We Chose To Act Today February 1, 2010—Greensboro NC
We have chosen to act today because of the deep, shameful and enduring magnitude of injustices in our city. We act because of a long pattern of denial; we act to expose this pattern of injustices layered over and camouflaged by surface civilities and sophisticated public relations campaigns. In the final analysis, we act because we love our city and we love our brothers and sisters, especially those being mistreated, bruised, battered and criminalized. We want to express our unequivocal support for this International Civil Rights Museum. We convey our fullest gratitude, respect and support to the four courageous pioneers who are being honored, their
1960; standing for justice and human dignity.

families and friends, as well as the hundreds of others who joined with them.

Over the years, we have given our dimes and dollars to support the Museum. We preached in our churches the value of laying stones so “when your children ask what do these stones mean? Then you shall let your children know” that 301 North Elm Street, in Greensboro, North Carolina is the place where God caused courage, hope, integrity and faith to converge in order to bend the moral arc of the nation. The four freshmen experienced the bitter whip of raw racism and oppression. They were reared within loving communities, while being nurtured and supported by great institutions, including North Carolina A&T State University and their respective churches. The embrace and encouragement of a people, even an oppressed people, empowered them to endure with dignity the abuses and violence of the dominant culture of this city and nation. Fifty years ago, breaking the law and customs by sitting at the lunch counter was not popular and was not warmly received by the leaders of this city. Although under different circumstances, we seek to stand in the best tradition of the Sit-Ins of the 1960’s as we stand for the dignity, worth, and fair and humane treatment of all of God’s children, especially the least among us. Today our support of the spirit of Sit-Ins takes the form of not allowing this historic moment and this magnificent monument to courage, hope, and faith to be misused in an effort to disguise the enduring patterns of injustice and denial, thereby strengthening the injustices meted out upon the very oppressed and poor communities where the spirit of the Sit-Ins was nurtured and for whom the Sit-In Movement has symbolized so much hope. We pray that you will understand.

1990-2010; continuing to stand for justice and human dignity.

You may rightly ask what are the injustices of which we speak? There are many; however, we can only mention a few. The recent case of Officer A.J. Blake provides a snapshot of the corruption, lack of professionalism and bitter divisions within the Greensboro Police Department (GDP), conditions resulting in growing complaints of abuse and mistreatment. In January of 2009, A.J. Blake, a Latino police officer, was involved in a party attended mainly by police officers, their wives and girl friends, at the Police Club. Excessive drinking by all the officers occurred, including a drinking contest among the partygoers; scores were kept of the drinking. Officer Blake, who had filed internal complaints about the use of anti-Latino slurs and behaviors by other officers, was falsely accused of assault by some of those attending the party and supported by others. A detective who was not in attendance at the party investigated the charges. The detective testified in court that he found no basis for the charges but was ordered by his commander to bring charges anyway. Officer Blake was suspended without pay through September 2009. He lost
Rev. Dr. Cardes Brown, Rev. Dr. Gregory Headen, Rev. Nelson Johnson, and Dr. Jibreel Khazan

his home and accumulated great debts. The Chief of Police, ignored public pleas to wait until the jury trial was completed, called an administrative hearing anyway ten days before the trial, and then fired Officer Blake. A jury of six men and six women subsequently acquitted Officer Blake. The City Manager reinstated Officer Blake to the police force. A group of Greensboro police officers, fully dressed in uniform, responded by publicly opposing the decision of their superior – the City Manager, which seems to us insubordination. Hate messages were written on the walls of a police sub station with at least one officer stating that he would not respond to a call for help from Blake. A captain of at least five grades above Officer Blake met him on the day he was reporting in to make arrangements to begin work and called Officer Blake a sack of sh_t in the presence of his child and fiancé. Officer Blake filed yet another complaint about this outrageous act. He is now rightly afraid to work among his own police officer peers.

Currently, 39 police officers have pending legal suits against the City for racial discrimination. The stories of these police officers are deeply troubling, revealing a depth of corruption and growing danger to the public. In fact, the long, sordid history of these legal cases documents tremendous cultural and political infighting by city leadership that has resulted in the abrupt resignation of a police chief after he was locked out of his office by the city manger, a failed, unfair and racially biased attempt to recall an African American City Council member who was up for re-election several months later anyway, an African American police officer’s car being rigged with a tracking device which turned out to be more about race and internal power grabs within the GPD than any criminal or improper conduct on the officer’s part, and a number of charges and counter charges around a “black book” containing the pictures of some 18 African American officers who were also included in a line up of what many believe to be a “set up” on contrived charges of sexual assault from a contending faction of the GPD. (We invite you to read a letter to Chief Bellamy at www.belovedcommunitycenter.org, which further details, this troubling situation.

