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Stewart Ting Chong was on the communications team of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Jimmy and Stewart first connected back in 2007, when Stewart called Jimmy, and asked him to emcee and perform at an AIDS benefit where he would share the stage with the Archbishop, and they have since become good friends.
Stewart uses his interest in wildlife photography to promote an understanding of our impact on and our responsibility for maintaining the delicate balance of nature and the environment. As a member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), Stewart adheres to their “Principles of Ethical Field Practices” and advocates for responsible wildlife photography.
The public is invited to watch the livestream recording here. A Service Of Remembrance for the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu – YouTube
Topics discussed in this episode include:
- Jimmy Tingle reflects on his personal experience and sense of humor of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (00:45)
- How Stewart began working for the Archbishop in 1987 (07:20)
- The importance of media in getting the truth out (9:12)
- Stewarts experiences during the Apartheid Era in South Africa (09:47)
- The habits that helped to make the Archbishop such a powerful motivator (16:00)
- A glimpse into Stewart’s lack of rights in South Africa during apartheid (23:06)
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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors.
Jimmy Tingle 0:05
Hello, everybody, and welcome to episode number two of the Jimmy Timbo show. I am Jimmy and thank you all so much for joining us today. Today’s theme in the first half of the show will be remembering Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I had the supreme honor of emceeing and performing at a fundraiser here in Boston, before an AIDS benefit in 2007. But gentleman called me completely out of the blue, Mr. Stewart ting Chang, who will you’ll be meeting shortly, call me out of the blue and asked me if I would consider being the emcee and performer for this age benefit with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. So obviously, I was blown away by the opportunity to perform and share the stage with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And as a token of their appreciation of the organization and steward in particular, sat my wife and I directly next to him during dinner before the show started. So it was so cool sitting next to him, he was so down to earth, so happy. So a be considering all the things he had been through. He was not bitter, he was not angry. He was just happy and upbeat. And it seemed to me to be just really thrilled to be there. And it was very grateful for the people of Boston coming together for this benefit. So I get to sit next to him. And I’m gonna, I’m asking him about Mandela. I’m asking her about the situation in South Africa. I’m asking her about the situation in America. And it was just wonderful to speak with them. And then I had to figure out okay, what kind of material am I going to do that Archbishop Desmond Tutu will find amusing. So at the time, airport security was, you know, all the rage because of the tragedy of 911. And it was very strict, and obviously, he’s a world traveler. My job is to keep the show moving, introduce people and eventually introduce Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the keynote speaker. But while I’m doing the comedy portion of it, I’m saying folks, can you believe input security? Can you believe the questions they ask us? Did anybody give you anything to bring onto the plane? Don’t look away. Look at me. All right. Don’t go anywhere. I got another question. Did you pack your bags yourself?
Don’t look away. Look at me. Did you? Did you pack them yourself? I’m thinking to myself? No, I didn’t pack on myself. A stranger. A total stranger pack them. I could not believe the young man knew exactly what to bring. Obviously, always answer the questions in airport security seriously, but in my mind as a comic, I’m thinking did these questions ever catch anybody? Ever? Did anybody ever say, oh, oh, oh, wait a second. Wait one second. Now that you mentioned it last night, about 11 1115. I’m getting ready to turn in for doorbell rings. And there stood a man I never met before. He says to me, I heard you flying out in the morning. Why? Why? Yes, I am. Will you carry this on the plane for me? Carry this on the plane for you. I don’t even know you. What are you going to do for me? Oh, I can pack your bags. So I’m doing this material on stage. And I can hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu cackling up a storm in the audience. He loved it. Because obviously he’s he’s flying all over the world so he could really identify with it. And one of the things that I appreciated about him, he had a great sense of humor, despite all the things he had been through. He’s in the audience. He’s laughing up a storm. He’s having a great time. His speech was very upbeat. And he talked about the gospel. And he talked about the people who are stricken with any kind of disease or really Jesus Christ in a very distressing disguise. And how we treat those people is how we would treat Jesus if he were here today as the famous quote from the gospel as you do to the least of these you do unto me. So it’s a very uplifting presentation. He galvanized everybody. Everybody in the audience was in awe of that he was actually there. And after he spoke, I got to talk to him and asked him to sign a book for me. And I had been carrying this book around for years. I got it in the early 90s. It’s called a testament of hope. And it is a collection of the essays and all the speeches and essays of Martin Luther King, Jr. and it is dedicated