Sunday, August 28, 2005

Message to GTRC from South Africa

Please read the message received by the GTRC from Rev. Bongani Finca, a South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner who attended our first public hearing:

To the Members of the
Greensboro Community
Truth & Reconciliation Commission

26 August 2005, 10h05 South African Time

Thank you so much for your kind letter which you all personally signed. It was more than just polite of you, it actually showed so much caring and kindness. I am aware of how busy you are as you do the work of the TRC on a voluntary basis. I am aware that doing this task for the community of Greensboro is a huge sacrifice of your time, emotions, strength and everything else.

We are aware that your Commission is sitting again this afternoon. The startling success of your first sitting must have placed an enormous burden on you to continue in that dignified and impressive manner in which you started. You continue to be in our prayers and in our thoughts.

There was a lot of laughter in our church when I reported to the congregation that the ringing of our bells might have taken place a little earlier than the start of your first hearing. As Africans our time precision is not as strict as yours. But for your event we had agreed that bells must ring strictly and precisely on the hour. But, of course, we did not know that the attendance in your hearing would be so massive that you had to delay the start to allow people on the queue to come into the hall. We were American in our time precision, and you were African in your humane considerations (what we call ubuntu).

We are with you today and tomorrow, although we are miles away. May the truth you unveil heal those who continue to hurt and bring humility to those who cannot confront their own ugly past with remorse.

With much respect and kind regards,
Bongani Blessing Finca.


posted by Jill Williams, exec. dir.

3 Comments:

Blogger Troublemaker Staff said...

Jill,

Nelson Johnson lied...or the news papers of 1979 lied. Nelson stated that he never told the police to stay away nor did he have two starting points for the parade. news articles say different. Who is lying? He did in fact start this GTRC ....so...if he is lying...about very basic things...what does that mean.....also....If the media made articles up..conspired to print lies to help the KKK and others ..one on Nov 2 1979 reported johnson saying a different starting point as well as a public message for the mayor and police to stay out of way....if they made that up.....then....good lord....we need to have more than the GTRC....I am just curious to hear your thoughts on what I think is a very important issue. It is a tangible one that may not get enough attention. I respect your work and want your input as to how these HUGE differences will be dealt with. Naturally, it would have been nice for one of the commissoners to pull up the artciles and ask Nelson some questions. However, that did not happen. Which makes me kinda wonder what the commission is doing. Wonder what Jesus would do?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Emily Harwell said...

Hi Ben,

I guess as Research Director I will field this one. I can't address the specific point you raise about the press conference at this time without having the evidence you are referring to in front of me, but conflicting evidence and differing verisons of events are par for the course in social science research, as I imagine they must be for investigative journalists. What do we do when one person says X and another person says Y? Probably the same thing you do (I hope) when you're writing a story for the Peacemaker. We weigh those statements against all the evidence we have available to us. As a rule, we do our best to corroborate oral statements against various forms of primary documentary evidence (e.g. offical documents, video footage, transcripts, records of physical evidence, etc) as well as against other statements. (We treat news articles as one reporter's interpretation of facts; that is, much like a statement and not as primary facts.) Working tirelessly to collect and process all these forms of evidence is exactly what the commission is doing.

When assigning weight to individual statements, we use a number of standard principles to avoid being arbitrary in our decisions. These principles include,
1) Is the statement sworn? If it is sworn, that does not mean it is necessarily the truth, nor that unsworn statements are not true. it just means that sworn statements, especially since in this case the sworn statement we have access to were taken very close to the time of the events (in the trials, for the civil suit depositions), are given more weight.
2) Is the source motivated to tell the truth? Is this information "against their interest"? If it is, it is likely to carry more weight than a statement that is in the source's interest. This is not to say we don't believe things that are in the source's interest, just that they carry more weight if they are "against interest".
3) Is the source in the position to know the truth? (ie is this first hand information?) That is not to say that hearsay information is completely disregarded, it is just given less weight. Hearsay information from a reliable source may be corroborated in some other way (using documents or other statements, for example).
4) Is the statement consistent with the totality of other available evidence or patterns? Is it probable? Is it logical?

After all that, if we can't resolve something, we won't make a finding on it, but simply say that one source said X and another said Y, so you can have all the information we have. While we aim in our report to render the most reliable account of what happened possible given the available evidence, we will not be able to resolve all disputed facts and versions. And in many ways, that is part of the story too. That people have such divergent views of The Truth is part of what brought people into violent conflict, what meant some were not present at all, some felt (feel?) devastated by the violence, while some thought(think?) it was (is?) just "a yawn". And that's the truth.

Hope that answers your question.

--Emily

5:37 PM  
Blogger Troublemaker Staff said...

if u weigh all the evidence....against nelsons version of his thoughts and relationship with the police the day before the march...well....it does not match up....i have audio of his press conference on my blog....go check it out
http://thetroublemaker.blogspot.com
...i see news paper clippings.....it is a big difference...and...to me...it is very tangible...and...it is very relevant to know if Nelson left things out....softned them up....or the media of 1979 made stuff up...worked with Jim Melvin to undermine the Workers View Point....why is it important to know if Nelson "Big daddy" Johnson told a little white lie?...because it hints of him not wanting to face the truth...but rather clear his name.....make somebody else look bad....tax payers have probably spent close to $200,000 on extra police security for the projects march and the commissoners hearings....for that price.......I really think it should be truths told...not watered down versions of actions...go listen to the audio clip...and if you cannot see the confliction of Nelsons statement...when he is talking about getting the permit ....meeting briefly in the hall way with captain Trevor Hampton....and said..."We will see you there Trevor".....he said he expected police to be there...protecting...assuring marchers would be protected....but the audio of the press conference is way different....is this earth shattering????....no....does it clear the police and the fbi....no....but it is a confliction....the way he portrayed the march was conflicting as well...he said over and over how it was going to be drums and music ...a living breathing march....one you could take children to.....the clips i saw...that GTRC provided.... showed tiny little hands taping up an obnoxious amount of "Death to the Klan" posters....they were also filmed beating a KKK dummy on the head with sticks...as people sang.....a version of We Shall Not Be Moved....of course the verse..."We'll Smash The Ku Klux Klan," was added. I would not let my kids do those things...would not have been there with them doing that...do not see that as a beginning of a living breathing march...i see it as a verbal attack....a verbal attack on the most ignorant violent group in the state..if not the nation...nelson said, "What kind of man would bring his children to a march where there was going to be violence?.....I SAY A CRAZY ONE....THE kkk AND nAZI'S BROUGHT THEIR KIDS TOO...what does that tell u....not saying they deserved to be shot...not saying the shooters were right....just saying....what was said....and what I see....are different....and if others cannot see it...then...they aint looking. I am very dissapointed with Nelson Johnson. It is becoming hard to support the commission or the project because of his statement....

7:42 PM  

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