrocities during apartheid. At some hearings, Tutu wept openly.
“Without forgiveness, there is no future,” he said at the time. The commission’s 1998 report lay most of the blame on the forces of apartheid, but it also found the African National Congress guilty of human rights violations. The ANC sued to block the document’s release, earning a rebuke from Tutu. “I didn’t struggle in order to remove one set of those who thought they were tin gods to replace them with others who are tempted to think they are,” Tutu said.
Asked once how he wanted to be remembered, he told The Associated Press: “He loved. He laughed. He cried. He was forgiven. He forgave. Greatly privileged.”
Tutu is survived by his wife of 66 years and their four children.

Newswire : Linda Brown, named plaintiff in landmark school desegregation case, has died

By Frederick H. Lowe

 

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 Linda Brown in front of school
Linda Brown, the named plaintiff in the 1954 landmark civil rights case “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka” in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the nation’s public schools to desegregate, has died.
Ms. Brown died Sunday, March 25, in Topeka, Kansas, where she was born on February 20, 1942. She was 76 and had lived in Topeka most of her life. Tyson Williams, a spokesman for Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel, confirmed her death.
She became part of American history on May 17, 1954, when a unanimous Supreme Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, the court’s 1896 decision that declared separate but equal facilities were constitutional.
In its 1954 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were inherently unequal and ordered the desegregation of the public schools with “all deliberate speed.”
The fight to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson began years earlier. In 1950, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. asked group of black parents if they would attempt to enroll their children in all-white schools knowing they would be denied admission because of school segregation.
Brown, who was in third-grade, lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood but like the area’s other black children, Brown had to walk four miles to a school that was segregated for black children although Sumner Elementary, an all-white school, was only four blocks away.
Her mother and father were Leola and Oliver Brown. They were parents of three girls. Brown said her father, a pastor, questioned why his daughter had to walk so far to attend school. “My father pondered, ‘Why? Why should my child walk four miles when there is a school only four blocks away,” she recalled.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. wanted to file a lawsuit on behalf of 13 families nationwide, challenging De Jure school segregation, which is based on laws or actions of the state. It is unlike De facto segregation which happens by fact rather than by legal requirement.
Thurgood Marshall, who in 1967 would become the first African-American Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, was one of two lead attorneys and strategists. The other was Charles Hamilton Houston, former dean of Howard University Law School.
In 1952, the NAACP filed a lawsuit consolidating five cases. Linda Brown’s name was alphabetically at the top of the list of plaintiffs, making her the named plaintiff in the consolidated case.
When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision, Linda Brown was in junior high school and at a grade level that had been integrated before the 1954 decision.
In the late 1970s, Brown worked with the ACLU. She argued the district’s schools were still segregated. The Court of Appeals ordered three new schools constructed.
Although she was a civil rights activist, speaker and education consultant, Brown complained that the media treated her as a lofty historical figure, not a human being.
After the Supreme Court ruling, the family moved in 1959 to Springfield, Missouri. Two years later, her father died. Remaining members of the family returned to Topeka.
She attended Washburn University and Kansas State University
Linda Brown was married three times. She was divorced and later widowed. She married William Thompson in the mid-1990s.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and Director-Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said “Linda Brown is one of that special band of heroic young people who, along with her family, courageously fought to end the ultimate symbol of white supremacy-racial segregation in the public schools.”
Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer tweeted: “Linda Brown’s life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world.”