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Festival of Faiths: Activist Naomi Tutu On The Impact Of Collective Trauma


The 2017 Festival of Faiths kicks off this week in Louisville. This year's theme is Compassion: Shining Like the Sun.

Activist and scholar Naomi Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will speak at this year's festival. The Bluegrass is one of her old stomping grounds; she attended Berea College in the 1970s.

I spoke to Tutu about marginalized groups and collective trauma, and the significance of the 1996 Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, which included public hearings of victims and perpetrators of oppression and violence under apartheid. Listen to our conversation in the audio player above.

On the impact of collective trauma on marginalized and oppressed groups:

"I was never arrested or tortured in South Africa. But the knowledge that our government did that to people who looked like me for questioning the policies of the government was something that I lived with. That fear of being arrested and tortured, the experience of having relatives and friends who had been arrested or tortured, that experience is my experience. And the trauma carries through. It’s a people’s PTSD."

On how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission may have helped with collective trauma:

"One of the most powerful testimonies that I heard at the TRC was not someone who came to the TRC, it was from a young white man who wrote a letter that was read in one of the hearings in Cape Town. And in his letter he said, ‘I didn’t know about all these atrocities that were going on in my country. And I chose not to know.’

"For me it was important to have somebody say...hearing these stories had made me realize that I chose to believe what the government said."

On whether the U.S. could have a similar process such as the TRC:

"One of the striking things about the U.S. is that maybe because there were no Truth and Reconciliation hearings around the treatment of Native Americans, around treatment of African-Americans, that you are able to teach a history that minimizes those experiences. That makes it seem as though the Trail of Tears for many young people didn’t even happen because they are never taught about it."

Naomi Tutu will speak Thursday, April 20 at the 2017 Festival of Faiths in Louisville. More information about the festival is available here.

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.

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