to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the freedom struggle in South Africa. And there was a quote in here from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and I thought, how cool would it be if he would assign this book, which he did? He signed the book, right. God bless you, Desmond Tutu, September 2007. And it was just such an honor to meet them, and to have them do that. And then after the show, after we sign the book, we will all get on the elevator to go upstairs to our hotel rooms, and my wife and I get on and we bring our suitcases on and he gets on And he and he brings his suitcases on and he looks at me and he looks at my bags. And he looks at me and he goes, Did you pack your bag yourself? Did you? Did you pack your bag yourself. And everybody in the elevator cracked up laughing because they had all been in the show. And we rode the elevator up to the the eighth floor where he was getting off, and the door was opened and Archbishop Desmond Tutu just disappeared into history, down the hall and into history. And it was a wonderful experience that I want to share with you folks tonight. And one of the things that I wanted to share with you in particular was, I was so excited that I got to share the stage with this gentleman, I had asked Stuart, who we’re going to meet momentarily. Would Archbishop be kind enough to write a quote for me, you know, for my resume my bio, it helps you with credibility for other organizations. And so about a week later, I got an email from Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a quote that I could use in my resume. Did Jimmy, thank you so much for your performance and hosting the benefit. Last week? You were really great. I really enjoyed some of your jokes. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, rest in peace and power, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. And please welcome ladies and gentlemen, the man who made that encounter and really made that benefit such a success and reached out to me initially, I met him in 2007. We’ve become good friends since he was on the communications team for Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the anti apartheid movement in South Africa. Please welcome to the show, the one and only in the flesh, Mr. Stewart ting Chang. Hello, Stuart, welcome to the show.
Hey, Jimmy, thank you for having me.
Jimmy Tingle 6:44
Thank you so much for being here. And I hope that story brought back some pleasant memories.
It certainly did.
Jimmy Tingle 6:52
I’m very sorry for your loss. It was a terrible loss for the whole world when the archbishop passed away a few weeks ago. But as you know, the legacy that he left behind was truly remarkable, really, truly a historic figure who had provided encouraged and promoted and actually enacted lasting change, not only in South Africa, but in the entire world. When did you first meet the archbishop? And what was your position then
I started working for the archbishop in 1987. I was accepted to study for the priesthood. At that time, it was during the apartheid era where the media in South Africa were owned by the South African government and control but South African government. So they use that as a as a source of misinformation, not unlike what’s happening in this country with certain news agencies right now. There was a team setup, funded by a church in New York and set up to actually provide a private communications network for southern Africa, which covers Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Lisu, too. And I was responsible for setting up that network so that when the archbishop issued a statement, the church’s was in southern Africa would have the original text and not read it and perhaps misconstrued by inaccurate media reports.
Jimmy Tingle 8:39
So there was deliberate misinformation and mis communication to the general public about what the Archbishop’s words actually were, during his whole tenure as bishop and then Archbishop.
Yes, I mean, in particular, since his call for sanctions against South Africa at the time, you know, calling for boycotts of trade and sports. So that was something that, obviously they wanted to discredit what he was calling for.
Jimmy Tingle 9:12
It just speaks to the importance of media, and the importance of getting your message out if you don’t have a way to get your message out, unedited, in an authentic fashion. People only know what they’re going to hear on state run television is Was that the case at that time?
Well, absolutely. And I mean, it’s evidenced even in the US today, how people hear what they want to hear on television and on the news from some stations, and believe that that’s the truth.
Jimmy Tingle 9:47
This is now the late 80s. He won the Nobel Prize in 1984. You joined the team in 1987. Tell me about the climate of the tenuous, secure already climate around you, the Archbishop, the anti apartheid freedom fighters, what was it like being with him on a day to day basis?
You know, at the time, we were all of us who were involved in the anti apartheid movement. And in particular, working for somebody like the archbishop, we personal safety was almost something that we were aware of. But when there’s a greater cause, it’s almost secondary. For an example, I have a brother who lives in the same town that I never visited. And one day he said, Why don’t you come around anymore? And I say to him, I just can’t involve you just by pure Association. I don’t want to put you in danger, where we were checking our vehicles. In the first thing in the morning, when we went to bed, we would look outside, are there any vehicles that are parked is that we don’t recognize. And so that was how we were operating, heightened security, he did not have personal security. And so essentially, staff were the people who looked out for him.
