S. AFRICAN CLERIC TO SPEAK AT GTRC REPORT RELEASE CEREMONY MAY 25
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Dr. Peter Storey, former prison chaplain to Nelson Mandela, will speak during the May 25 ceremony at which the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission (GTRC) will release its final report, completing its mandate and setting a new milestone in the city’s historic effort to examine and reconcile with its past.
Free copies of the executive summary will be given to all who attend the ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 25, in the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel at Bennett College for Women, 900 E. Washington St. The event also will include music, prayers, and verbal and video presentations of the report’s conclusions and recommendations.
Representatives of local and national groups that have signed on as GTRC Report Receivers – agreeing in the interest of continuing community reconciliation to read and discuss at least the executive summary – will formally accept the report at the ceremony, as will Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, president of Bennett College, which will house the archives of this process.
The report itself will be released to the public and posted online (at http://www.greensborotrc.org/) the evening of May 25, without the customary early release to media outlets. Instead of relying on others’ interpretations, the public will be able to read and process for themselves the GTRC’s findings and conclusions on the context, causes, sequence and consequence of Greensboro’s tragedy of Nov. 3, 1979.
On that day, Klan and Nazi members killed five labor organizers and wounded ten others at a “Death to the Klan” rally organized in a public housing community by the Communist Workers Party. Klan and Nazi defendants were acquitted of murder and civil rights violations in state and federal criminal trials. However, a civil trial found that Klansmen, Nazis and two members of the Greensboro Police Department were jointly liable for one wrongful death.
The GTRC’s report, the full text of which is more than 300 well-documented pages, will clarify the widespread confusion, rumors and misinformation that have swirled in the aftermath of the tragedy, providing important context and specific findings in topical areas with continuing implications including
· details of events, issues and preparations for the planned Nov. 3, 1979, march and conference;
· police performance and police/community relations;
· relevant history of Greensboro and involved organizations including the Klan, the Communist Workers Party and federal law-enforcement agencies;
· history of black power and multicultural organizing efforts in Greensboro;
· labor and labor organizing history;
· justice system issues;
· related topics including provocative language, First Amendment rights, firearms and racism;
The report also includes recommendations in areas including community acknowledgment and institutional reform.
The ceremony will be the culmination of nearly two years of work by the seven volunteer Commissioners and the Commission’s paid staff – the “Commission phase” of the grassroots, democratic process begun several years ago by the Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Project (GTRCP). Storey, former president of the South African Council of Churches and chair of the selection panel for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, played a key advisory role in the beginning of this process.
As co-chair of the GTCRP’s National Advisory Committee, Storey shared the belief that examining this event could help bring healing to community divisions highlighted by the tragedy. He was instrumental in formulating the following language in the GTRC’s Mandate:
“The passage of time alone cannot bring closure, nor resolve feelings of guilt and lingering trauma, for those impacted by the events of November 3, 1979. Nor can there be any genuine healing for the city of Greensboro unless the truth surrounding these events is honestly confronted, the suffering fully acknowledged, accountability established, and forgiveness and reconciliation facilitated.”
After the ceremony, the GTRC will cease to exist. The work of continuing community reconciliation based on the collective truth offered in the report, and of implementing the GTRC’s recommendations, will become the responsibility of Report Receivers – which include a variety of religious, civic and other community groups – and the GTCRP, in keeping with that organization’s 2003 Declaration of Intent, which called for six to 12 months of discussions following the report’s release.
In addition to availability online, copies of the report will be available in all branches of the Greensboro Public Library and at other public places. The GTRCP, Report Receivers and other organizations are expected to plan discussions in various settings around town.
Other communities in the South and elsewhere have followed the GTRC’s work, which has included gathering statements and documentary evidence, and holding public hearings and a community dialogue. Success in Greensboro offers promise that the truth-seeking model previously used in South Africa, Peru and elsewhere can be effective in U.S. communities.
Representatives of other communities, students and journalists interested in continuing study will be able to access information about the GTRC’s work through the Bennett College archives (http://www.bennett.edu/), and through contact information and other details that will be available at the GTRC’s web site, which will be preserved through a partnership linking Bennett and the Greensboro Public Library (http://www.greensborolibrary.org/).
The International Center for Transitional Justice (www.ictj.org), an organization founded by one of the architects of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is serving as a consultant for the GTRC, as it has for similar efforts in nations including Ghana, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste (East Timor).
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