On November 2 Rollins College hosted Nyaniso “Niso” Tutu-Burris for a “Conversation on Peace” in conjunction with Valencia College’s new Peace Three initiative. The event was held in the Bieberbach-Reed room in the Campus Center. It was sponsored by the Thomas P. Johnson Distiguished Scholars, Amnesty International, and the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation.
Granddaughter to Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Tutu-Burris has proven to possess much of her grandfather’s spirit and passion for conflict resolution. At the young age of 18, she has traveled the world to speak on her interpretation of peace as well as conflicts pertinent to South Africa.
After opening the conversation with a brief speech on “color-blindness,” questions arose as to her interpretation of the term and her thoughts on the current racial tensions in the United States. Tutu-Burris, originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, has the unique ability to provide views on conflicts within South Africa as well as those in the States.
Tutu-Burris went on to explain that she believes “colorblindness” to be a disrespectful attitude to those of African descent and culture. Some people in this day and age, she said, believe that by simply ignoring race we are solving racism; Tutu-Burris disagrees with this, expressing that there is “beauty in diversity” and that it is important to recognize where one comes from.
When asked about her thoughts on the recent Black Lives Matter movement, she stated her admiration for their passion but emphasized her belief in “peaceful protests” by sharing her experiences protesting in Cape Town for education reform.
In addition to her passion for civil rights activism, Tutu-Burris also identifies as a feminist. After leaving the topic of race, the discussion moved to women’s rights and their role in today’s politics. When asked what she felt needed to change in order for peace to thrive, she answered “everything,” but emphasized that more women should be in power.
Having been raised in a family where strong, independent women are prevalent, she explained that this mindset is not something she finds unusual. She has been taught to recognize that “women and girls are capable of a lot” and feels that women are capable of providing new perspectives within the world of politics; however, she continued to explain that it is “not just about having women leaders, it’s about having good leaders.”
In the future, Tutu-Burris believes that she will pursue her passions for civil rights and feminism. She hopes to continue her work through the organization of protests and the continued conversations she has with students around the world.
Although it was impressive to hear how much she has accomplished in such a short life, there were a few moments during the presentation where her immaturity showed. This is not to demote her work as an activist but simply to say that audiences should be excited to see how she develops into her identity as a person of peace as she continues to grow as a speaker and a leader.
Students can look to her for inspiration in developing their lives and recognize that one does not necessarily have to be well-known or accomplished to make a difference in the world.