The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation project premiered its promotional video last night before a crowd of more than 200 people at the downtown Marriott.
This effort is far from being embraced by the local establishment, but it’s made significant progress. Among the attendees at last night’s event were city councilwoman and mayor pro tem Yvonne Johnson, who also sat on a panel that discussed the project, and county commissioner Jeff Thigpen.
Also in the audience was Weaver Foundation chief Skip Moore, part of the inner circle of Greensboro power brokers headed by former mayor Jim Melvin.
Joining Johnson on the panel was Ken Massey, pastor of First Baptist. His role in this strikes me as significant, given the church’s size and position in the community. Lisa Magarrell of the International Center for Transitional Justice was on the panel, too, along with former mayor Carolyn Allen and others.
Speakers shown in the movie included Johnson and Massey; county commissioners Carolyn Coleman and Thigpen; Greensboro sit-in veteran Franklin McCain; former county commissioner Margaret Arbuckle; archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu; and (briefly) Nelson Johnson, the driving force behind this effort.
Missing in action: the News & Record, which devoted not a word to the event in this morning’s paper. I guess they needed to save room for that female wrestling article on the front of the local news section.
This group has a lot of work left to do as it appoints the selection committee that will in turn appoint the seven-member commission to compile a final report.
Two speakers from the floor last night demanded to know what questions could possibly remain—clearly the killings had been carried out with police complicity, they said, in the context of a state run by powerful business interests. In another venue, speakers would have asked what remained to be questioned when the killers were clearly provoked by communist agitators who had started all the trouble at a previous confrontation in China Grove, NC.
There are facts—the number of dead, the date of the killings, the absence of the cops, etc. There are moral truths most people can agree upon—it’s bad to shoot people in the street and to have killers go unpunished. Exactly what happened and how could be laid out in a useful way in a report.
The “why” of it will be much harder to pin down – one person’s simmering cauldron of economic injustice being another’s functional capitalist economy, for example – and the commission’s ability to detail the “what” without getting lost in the “why” is going to be an enormous challenge.
The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation project is being funded by a $350,000 grant from the New York-based Andrus Family Fund.
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Yesterday’s Coble news gets buried next to the obits in this morning’s N&R.
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I’m giving a talk at lunch today about the acquisition process at the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Serving on the acquisition committee has been the most fun I’ve ever had as a volunteer—spending other people’s money on cool stuff I couldn’t find or afford for myself.