Community grapples with report’s findings
The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission disbanded the week before, but on June 1, members of the local task force gathered in a room at the Beloved Community Center to discuss the next steps.
In the report released May 25, the commission published a number of conclusions about what led to a shooting on Nov. 3, 1979 that left five dead and 10 wounded. They placed the lion’s share of responsibility on the police, who were absent during a confrontation between the other participants, the Ku Klux Klan and its nemesis the Communist Workers Party.
But not all of the report concerns ancient history ‘— a charge leveled at the group by some opposed to the truth and reconciliation process. In addition to the findings, the commission made a number of recommendations aimed at healing divisions in the community that led to the shootings and persist to this day.
‘“We did this because there wasn’t a rational conclusion,’” said Linwood Carver, a member of Genesis Baptist Church. ‘“There was a lot more behind the scenes.’”
One young activist, Fayihm Manna, attended the meeting out of curiosity alongside four other participants. He expressed skepticism about the necessity of the truth and reconciliation process. His questions prompted a dialogue about the context surrounding Nov. 3, 1979 and the connection to recent racial problems in the police department.
‘“You’ve got to ask ‘Who is it healing?”” Manna said. ‘“Is it healing the city of Greensboro?””
Those involved in the task force explained that police placed Morningside Homes on lockdown after the incident, and that two juries failed to convict the shooters whose actions were caught on tape. The city even paid the fine owed by Klansmen and Nazis to the survivors after a civil trial.
‘“My tax dollars went to pay the judgment of the murderers,’” Carver said. ‘“How can we as taxpayers, how can we stand by and not be concerned. I wonder what the feeling would have been if we had had to pay for the [Communist Workers Party]? What would the reactions have been among the Tom Phillipses and Billy Yows?’”
On the page 23 of the executive summary, commissioners hypothesize about Nov. 3, 1979 taking place in a racial and ideological reverse. The result, they wrote, would not have been the same.
‘“There was this attitude of the city being totally not outraged about it,’” said Matt Shelton, a facilitator. ‘“If you really care about the community, wouldn’t you want to deal with it adequately?’”
Participants portrayed city officials and business people in 1979 and today as more concerned about public image than citizens.
‘“You know how a dog gets all snappy when you try to look at a broken leg?’” Shelton asked. ‘“That’s how the city has acted during this entire process.’”
Discussion stalled on a proposed forum involving area newspapers. Participants disagreed about the extent of the media’s shortcomings but most concurred that more interaction between journalists and the community wouldn’t harm coverage.
Carver ultimately drew a parallel between the popular TV series ‘“Cold Case’” and the work of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
‘“If you look at the end of that show, it’s all about the healing of the dead person’s spirit,’” Carver said. ‘“You have a truth and reconciliation commission because you want to bury it, but bury it in the truth, not in lies.’”
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