Jimmy Tingle 11:26
When you said you didn’t want to meet your brother, let’s just say you met your brother and the security forces found out about her the authorities found out about a what might be the ramifications of that for your brother and for you,
I think, just a higher level of scrutiny. I mean, our our phones were tapped, very definitely. They were threats, mainly to the archbishop where there was a monkey fetus that got hung on the gate outside is his home, his his official residence, you know, writing scrawled on the walls. It wasn’t just the government, there were I think, forces within communities that that felt that the occupation was a real threat to South Africa. Remembering that white dominance was essentially key to conservatives.
Jimmy Tingle 12:27
And when you said that your personal safety was secondary to the cause, what was so important about the cause for you as a native South African, that you would literally risked your, your life for.
But I think when you realize the injustices and the oppression caused by apartheid, it becomes greater I think when when we realize that the the philosophy, the African philosophy of Ubuntu where we are intertwined with each other’s lives, that if I’m hurting, or if you’re hurting, I hurt as well. Because what you feel impacts me the drive. And the sentiment in Ubuntu is so strong in in Africa, being able to speak out and carefully each other is paramount.
Jimmy Tingle 13:25
It brings to mind the famous words of Martin Luther King, that we’re all I’m just paraphrasing, we’re all united in a common garment of destiny, that what affects one affects the other. How much of an influence do you think was Martin Luther King to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and to the nonviolent approach in the anti apartheid movement in South Africa,
the movement in South Africa was really based on and the archbishops as well is on liberation theology, where it is not just okay to be on your knees, praying to a God, to change things that the power to change things is within us. And to tie in with that is, is the Archbishop’s deep belief that Christians don’t have a monopoly on God, that we are made all of us, regardless of culture of religion, we are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore, our brethren in in the Muslim and Jewish communities are to be protected and supported as they should be supporting people of other cultures and religions as well.
Jimmy Tingle 14:41
Interesting, very universal approach to human rights. I know you initially were studying to be a priest. I know you never actually went into the priesthood you were never ordained. But do you think that your work in the anti apartheid movement was a equally important calling? Or as to a higher calling in some respects. And are there any regrets about your work at that time and working hand in hand with the archbishop?
Not at all, I did not regret one day of working for him and working against an unjust system. I think we’re all priests. I think the only difference between a lay person and a priest is that officially we, we cannot offer up the sacraments. But we are all priests, and we all have a ministry, whatever that is.
Jimmy Tingle 15:38
I wish that you didn’t say you couldn’t offer up the sacraments. Because I was thinking maybe you could hear my confession. After this interview, I think you would be a good person to talk to just one on one. Not not for the podcast, not for the show. But just a little, you know, just little intimacy. Moving forward. What do you think the most profound experiment you had was, given that that time and your experience there,
I think realizing that the archbishop, while he was an amazing speaker, and could motivate people, all of that strength came from within through Khan template of prayer, he would spend hours he would dedicate his Friday to a quiet day, and just being in prayer, getting up at four o’clock in the morning to pray. First and foremost, he was he was a prayerful man. It’s something that I’ve not quite been able to get to
Jimmy Tingle 16:41
four o’clock is very early.
But you know, to spend a day fasting and praying, I mean, that was his Fridays. Wow.
Jimmy Tingle 16:53
And during the rest of the week, he would start quite early in the morning and go off into the end of the day, what was that like? And what condition was he in when he would come home after a day of campaigning or speaking, or whatever he was doing? His daily
routine would be four o’clock in the morning time in prayer, and then he’d go for a jog. Really, absolutely. And, and, you know, in, in colder weather, he’d have his treadmill that he’d go on. And then his day would start, you know, depending on what the demands were for the day and what engagements he had, and especially during the time of protests, it would really be dropped, wherever you’re doing, and, and go out to try and mediate, or at least control, try and control crowds, who were really frustrated and angry, and confrontational when when the police were there, you know, and that could be a powder keg just waiting to go off. And that was one of the roles the archbishop played was to actually just go and try and mediate and get the crowd to be less volatile, and his own personal safety.