About 18 months ago members of a Latino youth organization that referred to itself as the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN) but is broadly classified nationally as a gang announced its intention to build a gang peace treaty (to review this treaty agreement, please go to www.belovedcommunitycenter.org). The group has a negative national reputation that is not shared locally. Some sixteen months ago the GDP Chief shared with some of us that the group in question was not known to be violent in Greensboro. We welcomed the emerging relationship with this group as a positive development. In fact, we saw it as an answer to prayers, as we immediately joined with them and sought to provide all the support we could. We actually pulled together four street groups or gangs and had a fruitful discussion that resulted in a peace and community development plan. Over the last 18 months we have met with the Mayor, police officials, the City Manager, human relations officials and other community leaders on numerous occasions. We have shared our concerns and our hopes as we sought ways to work together for the common good, including helping to turn around some of the anti-social and criminal activities of youth. The response, especially from the GPD, has been tragically negative. These young people have endured a withering assault from the GPD’s gang unit with frivolous charge after frivolous charge being filed against them. Even so they have shown amazing integrity and restraint. The overwhelming majority of these charges were defeated in court or thrown out of court. However, even the victories in court have provided little relief. The constant arrests, charges and inflammatory news accounts, no matter the outcome in court, have resulted in bleeding the limited funds of individuals in the group dry, as they have had to pay thousands of dollars to bail bondsmen and lawyers. The bad publicity accorded the (ALKQN) resulted in many losing their jobs, and some have lost their dwelling places. These young people are being systematically forced out of work and then accused of not working. Less than two months ago a member of the gang unit went to the employer and to the job site (the Greensboro Coliseum) of a young man who was a member of the group and made maliciously false statements, stating that the young man was banned from working on city property. The City manager contradicted this false statement because no such ban has ever been made. Nevertheless, the actions of the gang unit resulted in the young man being told by the temporary employment service that they could not use him. This is an example of criminalizing youth instead of helping them overcome some of the conditions that lead to engaging in crime. Our churches have provided food and helped with the rent when we could. The kind of police behavior we have seen from the gang unit seems to us an unconscionable use of taxpayer dollars. (Read some of the cases of the ALKQN at www.belovedcommunitycenter.org.)
Rev. Dr. Cardes Brown, Rev. Dr. Gregory Headen, Rev. Nelson Johnson, and Dr. Jibreel Khazan

The conduct of the GPD we are describing is not new. There are always some “bad apples” in any organization or grouping of people, including churches, clergy, politicians, businesspersons, and others. This is normal and would not occasion us taking the action we have taken today. We are convinced, however, that we are not dealing with a few “bad apples” but rather with a deep and enduring culture of corruption within the GPD that has its roots in the larger community, as it has survived changes in police chiefs and city councils and generations of public officials. We note that some 30 years ago, on November 3, 1979, the GDP gave one of its Klan informants the parade permit of a legally planned march and conference; knew that Ku-Klux-Klan and American Nazi groups were armed and planned to attack the march; yet failed to provide police protection for the group, resulting in the death of five labor and community organizers, the terrorizing of an African American public housing community, and effectively shutting down a progressive labor and community-building movement for more than ten years. Greensboro police officers, together with Klan and Nazi members, were found jointly liable for wrongful death in a federal court in 1985. Neither the GPD nor the City of Greensboro has ever acknowledged any fault nor offered any apology. The GPD and the City of Greensboro treated the wrongful death liability finding as if it never occurred. To our knowledge no officer or leadership was ever fired, demoted or disciplined related to this event. In fact, the officer in charge of the GPD tactical squad who sent his men to an early lunch during the period of attack was promoted to Chief of Police. The GPD and the City’s leadership have continued, even unto this day, to demonize the victims, distort truth, and evade responsibility. The method of demonizing, distorting and evading has become part of the culture of the GPD – and to some extent the city as a whole. Obsessed with a mindset of protecting its “image” that too often replaces truth, the cultural tenacity of our city toward “demonizing, distorting and evading” has sunk beneath the surface, thus polluting the “cultural ground water” of the city. It is now part of the explanation for the current troubling state of affairs within the GPD. Recognizing the truth of the above paragraph, in 2004 the first Truth and Community Reconciliation Process of its kind in the United States, modeled after international truth processes, was organized in Greensboro to address the context, causes, sequence and consequences of the tragic day-light killings of 1979. The national co-chairs of this historic process were Dr. Vincent Harding, a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the first Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta Ga.; Dr. Cynthia Nance, former Dean of the Law School at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Arkansas; and, Dr. Peter Story, former President of the South African Council of Churches and Co-Chairperson of the South African Truth Commission Selection Panel. The local Co-Chairs of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project were Former Greensboro Mayor Carolyn Allen, Retired Presbyterian Minister Dr. Zeb Holler, and Former President of the Pulpit Forum Dr. Gregory T. Headen. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Chairperson of the South African Truth Commission, visited Greensboro on several occasions to provide advice and lend support to the Greensboro truth effort. The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission took two years to fully study the “context, causes, sequence and consequences” of the 1979 killings and produced a high quality 529 page report with 29 specific recommendations. This excellent work has not been welcomed, embraced nor used by city leadership to help us better understand ourselves and make the needed changes as a city. Instead, many within city leadership resorted to the familiar tactics of demonizing, distorting and evading. In the spirit of the Sit In movement, it is time to change. We urge city leadership, academia, the faith community, and the community at large to take advantage of this historic occasion not to hide history but to better understand our history so that we can all work together to make Greensboro a better City and our nation a better nation.

