Speaks at event held by Faith in Indiana
Photo caption: Rev. Naomi Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, stands with Fort Wayne clergy, faith leaders, local uprising organizers and members of the community to call for moral leadership in Fort Wayne and to encourage the mayor to commit to a comprehensive review of the Police Department’s Use of Force Policy at the Promenade Park Foundation Pavilion on Thursday. (Photo: Katie Fyfe | The Journal Gazette)
By Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne)
July 24, 2020
Evoking leaders from the past, Naomi Tutu, Episcopalian priest and daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called on the adult generation to defend young protesters fighting to end racism and injustice.
Protests after the death of George Floyd at the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis are “the largest recognition of racism and injustice in generations,” she said, and asked youth ministers to be at their side.
“Our young protesters are outside,” Tutu told the crowd at Promenade Park Pavilion downtown. “You need to be out there with them.” Cookye Rutledge, a personal friend of Tutu’s, opened the event, which was sponsored by Faith in Indiana Allen County.
But as Tutu spoke, young people who had participated in the May 29 and 30 protests downtown that caused a divide between the local police and citizens became distracted as one of their own was arrested as she left the venue.
The arrest became an issue after Tutu finished her talk on the Biblical book of Amos and a well-known passage from Deuteronomy, “Choose life.”
Tutu, born in 1960 and a social justice activist in her own right, based her sermon-style talk on Amos, a shepherd who took care of the sycamore fig trees, but was called by God to be a prophet.
Amaziah, a priest too comfortable with the system to speak out, forbade Amos from prophesying.
Tutu said it was easy to see the Amaziahs in the Dutch Reformed Church as she grew up under apartheid in South Africa, although her education took her to the United Kingdom and later, college in Kentucky.
Black South Africans were mocked for everything, including not have a car, a luxury prevented by economic injustice.
“You, too, must raise your voice. You, too, must be an Amos seen as a threat by a power structure, willing to be on the front lines,” Tutu said. “I need you to speak truth to power. When we say Black Lives Matter and they say ‘all lives matter,’ I say ‘I never say they didn’t.’”
Tutu’s appearance was preceded by short testimony from four protesters, three of whom have been arrested. Jorge Oliva, whose slogan “Black Power Brown Pride” has become a staple at local protests, said his arrest and deportation threat were something he would risk again, but was grateful for the local community who came to his aid.
Tori Hardy spoke about her arrest while delivering milk to protesters in the street May 29 and 30.
Derek Nelson, also known as OG, choked up when he talked about his granddaughter’s father lying in the street several years ago, unattended by law enforcement who said they couldn’t tend to the man’s wounds because they believed the shooter was nearby.
Nelson was due in court today, he said at the event, with an added charge of rioting. “You got to be tearing up something” to get the rioting charge, he said. “I wasn’t tearing up anything.”
Brittiane Jones, also known as Minny Jackson, a fictional maid in the novel “The Help” who gets even with her white mistress, read from Desmond Tutu’s works and said he was a hero to her as she grew up, as well as Nelson Mandela.
Because she was teargassed at the protests, Jones said she had a chemical burn on her throat for two months.
Outside the partially enclosed pavilion, a half dozen Fort Wayne officers, two from the street crimes unit, appeared to monitor the event. The officers said they were not hired as security, but Audrey Davis, Faith in Indiana northeast regional lead organizer, said she hired security at a cost of $1,000. She said officers on bike patrol had not been hired by her, only the officers who were inside the venue.
Gennah Pendleton, the protester who was arrested, had told organizers she felt as though she was being watched and felt intimidated, Davis said.
According to court documents, Pendleton had an arrest warrant dating to July 1 for rioting, disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic.
Those who witnessed her arrest also took cellphone video. Pendleton was arrested at the bridge outside Promenade Park on Harrison Street.
Pastor Anthony Payton, of Come As You Are Church, took the microphone surrounded by other local pastors to say he applauded the passion of “our young people,” passion with a sense of sacrifice. He also spoke about the arrest incident.
He said he would have loved to have the event go without any problems, but he did say the police were doing their job when they made the arrest.
He also said they would see how they could help Pendleton, without naming her.
Davis said she was “disappointed at the outcome. “I just have to say I feel guilty and responsible for letting down the young people tonight.”