Archbishop Desmond Tutu

By Ashley Benkarski

NASHVILLE, TN — Back in 2006, the world tuned in to TV One’s telecast of the Bounce Trumpet Awards honoring influential Black figures.

That year, Nashville’s own Dr. Bobby Jones was seated next to none other than Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

Both were there not only to receive their respective honors but also to bear witness to the works of their fellows.

“I was amazed that I would be that close to him,” Jones recalled. And despite Tutu’s strong political convictions he knew how to smooth divides in ideology as well those present between various religious denominations. Tutu could unravel the common thread between people and foster solidarity. 

“He was so polite. He would create conversations — I remember that much,” Jones laughed. 

Jones, who was being awarded for his achievements in television, had met Archbishop Tutu at his Soweto home a decade before the official end of apartheid in 1994. He remembers his time there as one of intense turmoil that Tutu had told him was a cause of great spiritual disturbance. And through it all, Tutu had faced the horrors of apartheid with his faith intact and his convictions unmarred.

Tutu, a priest who was known as South Africa’s “moral conscience,” was presented with the Global Award for his tireless work at the annual ceremony. 

“The Awards were created to herald the accomplishments of Black humanitarians who have succeeded against immense odds. Special recognition is given to the few, symbolic of the many, who have overcome the ills of racism and poverty and achieved greatness,” their website states. 

When they met again at the Awards ceremony, Tutu was as compassionate, virtuous and empathetic as he was during their first interaction, Jones said. The pain of his long battle with injustice against his people had not dimmed the luminescence of his spirit— The tenacity and tenderness for which he was known was still there.

“He felt with the people. In public and alone, he cried because he felt people’s pain. And he laughed — no, not just laughed, he cackled with delight — when he shared their joy,” the Associated Press quoted Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba as saying.

Launched in 1993, the awards show has been televised internationally to over 185 countries. South African President Nelson Mandela has also been an award recipient.

“The mission of the Bounce Trumpet Awards is to inspire, educate, stimulate and enlighten human minds to the reality that success, achievement and respect are void of color and gender, honoring those who have made significant contributions to ‘the quality of life for all,’” the Awards organization website reads.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu passed away Dec. 26, 2021 at age 90.