Tutu Blesses Washington Middle School With A Visit
TEACHERS AND STAFF MEMBERS WIPED AWAY TEARS AS THE ARCHBISHOP WAS ESCORTED INTO THE WASHINGTON MIDDLE SCHOOL GYM. A THOUSAND STUDENTS STOOD TO APPLAUD, AND LAUGHED AT THE RIGHT TIMES DURING TUTU’S SPEECH.
THE ARCHBISHOP SAYS IN HIS NATIVE SOUTH AFRICA, GROWNUPS SHOWED PICTURES OF NELSON MANDELA TO KIDS, TO SEE IF THEY KNEW WHO HE WAS. THEY ALL DID.
TUTU: "And then they showed pictures of me. And most of the kids were stumped, until one said ‘ahh! I know who that is! The Pink Panther!’"
IN HIS PURPLE ROBE, TUTU TOLD PARABLES ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA IN THE ERA OF APARTHEID. HE SAID APARTHEID MADE ABOUT AS MUCH SENSE AS DIVIDING SOCIETY BY NOSE SIZE.
TUTU: "If we said, ‘this university is for large noses only! If you have a small nose, tough luck. You have to go and apply to the Minister of Small Nose Affairs.’"
THE KIDS WHO LAUGHED ALONG ARE ALL SHADES OF BLACK, WHITE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. TUTU COMPLIMENTED THE SCHOOL ON ITS DIVERSITY.
WASHINGTON MIDDLE SCHOOL IS SOCIALLY COMPLEX. THE MOST ADVANCED LEARNERS IN THE CITY BUS IN FROM ALL NEIGHBORHOODS. IN SEPARATE CLASSROOMS, THEY’RE SCHOOLED UNDER THE SAME ROOF AS ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS, SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS, AND KIDS WHO LIVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, WHICH IS HISTORICALLY BLACK. WASHINGTON PRINCIPAL JON HALFAKER SAYS RACE RELATIONS AT THE SCHOOL HAVE IMPROVED IN RECENT YEARS. TALKING IS ONE THING THAT HELPS EASE TENSION--AND FIGHTING.
HALFAKER: "It’s something we’ve worked hard on to end. I’m not gonna be naïve and say that there isn’t stuff that happens. When you’re putting kids together who may not have been together with any kids like that before, you’re bound to have some things that happen. But as a staff I think we do a wonderful job of recognizing it, and going from there."
HALFAKER SAYS TUTU’S VISIT FITS INTO THE SCHOOL’S ONGOING CONVERSATION.
WASHINGTON MIDDLE SCHOOL WILL HAVE MORE GUESTS FROM SOUTH AFRICA LATER THIS MONTH. THE GOAL IS FOR STUDENTS TO SHARE EXPERIENCES ABOUT RACE RELATIONS. PHYLLIS FLETCHER, KUOW NEWS.
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