A visit to Beloved Community Center: Honoring our elders, carrying the struggle forward

This spring, Southern Vision Alliance is launching our Black Radical Tradition Training Series to steep our staff and organizers in the history and politics of the Black freedom struggle. Last week, our work kicked off with a site visit to the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro.

In the words of Pastor Wesley Morris, SVA Associate Director, “We’re not the first ones to try to improve the material, social, and spiritual conditions of the community and society and we have much to learn and offer. We’re here to pay respect to and build intergenerational ties with elders of the movement, who are still driving new visions for change like the launch of the statewide NC Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. Through this exchange, we are gaining inspiration and guidance for our day-to-day work and have the chance to ask the burning questions that we have about the world around and inside of us.”

At the visit, we met with Rev. Nelson Johnson, Joyce Johnson, Lewis Brandon, Abigail Mosely, and Brigette Rasberry. We asked them burning questions that have preoccupied us as organizers. In the process, we learned that we were not alone in our questions and that we can find our way to solutions by intentionally being in space with elders of the movement. This meeting was particularly powerful in that elders also asked us questions about what we are doing and what we feel our purpose and missions are, the respect was mutual. Sitting in a room steeped in history on the walls opened more portals for feeling our collective humanity connected across generations. It was enlightening to be reminded and see how the BCC has maintained a posture and practice of beloved community for this many years in the fight for justice. It was enlightening to see how folks can maintain a posture of beloved community for this many years.

We also watched two documentary films: one about the community victory for workers rights in Greensboro at K-mart in the mid 90’s and another about the fight for justice following the November 3, 1979, Greensboro massacre and the first Community Truth and Reconciliation Process. Before departing the BCC, we reviewed the new NC Statewide Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation process and learned how we can support and take an active role in that struggle.

And we explored Beloved’s Grassroots History Museum led by Mr. Lewis Brandon, where a trove of local history is documented, dating back to the 1940s. Our visit reinforced that while it’s important to honor national justice heroes, it’s even more important to know how those who lived on the same streets and went to the same schools as you, went to the same libraries, and asked some of the same questions could make such an impact. It influences how we see ourselves and lean into our great potential as a community. This is true for every city and state, leaders exist everywhere.

Beloved Community Center’s latest initiative is the NC Truth, Justice, and Reconiliation Commission. Find out more here.

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