Monday, October 3, 2016

Tom Carruthers, My Lawsuit, And Greensboro History

As regular readers are aware, Tom Carruthers is the City Attorney for Greensboro and I'm currently suing the City of Greensboro for violations of North Carolina public records laws.

While Mr Carruthers and I had seen each other at City Council meetings in the past we had never actually met until a chance meeting today in an elevator in the Melvin Municipal Building. It was cordial, nice even.

Mr Carruthers pointed out that I am forcing the City to clean up their act when it comes to public records. As a matter of fact I was there to pick up my copy of Public Record # 5418 on which myself and others have waited over 6 months to get.

I'm hoping, among other things, that the end result of my suit will be to force the City to fully use the Greensboro Open Records website that your tax dollars are already paying for.

Of course, I can't use what Mr Carruthers told me in the elevator against the City in court because that would be hearsay. And as far as I know the elevators aren't recorded, are they?

In the past I've painted Tom as a monster just as I've painted a lot of people as monsters. He's not really, and neither are they. But something he said to me pointed out something I've suspected for a very long time.

You see Tom told me that until he read it right here at he was unaware that Erwin School is built on the site where Bessemer High School once stood. And while I didn't tell Tom, Bessemer was torn down to build Irwin.

Now why is this significant?

1. Tom's wife is a teacher at Irwin. But there's no history on the Irwin website so how could she know? The little bit of history that the County Schools publish are on the Bessemer Elementary website.-- a now separate school.
2. Tom's father was a Letterman and graduate of Bessemer High School.

But Tom, being younger than myself and having grown up on the other side of town, didn't know the history of his Bessemer roots other than the fact that the roots existed.

You see, there have been no efforts to save the historic homes in east Greensboro. And at one time there were many.

There are almost no historic markers in East Greensboro despite the fact that many of Greensboro's most wealthy, successful and greatest heroes grew up in Bessemer and other parts of east Greensboro.. Does anyone know that the Reverend Jessie Jackson once spent time in jail in a makeshift jail located in an old hospital on the very same property where I hope the new Guilford County Animal Shelter will soon be built?

You think east Greensboro wouldn't get behind naming a place that saves lives-- even the lives of pets-- after the Reverend Jessie Jackson? That's how you get east Greensboro to support the idea.

There is almost no history of the Bessemer Community that is easily available to the public. A Google search for + "Bessemer Community" returns only 1 result from the City of Greensboro website: Someone complaining about changing the name of the Bessemer Shopping Center to the Renaissance Center.

I must admit, despite my long expressed support for the co-op, the name change troubled me as well. Could the Renaissance Community Co-op not be located in the Bessemer Shopping Center? Bessemer never hurt anyone that I know of. Do the Cones really not want us to know that Greensboro once intended to become a steel town?

Or is it something more sinister?

And I've been looking at this stupid sign for years and wondering whose idea was this complete waste of taxpayer dollars? Are there signs at the other 3 corners of Greensboro saying "Welcome to Northwest Greensboro, Welcome to Southwest Greensboro, or Welcome to Southeast Greensboro?" This is at the very entrance to what has been historically called the Bessemer Community for over 100 years.

No, only in Northeast Greensboro has there been a 60 year effort to wipe out our history.

As a matter of fact: your tax dollars went to build and maintain not 1 but 2 of these expensive signs on Phillips Avenue near Summit Avenue, and when the one in the photograph was hit by a car someone-- probably you-- paid to repair it. But those signs have done nothing to promote unity, racial harmony, economic development or any other worthy cause-- they've only helped serve to make the names of communities like East White Oak, Edgeville, Bessemer, Woodmeer Park, Bessemer Park, Bessemer Heights, and others all distant memory.

Just as they were designed to do.

Or maybe it's just some stupid branding idea that failed like all the rest of the stupid branding ideas have failed, but how can people like Tom Carruthers or even our City Council members be expected to know to save or care about our history and the things we hold dear when none of them know these things existed? That is: with the exception of Yvonne Johnson, who is even older than I am, has lived in east Greensboro all her life, and has helped to wipe out our history again and again, except when it was something that was dear to her.

There's a huge history contained in the archives at Bessemer United Methodist Church, going back well over 100 years including the history of the old Holt's Chapel Community that predates Bessemer, known to date back to 1870 if not longer, but come January that church will be forever closing their doors and shipping their archives off to Charlotte to be locked away in a vault owned by the United Methodist Church.

And folks, there are many graves in the Holts Chapel Cemetery that appear to predate 1870 when the church was built but no one can say for sure as the markers are too worn. No matter: most of Greensboro's historic neighborhoods are far younger than what has been erased in my lifetime. Why save theirs and not ours?

I'm guessing there might also be archives located in the New Bessemer Baptist Church located in McLeansville as its roots go back over 100 years to East Bessemer Ave. And the Presbyterian Church on Phillips Ave dates back around 100 years to East Bessemer Ave as well.

Will the people in charge of Greensboro's history make an effort to record it now that I've told you where it can be found or will the history continue to be kept silent.