Ten Best possible book deals about the 1979 shootings

by Jordan Green

Anguish: My Private Truth and Reconciliation Process, by Keith Holliday

Readers may recall that around the time the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission was launched, opponents charged that the effort amounted to little more than an opportunistic ploy by the Rev. Nelson Johnson to land a lucrative book deal. Two engaging accounts, Signe Waller’s Love and Revolution and Sally Bermanzohn’s Through Survivor’s Eyes, had already been published. Recent comments by Mayor Keith Holliday suggest that detractors and skeptics might have a manuscript or two up their sleeve too. “My goodness, I could write a book on all this, with the studying I’ve done over the past five years on all this,” Holliday said at the Greensboro City Council’s March 6 meeting, adding: “The families involved are never going to get over it. I wouldn’t get over it. Be that as it may we’ve got to move on. All of us have family tragedies. Y’all know my family tragedy… You’ve got to create your own resolve about the things that happened that day that were unfair.” In the spirit of helpfulness, we suggest some titles and themes prospective authors might explore.

Reconciliation: An Inside Job, by Sandra Anderson Groat

At-large Councilwoman Sandra Groat Anderson reveals herself to be something of a poet. “I really think reconciliation is at the heart,” she said at the same meeting. “It’s an inside job. I don’t think you can force groups to talk to each other unless they have an open heart and are willing to do so. I guess we’ll just have to let the people whose hearts are closed be that way.”

Crock: Truth and Deception, by Tom Phillips

District 3 Councilman Tom Phillips decided to keep his comments to himself that night – which, judging from precedent, probably wouldn’t have been very complimentary. According to a dispatch from the News & Record, Phillips called the truth process “a crock” earlier this year. A man of few but choice words, perhaps Phillips could write a hard-boiled thriller about conniving progressive activists maneuvering to separate the taxpayers from their hard-earned money.

Fear and Loathing of the Truth Process, by Florence Gatten

A month after dressing down an NC A&T University student who spoke in support of the truth process, Councilwoman Florence Gatten had this to say about those pressing for official Greensboro’s participation: “Using the shopworn rhetoric and tactics of the 1960s and 1970s – those of marches, petitions by non-stakeholders, and the promulgation of a one-dimensional version of events – citizens have felt not only uninvited to the table but threatened and intimidated.” She later clarified that no one received threats of physical violence. Rather, she said, in a city where such a premium is placed on civility, those who view the events surrounding Nov. 3, 1979 differently from the survivors might fear being labeled “racists.”

God’s Rifles, by Virgil Griffin

Then there’s Virgil Griffin, imperial wizard of the Cleveland Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He likely wasn’t too concerned about being considered a racist when he addressed the truth commission in June 2005, telling them that “maybe God guided the bullets” that took the lives of five communist labor activists. This theological treatise might be a fascinating discourse on the role of divine ordination on acts of extreme violence. Subsequent volumes could meditate upon how God blessed the 19 young men who hijacked airplanes and turned them into projectile missiles on 9-11, and about how God rubberstamped the Palestinian occupation after promising the lands of Judea and Samaria to the Jews.

Unspeakable Passions, by Glenn Miller

No, I don’t speak of the big band leader. The head of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and later the White Patriot Party, Miller recently resurfaced after completing a prison stint and earning the enmity of fellow racialists for testifying against members of the Order. In an article comment recently submitted to YES! Weekly, Miller indicates that the intervening years have done nothing to mellow his views on blacks, Jews and communists. He lays it out for us as follows: “[1] The reason the cops weren’t there is simple, very simple. [Communist Workers Party] leaders told them not to come…. [2] The Jew-led reds started the fight and got what they deserved. I know. I was there. [3] You blood-sucking parasites are just trying to suck more money from the Greensboro taxpayers. [4] Go to South Africa and see how you like black communist rule there.”

Truth & Intelligence, by Jerry Bledsoe

Local author Jerry Bledsoe was sniffing around the truth process in 2005. He left the impression with some that he was gathering material for an expose; instead, he stumbled on the David Wray fiasco at the Greensboro Police Department. Bledsoe has written about the truth process in his popular “Cops in Black & White” series in The Rhinoceros Times, but mostly for the purpose of burnishing the image of Wray and his now dismantled special intelligence section. “Our position was strategic and tactical,” Wray told Bledsoe, explaining how he revamped special intelligence to provide aggressive protection for a march to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1979 shootings. “We were going to be out in the community. We would be at the Beloved Community Center, or the Truth and Reconciliation offices, or wherever we had to be to get the information we needed. We were going to be talking with all the players who would talk to us.”

Perfidy, by John Hammer

Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer has never shown sympathy for the truth process. Writing about a failed resolution to endorse the truth process, Hammer observed that while Goldie Wells’ fellow council members were taken by surprise by her resolution, the Rev. Nelson Johnson had evidently received prior notice. “The truth is that the vast majority of the people in Greensboro of all races and creeds moved past the shooting years ago,” Hammer averred. “A few people led by Nelson Johnson want to keep the shootout in the public’s eye because that is the source of their political power. It was Nelson Johnson’s shining moment of glory and he is not going to let the shootout be forgotten as long as he is alive.” Source of political power? Shining moment of glory? Huh?

Cashing In, by Anonymous

The truth commission’s blog received several comments, including some from stealth spammers promoting nifty schemes and services. As financial profit was so clearly the motive for all involved in the truth process, this comment from Anonymous dated Sept. 9, 2005 must have been considered exceedingly helpful: “Nice Blog!! I thought I’d tell you about a site that will let give [SIC] you places where you can make extra cash! I made over $800 last month. Not bad for not doing much. Just put in your zip code and up will pop up a list of places that are available. I live in a small area and found quite a few. MAKE MONEY NOW.”

Shakedown, by Samuel S. Spagnola

Publicity hounds, shakedown artists, stealth socialists – that’s what Sam Spagnola, who blogs under the name “The Conservative Alternative,” thinks of supporters of the truth process. “These people are desperate for attention so they can pursue their shakedown,” he wrote recently. “That’s why they chimed in on the Guilford College matter, to latch on to a news story and get some ink. I don’t see any point in anybody to waste more time on the TRC and its supporters. They created the skeptics by making the report a political document demanding change, which for some odd reason, sounds eerily like the demands the CWP made all those years ago.”