Opinion: The day I danced with Desmond Tutu

Opinion: The day I danced with Desmond Tutu
Tutu delivers a sermon at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto on June 23, 1985, protesting against the South African raid into Botswana.

I danced with Desmond Tutu when I was 26.

At a Peace Conference in Bali of all places. It was held thereafter the Balinese bombings of 2002, to show how peace can reign in even the most violently devastated places.

Desmond Tutu was one of the keynote speakers. I was there to support the “youth” delegates. I worked at the time as the Youth Global Liaison for the Centre for Global Studies at UVic and would travel to facilitate youth delegates at various conferences for global organizations such as UNESCO, or the World Youth Peace Congress, or there in Bali, at the Quest for Global Healing Conference.

The youth made a proposal that they take the lead on a day of sessions. I advocated for this, and Desmond Tutu, who had stayed on for the full length of the conference, agreed with me, saying, “Let the youth lead.”

The youth were made up of the best promoters of global peace; youth who had advocated for their communities in the midst of war, raised money in their ghettos, navigated human trafficking… and yet when it came to choosing someone to introduce the Youth Day at the morning full conference plenary, they chose me.

I introduced their humanness and their wisdom and their leadership. I sang briefly. I reminded the adults of their own youth. And then I brought all the youth on stage, and asked the conference, on this day dedicated to the youth, and in fact every day beyond that, if they supported “us”. The crowd responded with a resounding “Yes!” Then one man jumped up at the back, and started singing “They are the ones we’ve been waiting for, They are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”

Everyone joined in. People jumped to their feet and added their voices to the song. Someone started playing music on stage (in Bali there are always instruments at the ready), and people started to flock to the stage, singing and dancing.

Caught in the midst of the surreal experience, I danced away on stage too. And then there he was, dancing and raising his arms above his head, taking it all in. He caught my eyes. And then Desmond Tutu walked through the dancing crowd beaming. He came right to me, shook my hand, and said “Thank you, Amy.”

He and his wife attended every single one of the youth-led workshops that day. I understand the Youth Day remained a continued and integral part of the conference in the following years.

The experience felt like a marvellous dance. And I didn’t wash my hand for two whole days ☺️♥️

Desmond Tutu, may you be remembered for your beaming smile, and your great wisdom as to the heart of leadership.

Smile. Listen to the child. Dance.

Deep bows to your passing, Heaven is so very lucky to have you. 🙏♥️

Amy Haysom lives on Saltspring Island and has worked in indigenous children’s rights and was an advocate for bringing youth voice into global policymaking. She helped create the Youth Advisory Group at the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which was used as a model with UNESCO commissions internationally, and is now included at the General Assembly in Paris. She currently runs a yoga studio in Sidney, All Ways Yoga, believing that peace is an ongoing practice.

She lives by her favourite quote of Desmond Tutu’s: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits put together that overwhelm the world.” 

Amy HaysomAmy Haysom

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!