Truth Commission part deux

I spent the day listening and participating in the continued exploration of developing a Truth Commission in Mississippi.   There were about 40 of us from across the state to continue the discussion and next steps in this quest to own our past and to help shape our future.  This morning we heard from the Greensboro Truth Commission speak about their experiences.  The panel consisted of Jill Williams, former executive director of the Greensboro Truth Commision, Rev. Nelson Johnson, survivor of the November 3rd 1979 shooting, and retired Mississippi Episcopal Bishop ‘Chip’ Marble, who retired to Greensboro.  They were a powerful panel sharing their personal struggles and victories of the spirit.  

In the telling of their story, they tell of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s visit where he told them, “You will always be a crippled community, whether you like it or not… as long as you refuse to face up to your past.”

Rev. Johnson tells us that everything that we are today is a product of our past.  We can’t simply leapfrog over our past to suddenly make a better community, we must instead “work through our DNA of our yesterday– push beyond the acceptability [levels] of justice” because what we are dealing with “sinks beneath the surface and gets into the drinking water” of how we live our daily lives.  This is how insidious the acts of the past are on our present. 

Desmond Tutu told the Greensboro folk, that there is no such thing as a Truth Commission that is authentic that isn’t strongly opposed.  So expect this to be a moral and spiritual issue. 

By lunch time we were asked if we were ready to take the next steps to develop a declaration of intention.  With a few exceptions, the entire room stood up in unison to proclaim we were ready to begin this work.   We were reminded of the previous meetings where we discussed a possible time period in Mississippi history of 1945-1975.  1945 because this was the end of a World War where black men were coming home after fighting for democracy and not having its power at home.  1975 because this is the time of the rise of white private academies to ensure that segregation would remain in Mississippi.  This time line is still under discussion.  We are aware that there were events before 1945 and we are painfully aware of events after 1975 that could be explored to tell the story.  We broke into three groups where we were asked to consider these three questions that would assist us in developing our declaration of intent.  

1) What are the injustices that need to be examined that would tell the story of Mississippi?

2) What is it we want to achieve with this Truth Commission?

3) How do we link this work [of the Truth Commission] to the continuing work of Equity and Justice?

The afternoon sessions were equally powerful.   I am personally grateful to assist in this work in whatever small measure I can.   May the truth of what happened in Mississippi and how our past shapes our present, set us free to enable us to be able to consciously shape the future where all receive equitable justice and treatment.  Blessings,

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Published in: on April 27, 2008 at 4:06 am  Comments Off on Truth Commission part deux  
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