Friday, July 15, 2005

TRC Draws Diverse Voices

Here is our most recent press release about our hearings, which start today:

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Speakers with widely divergent perspectives will speak at the first Public Hearing of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the first of its kind in the United States, 2-9 p.m. Friday, July 15, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 16, at the Weaver Education Center, 300 S. Spring St.

The Commission today confirms reports that Klansmen will be among the 16 speakers, who also include Signe Waller, whose husband Jim was among the five people killed on Nov. 3, 1979, and Dr. Paul Bermanzohn, who was one of 10 people wounded and remains paralyzed as a result. Other speakers include an array of community activists and scholars who will provide important contextual information (see complete list below).

Modeled on truth-seeking efforts in South Africa, Peru and elsewhere, the Commission is mandated to seek the truth and work for reconciliation around Nov. 3, when Klan and Nazi members opened fire on a rally organized by the Communist Workers Party.

Key to that work is holding three public hearings, which have played a powerful role in international truth and reconciliation efforts. Public hearings increase understanding of events and surrounding social issues by offering a rare opportunity to hear diverse voices sharing – uninterrupted and in their own words – their personal, human experience of traumatic events. Telling and hearing personal stories has proven healing for groups as well as individuals.

The entire community is invited to come listen at this first hearing, entitled “What brought us to Nov. 3, 1979.” Like in other countries, the Greensboro hearings will not allow a forum for audience members to make public comments. However, trained statement-takers will be on hand to take statements from people who wish to rebut or add to anything they hear.

Lisa Magarrell of the International Center for Transitional Justice, who has served as a consultant since the beginning of this history-making process, says the broad participation is an encouraging sign that reflects the “moral authority” of Greensboro’s Commission.

“Any truth commission process is enhanced by providing the space for a broad range of actors to tell their stories and thus giving depth and complexity to the various layers of personal and forensic truth that the Commission is exploring,” she said.

Magarrell added that the Klan participation should be kept in proper perspective. While the participating lends credibility to the Commission’s endeavor, she says, it should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the organization or of any of the ideas that may be expressed.

The Commission has hired a private firm, Kimber Security, to provide security for the hearing. That firm will be backed up by the Greensboro Police Department.

With a five-member staff, volunteers and collaborations with a wide range of community organizations, the Commission is doing work it hopes will become a model that other American communities can use to address incidents of unresolved injustice in their own histories.

Created through a public nomination and selection process, the independent Commission is mandated to objectively examine “the context, causes, sequence and consequence” of Nov. 3,

The defendants in the shootings were twice acquitted in state and federal trials. However, a civil trial found that Klansmen, Nazis and members of the Greensboro Police Department were jointly liable for wrongful death for one of the five killed. Given the confusion caused by these verdicts and the volume of rumors and misinformation that surrounded these events and their aftermath, the Greensboro community has been deeply divided in its collective understanding of what actually happened and why.

Central to the Commission’s work is collecting statements – the oral or written individual stories of people who experienced Nov. 3, 1979, in various ways. People with insights on background issues such as race, economics, labor, political organizing and police-community relations also are being urged to make statements.

The Commission’s three planned hearings, as well as its final report and various other community forums, will give voice to the community’s collective experience of the shootings and their aftermath. The report, to be completed in early 2006, also will include specific recommendations for the Greensboro community and its institutions for concrete healing, reconciliation and restorative justice.


Nettie Coad
Works as a trainer and organizer of the Partnership Project. She has been a community activist for 30 years, particularly in housing and education inequity. She has been involved in organizing and community revitalization efforts, local government response to social activism, and Klan presence in Greensboro.

Mab Segrest, PhD.
Fuller-Maathai professor and Department Chair of Gender and Women's Studies at Connecticut College. She was Executive Director of North Carolinians against Religious and Racist Violence, a group that monitored hate crimes in North Carolina during the 1980s.

