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BCC launches new initiative


Community members gathered at The First Baptist Church Family Life Center in Raleigh, N.C., on January 20, where Rev. Nelson and Joyce Hobson Johnson of Beloved Community Center in Greensboro formally announced the launch of the NC-TJRC.

RALEIGH - After two years of planning, The North Carolina Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (NC-TJRC) Initiative is preparing to engage the people.

Community members gathered at The First Baptist Church Family Life Center in Raleigh, N.C., on January 20, where Rev. Nelson and Joyce Hobson Johnson of Beloved Community Center in Greensboro formally announced the launch of the NC-TJRC.

Other supporters and featured speakers included Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II of the Poor People’s Campaign and NC-based Repairers of the Breach; Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, Executive Director of The North Carolina Council of Churches; William Chafe, author and retired professor from Duke University; Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, State Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and other grassroots, religious, and community leaders from across the state to formally launch the NC-TJRC Initiative.

“We are a deeply and painfully divided nation; this division is rooted in conflicting understandings of our historical experiences,” said Rev. Nelson Johnson. “Out of the diverse people of our state, we must grow a greater shared truth, even as we engage its pain, anger, and crippling effects, to achieve authentic justice for all and to build bridges toward healing and reconciliation. We call this, ‘community truth.’”

November 2022 will mark 43 years since the November 3, 1979, Greensboro Massacre, where five community and labor organizers were killed and ten more wounded, by Klan and Nazi members during a workers’ march in the low-income neighborhood of Morningside Homes.

Guided by the assistance of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Beloved Community Center played a significant role in the nation’s first Truth and Reconciliation Commission process from 2001 to 2006. The then-established Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathered research through newspaper clippings, court documents and anecdotal evidence to provide a 529 page report to the city and community in 2006.

The report offered 29 recommendations from the citizen-led commission, which included things like increased wages for city workers, implicit bias training for government employees, educating grade school students about the incident, a police review board with subpoena powers and a formal apology from the City of Greensboro and law enforcement.

After years of addressing different councils on the recommendations, in 2020, the Greensboro City Council offered a substantive apology for the complicity of police officers and city officials in the incident and its aftermath. The 2020 council also approved the establishment of a college scholarship fund for graduating high school seniors in the name of the five protestors killed in the Greensboro Massacre.

Johnson and others believe that Greensboro’s experience provides valuable lessons which will help guide the current NC-TJRC Initiative. The initiative plan states it is “a process which will pursue community truth.”

The NC-TJRC Declaration of Intent, which was formally presented and signed by the Johnsons at the launch event, lists key points the commission will address and then recommend steps toward solutions to the historical and current impediments to financial security, inclusive voting access, adequate housing and education, quality healthcare, police accountability, climate justice, and other concerns defined by North Carolina residents.

“This work that we’re talking about, rooted in the work that Bishop Desmond Tutu engaged in, is bitter, but it also can build us. It is a challenge, but it’s a necessary challenge to change. My own sanity as a human being is figuring out how to not deny any part of my history, but to deal with it in truth – good, bad, bitter, the ugly and the better,” said Rev. William J. Barber, II.

The plan also calls for identifying two sites in each of the state’s three regions: The Coastal Plains, The Piedmont Region, and The Mountain Region (western part of the state) in order to represent a board cross-section of urban and rural citizens.

Johnson asserts that the process will require deep listening, compassion and understanding from all parties involved.

“We do not have to hate each other because of our history. With a spirit of understanding, justice and forgiveness, we can heal the wounds of our yesterdays and together forge a more just, equitable and peaceful society. It is our hope that North Carolina can model this approach for our nation,” said Johnson.

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