A Call for Young Voices to Re-Imagine Tomorrow

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond and Mrs Leah Tutu’s message to young people across the world is to be diligent about wearing facemasks to help protect their families, friends and neighbours from the coronavirus.

“Please all care for each other and wear a mask,” they said, as their Legacy Foundation in Cape Town launched a special virtual platform for young people to reflect on living through Covid-19, encouraging them to re-imagine the world that awaits on the other side of the pandemic.

The youth-in-times-of-Covid conversation has begun; the Foundation is already hearing from young voices from Southern Africa, the US and Europe. We’re calling the new online initiative, LIGHTS COURAGE ACTION!, Facebook and Instagram

Although participants and writers represent different continents, cultures and lived experiences, their concerns are universal in a globalised world. “One of the lessons that stands out is that as a young person it is good to bear the yoke now, as a youth. It is in us, where the strength is. There’s always a fight coming, one after the other, let’s get ready for it,” says Edgar Simpokolwe , 21, who writes from Malawi.

“The shape of the world that unfolds tomorrow is already in the minds and hearts of young people in the global village today,” said CEO of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Piyushi Kotecha. “We want to amplify their voices and visions as key navigation aids through this time of global anxiety, uncertainty and unprecedented economic disaster.”

The world that entered coronavirus lockdowns on the cusp of climate change was a world of gross inequality and immorality, racism, sexism, discrimination, violence and greed. It was a world led by adults, mainly strong men, in whose hands many parts of the world have now been taken to the brink.

A world which chokes people to death because of the colour of their skin is not the world most young people want to live in. A world based on the exploitation of communities by a handful of strong men is not the type of world most young people want to return to, Kotecha said.

LIGHTS COURAGE ACTION heralds the promise of a different kind of world. It is a drafting board for young people to share their experiences and sketch the architecture of tomorrow. To reflect both their uncertainty and confusion today, and their compassion and concern for others, and the world, in the future. To develop ethical, innovative human-centered solutions to crises inherited from countless generations before them. To tell it like it is with vision, courage and ideas for action.

As the Archbishop said many years ago: “Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are.”

“We don’t understand that these things can kill us. ‘Poof!’ out of this world, we are gone,” warned 13-year old Neliswa Hlophe, a learner at Vuleka St Martin’s Primary School in Johannesburg speaking about COVID-19 in a soon to be published interview for LIGHTS COURAGE ACTION.

“We need to work on it. We need to LEARN that we aren’t cats; we don’t have nine lives, we just have one. We need to use that life to help each other, not to hurt each other. I really pray with all of my might, that there will be those people from the World Health Organization telling these people that IF you don’t follow the regulations, you will die.”

The Tutu Foundation invites all young people aged from five to 25-years-old to submit stories, poems, reflections and drawings of their experiences in Covid-19 times and the lessons they see for tomorrow. It also invites nominations for people in the community who are Shining Lights during this pandemic.

Each experience will form a pixel in the image LIGHTS COURAGE ACTION is creating of the new world we want to be.

Photograph: Wilma Jakobsen