Si Kahn
Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership (, has spent 40 years as a civil rights, labor and community organizer and musician in the South. From 1975 to 1979, he worked with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) on the J.P. Stevens campaign in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and other Southern communities.

Lewis Brandon
Graduate of N.C. A&T State University and was a student organizer in the 1960s. Actively involved in the Congress of Racial Equality, Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Colleague and friend of Sandi Smith, whom he met when he was a student intern at GAPP.

Signe Waller, Ph.D.
Jim Waller's widow and survivor of the November 3 violence, vice-president and board member of the Greensboro Justice Fund. Current resident of Greensboro, N.C., and author of Love and Revolution: A Political Memoir (2002) that deals with the events surrounding November 3, 1979.

Paul Bermanzohn, M.D.
Critically wounded on November 3, 1979. In 1979 he worked with the African Liberation Support Committee, was an active community organizer and member of the Carolina Brown Lung Association. He is the son of two Holocaust survivors, received his medical degree from Duke University. Married to Sally Bermanzohn, with whom he has two children, Sandy and Leola.

Claude Barnes, Ph.D.
Graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and he received both the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from Clark Atlanta University. Active in the Greensboro Association of Poor People and Students Organized for Black Unity. In 1969, the school board’s lack of recognition of his write-in candidacy for student body president at Dudley High School ultimately ignited a student revolt.

Ray Eurquart [Tentative]
Durham City employee and grassroots activist who is involved in union organizing and social/economic justice activism. He is a former worker in the American Tobacco Factory, active in the union there and was active as a union organizer in Durham even though the city workers did not have collective bargaining.

Gorrell Pierce
Lifelong resident of Forsyth County, works in the lumber business and has owned a small farm for years. In 1979, was Grand Dragon of the Federated Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Ed Whitfield
Longtime Greensboro activist, who came to Greensboro in 1970 as an instructor at Malcolm X Liberation University and then became involved in community and labor organizing while raising a family. He was chairman of the Greensboro Redevelopment Commission for nearly ten years and is now a frequent volunteer in the public schools, a columnist for the Carolina Peacemaker and co-host of the weekly radio show "Table Talk" on WNAA (90.1 FM).

Yonni Chapman
Currently a Ph.D. candidate at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in U.S. History, his dissertation topic is Black Freedom and the University of North Carolina. On November 3, 1979, he was one of the anti-Klan demonstrators and was a member of the Communist Workers’ Party. Since that time he has continued racial justice organizing in Chapel Hill and serves as the historian of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP.

Elizabeth Wheaton
Researched and wrote about the Greensboro killings, including the 1981 Institute for Southern Studies special report, "The Third of November," and the book CODENAME: GREENKIL (1986). Will speak about the CWP's philosophy and tactics and the affect they had on N.C. union members and other progressive activists. Will also address the role of informants and agents in the tragedy.

Jeffrey Woods, PhD.
Assistant Professor of History at Arkansas Tech University. His research focus is on segregation and anticommunism in the Cold War South. Author of Black Struggle, Red Scare: Segregation and Anticommunism in the South, 1948-1968 (2004).

Virgil Griffin
Has been the Imperial Wizard of the Cleveland Knights Ku Klux Klan (CKKKK) since 1985. As the Grand Dragon of the CKKKK, he was a member of the Klan/Nazi caravan on November 3, 1979.

Joe Roy
Chief Investigator, and former director, of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center; he worked with the SPLC for over 20 years. Roy has participated in most of the cases the SPLC has litigated against white supremacist groups and is one of the major strategists for the Center.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats to the Commission and the whole staff on a job well done.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

200 people in attendance, so many of the speakers not from this city or state, majority not even present or involved in Nov.3rd, but yet they are experts and can get to the truth.....what a waste of time, money and emotions from such a few.....and the people doing all the complaining, the ones that brought this back to the table
are the same ones that were present at the shootings. What truth are you looking for? The only thing that you liberal far left wing activitists will accept is the facts as written by you people.

11:09 PM  
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