It would be an oversight of enormous proportion not to mention the public media in shaping our collective understandings, relationships, and quality of life in Greensboro and the nation. We are deeply concerned about the public media in general; the media has not been helpful in conveying a relatively full picture of truth. However, we are particularly concerned about the destructive role of the Rhinoceros Times. It is our humble opinion that locally the Rhinoceros Times has served to confuse, embitter, divide and spread hatred more than any other local media source. In fact, we believe it is greatly influencing the other local media toward this unfortunate direction. The Rhinoceros Times seems to specialize in half-truths, distortions and falsehoods. If we are to be a vibrant, healthy, respectful city that affirms the dignity and worth of all people, we must find a way to address the
Rev. Dr. Cardes Brown, Rev. Dr. Gregory Headen, Rev. Nelson Johnson, and Dr. Jibreel Khazan

extremely negative impact of the Rhinoceros Times. This can be an important first step in helping to create a more responsible, balanced and healthy local public media in general.

We cannot conclude this conversation without pointing a direction forward. How do we apply the spirit of the SitIns to the current reality in our city today? In response to that question, we call upon you to join us and make the following specific requests to our City, the GPD, and the community at large: 1. The injustice of A.J. Blake must be corrected as part of changing the Culture of the GPD: We call upon the City of Greensboro and the GPD to attend the February 18th hearing in Cary, North Carolina and advocate for Officer Blake to keep his certification as a law enforcement officer. 2. The GPD gang unit should be re-structured or dismantle: As it is currently configured the GPD gang unit is an instrument of criminality not of justice. The GPD Gang Unit should be dismantled, and the Paradigm Shift Proposal should be refined and embraced as a way to address youth and gang issues in the city. See Paradigm Shift document at www.belovedcommunitycenter.org. 3. The comprehensive Final Report of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission must be utilized: We call upon the City Council of Greensboro to fully embrace the TRC Final Report (not necessarily all of its findings) and encourage and facilitate its use by the citizens of Greensboro. The report is a gold mine of information; it will help the residents of the city better understand our journey, including the Sit-Ins and help us to address deep, long-standing problems. 4. The Rhinoceros Times and the damage it is doing must be challenged: All who advertise with the Rhinoceros Times are unwittingly complicit with the division, confusion and hatred this media source is fermenting in our area. We, therefore, call upon all who advertise with the Rhinoceros Times to withdraw their advertisement. Further, we call upon the citizens of Greensboro and the surrounding area to organize a selective buying campaign and cease buying from businesses that continue to advertise with the Rhinoceros Times. See list of Rhino Advertisements on www.belovedcommunitycenter.org. 5. The Greensboro International Civil Rights Museum must put more emphasis on the deep rich history of struggles in this city and in this area, as well as major national and international events. We propose a broader local committee of area residents to work with the current structure of the Museum to help strengthen the history of local struggles displayed in the Museum, making the appropriate connections with the spirit of the Sit-In Movement. 6. Police should not investigate themselves. Currently complaints regarding the Greensboro Police Department are first investigated by the Department then turned over to the Human Relation Commission. We call for a thorough investigative committee of civilians that will be afforded the resources and power to perform their duties with the highest level of excellence and integrity. Many of the social ills that occasioned the Sit-In Movement are still with us. They are more disguised, as they are now deeply woven into our cultural fabric. Even as we engage these lingering social issues, we are fully aware that there looms before us unprecedented economic challenges. We know that the social ills can never be fully solved without solving the vast economic inequalities and reaching a higher level of economic justice. We invite and urge all people, all races, from all stations of life to join us and work together to solve the economic and social ills that impact us all. And, as we work together, we can make Greensboro a better city, and we can make of our nation a better nation. God Bless You.

Calling EVERYONE!!!
People’s Celebration Town Hall Meeting
Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at the Greensboro Historical Museum (130 Summit Ave.), at 7:00PM. A discussion on how the Sit-In Movement relates to today.

The Community Building Table
Every Wednesday, the Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, NC hosts a community dialogue session known as the Community Building Table. Various community members gather from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, at 417 Arlington Street, in Greensboro, to discuss current issues facing the community, our state, and the nation. All are welcome.

Special Community Meeting
If you are interested in learning how you can join efforts in our community that are aggressively facing injustice issues in Greensboro, particularly issues facing minorities, come to the Community Meeting on Sunday evening, at 5:00 PM, February 28, 2010, at St. Philip AME Zion Church (1330 Ashe Street, Greensboro, NC). The group is sincerely seeking solutions that will positively impact our entire community.
Rev. Dr. Cardes Brown, Rev. Dr. Gregory Headen, Rev. Nelson Johnson, and Dr. Jibreel Khazan