Jimmy Tingle 18:14
So every day, you folks would go out with him to these situations, no one knew how it was going to end. Nobody knew that Oh, Mandela will be released and he’ll be elected president and people will get to vote and South Africa will be welcomed into the family of nations. Nobody knew that that was going to happen. Nobody knew what was going to be successful. So every day was your whole communication team on the same page, spiritually, finding courage from your religious faith. Yes,
every day, we would have Eucharist. We would have his his official home, which is bishops court in Cape Town, there’s a chapel and all the staff would gather. And we would have a Eucharist service to start our day, every single day. And
Jimmy Tingle 19:09
I imagine there were times during the day you would say to yourself, well, I got communion today. So whatever happens is okay. Did you have those moments?
We hope so. I mean, certainly, the situations we were in was was very tense. And, you know, we would either experience tear gassing there were times where priests with the colors on, including lemon priests would get worked with rawhide whips. That was one thing about the apartheid government. They didn’t discriminate when it came to violence. You know, they would have dogs set on them. Priests were were victims, and I’m not taking away the tremendous courage that the people had in terms of protesting, they were the ones out every single day, putting the lives really on the line. I don’t want to take away from what black and colored colored is acceptable term in South Africa for people of mixed race, the non white community and some of the white community were were involved as well in these protests. So it was really a South Africa as it should have been protesting against an unjust law. How important
Jimmy Tingle 20:35
was the international pressure that came in from the boycotts and in terms of changing things, relatively peacefully, ultimately, in the country,
boycotts and sanctions played a tremendous role. And those who opposed the call for sanctions and boycotts would say, but it’s impacting the people of South Africa. And most of the blacks would respond by saying, We’ve got nothing to lose. And some countries were were definitely more progressive and advanced, and others, some of the companies in the US were very slow to take on the cause. Some of the previous administrations of the USA were were stalled, supporting the South African government. The other big emphasis was on sports boycotts. Where, you know, South Africa is, if you look at the news, that soccer and rugby, and cricket, and when countries basically said, You’re not welcome to participate in an international match, or countries refused to go to South Africa and refuse to play in South Africa. That was more where the South African community would feel the isolation of boycotts.
Jimmy Tingle 22:06
And so they would be taking a harder look at themselves. Is that the point?
Absolutely, you know, why would other countries enforce these rules? What are we doing wrong? One of the things I will never forget is of a priest who was a victim of a parcel bomb, lost both hands and lost an eye, a parcel bomb, it was sentries officers home, and he opened it up and the bomb went off and lost both hands in an eye. He was told by somebody Well, I didn’t realize at South African, I didn’t realize the impact of apartheid. And his comment was, what country were you living in? I mean, you know, apartheid was so blatant that that the excuse of I didn’t know what the effects were, is just not a valid excuse.
Jimmy Tingle 23:06
How long did you live there were you born in South Africa.
I was born in South Africa. I remained in South Africa until 99. When when I left to be with my wife in the USA. For those who are not aware, I was classified as non white. So I did not have voting rights. The only people that could vote were the white community. And so I couldn’t go to a white school. I couldn’t pursue what I wanted to do at a university, which was become a veterinarian, because the university that offered that degree was a whites only university. I voted for the first time in 94 when I was 35 years old. So you
Jimmy Tingle 23:55
were raised there born and raised and you weren’t allowed to vote until you are 35 years old. from an American perspective, that’s pretty incredible. And tell us about your wife and mixed race. Your wife is Caucasian. Is that correct?
Yes. She’s Armenian. So yes, Caucasian, I came across on what is called a fiancee visa. I had 90 days to marry. From the moment I came through customs and immigration. And so we married in Hingham by the Archbishop.
Jimmy Tingle 24:30
First of all, that marriage would have been illegal in South Africa, correct?
Well, not just marriage in in in the apartheid era. Even if I went out with a white woman. I could get arrested.
Jimmy Tingle 24:44
So you met while you were outside of South Africa. You met at the airport? I think you told me. We met at JFK. That’s a great meeting place. That’s like a big pickup place. I don’t know if you knew that. JFK Airport is a huge pickup place.
Who needs who needs to online writing services when you when you can just hang out at the at JFK.
Jimmy Tingle 25:09
Right. And so when you got married, obviously, you obviously hit it off very well, and you’re still together. But the archbishop came from South Africa to hang a Massachusetts to perform the ceremony. Is that right?
At that time, he was a visiting lecturer at Emory. So he was in the US, but he did travel to Massachusetts to conduct our our wedding.
Jimmy Tingle 25:37
Okay, so he was stationed at Emory University in the United States. Is that in Georgia? Yes. Okay. And then he came up to him to perform the service. And what was that like having a Nobel Peace Prize went to perform the the marital service for you and your wife?
Well, it was it was funny, because I was just reminiscing with the priest at the time of the church. My wife isn’t a churchgoer. And she had to do all of the arrangements. Here’s this woman out of the blue, calling up this priest in hanger and saying, we’d like to get married in your church, we don’t actually attend your church. Also, we don’t want you to marry us because we’ve got another priest coming to marry us. You know, and so I asked him, you know, what did you think? And he said, Well, I just kind of went along with it, to see how it really ended up. My wife did say to him that the priest who would marry us was the archbishop. And even then he kind of took that with a pinch of salt, other than the priest and our immediate families. We didn’t actually share that the archbishop was going to be there. He was involved with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. And at the time, I think we would have been devastated if anything had to have happened to him while he was with us. We were able to get to state police, plainclothes state police, to accompany him throughout his stay here in Massachusetts.
Jimmy Tingle 27:17
Stewart is great to talk to you today. It’s just a wonderful story. I certainly gives me hope about the future. Everybody thinks the time they’re living in is the worst ever. But clearly, you must have thought that back in the 80s and early 90s, in South Africa, but it has changed for the better, which is remarkable and so hopeful. What would your advice be to people in terms of keeping that legacy alive and doing what they can?
Thank you, Joey, it’s a good way to I think conclude because I wrote a piece for the Friday before the Archbishop’s funeral, the Episcopal church at the time I visited the church where I got married and the archbishop was there at noon, the churches rang the bells, they were told the bells every one ring, one toll every few seconds. So it was a very mournful ringing of the bell, signifying a significant death in the community. And I wrote this after I spent time just in thoughtful prayer and meditation myself, which is unusual for me. And if you don’t mind, I’m gonna read the site don’t mess up. What I’m saying, please do. I could so easily repeat words already spoken more eloquently by others. But what I know of him is that words were meaningless. Unless there was an action that supported their intent. I’m not a holy person and have no skills to offer you might say, and I can hear the arches response. Do your little bit of good wherever you are. It is those little bits of good, put together that overwhelmed the world. We can absolutely do good in the world. But why not start in your own part of the world first, pick up that piece of trash, that somebody else has tossed aside and do good for the environment and conservation of wildlife. Reach out to somebody in need. We are all made for goodness, love and compassion since the archbishop. Our lives are transformed so much as the world is when we live with these beliefs. Get involved in your communities, and correct the injustices that you’ve ignored by thinking somebody else is better equipped than I am to deal with that. Volunteer your time to help organize patients in their mission and become the person that we know we all want to be. So I think in a way, that is how to keep the archbishop alive is through our own actions and deeds and words.
Jimmy Tingle 30:15
Thank you so much do it. It’s advice that everybody can put into practice. It’s not that hard to do. So many of our listeners are already doing that. I know you already doing that in your own life. One of the things with this podcast and this show we hope to do, they’ll always be calls to action. I know that on February 2, you had mentioned at the church on Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts, there’ll be a service memorial service at six o’clock for the archbishop and it will also be live streamed, is that correct?
It’ll be live streamed and the information can be found on the cathedrals website, St. Paul’s
Jimmy Tingle 30:53
Episcopal Cathedral on Tremont Street in Boston, six o’clock, February 2, you can show up in person, or you can watch it on a live stream on the web.
Coincidentally, it’s two to the date to 220 22.
Jimmy Tingle 31:12
Archbishop Tutu being memorialized on to to 2022 at the St. Paul’s Cathedral on Tremont Street in Boston. Are you going to be this to
it? Yes, I will. I’ve actually been asked to speak as well. Oh, great.
Jimmy Tingle 31:26
Great. Well, I look forward to hearing your words there. Thank you so much for taking the time today to help us remember and shed light on this wonderful man, a prophet of our generation. So thank you so much steal it, I will see you soon. I’ll see you live stream because the organization for today’s podcast that we’re helping is Metro West legal services, who help people who don’t have the means to hire legal defense, to help them with housing, and education and health care and all the day to day challenges that people have, regardless of income level. And it’s even harder when the income level is not there. Thank you so much. Metro West legal services in the spirit of Archbishop Desmond Tutu will be working for you as well. Thank you, Stuart. I hope to see you on the second.
Thank you, Jimmy.