Marker dedication

Survivors, family members and community members  gather for the Greensboro Massacre Historical Marker unveiling and dedication near the site of the former Morningside Homes on Sunday, May 24, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (LYNN HEY/ News & Record)

More than 300 people clapped as the Greensboro Massacre Historical Marker was unveiled Sunday by survivors and their families.

But the moment was bittersweet.

“It’s a big deal to have something in writing that everyone will see,” said Sandi Osterkatz, a daughter of a survivor.

On Nov. 3, 1979, five members of the Communist Workers Party, who did biracial labor organizing at local mills, were killed and 11 others injured after organizing an anti-Ku Klux Klan march at Morningside Homes.

 

“There was a lot of revolutionary activism happening at the time, but this was one of the only groups that was bringing black and white workers together, which is why they were targeted,” Osterkatz said. “They were a threat in a way that others aren’t because they took on the Klansmen first, and that was not permissible to the powers that be.”

But from that tragedy grew a generation of young adults remembering what their parents fought for 36 years prior.

Osterkatz’s name alone is a constant reminder of the shootout.

Her mother Jean Chapman survived the shootings. Her dad planned to be at the march but missed it after someone gave him bad directions.

Their friend, Sandi Smith, Osterkatz’s namesake, wasn’t so lucky.

She died trying to get neighborhood children to safety when gunfire began.

“She’s always been my inspiration,” Osterkatz said.

Not far from Osterkatz on Sunday stood Leah Nathan, who held her young daughter Misha.

Nathan named her daughter after Nathan’s father, Michael, who died during the massacre, when she was only six months old.

She looked at the marker, which isn’t in the ground yet, trying to figure out what it meant to her.

Due to the placement of utilities, the N.C. Department of Transportation hasn’t determined where to put the marker yet, except that it will be on McConnell Road and it needs to be within one-tenth of a mile north of where the shooting took place.

But that didn’t matter to those that gathered Sunday.

“It’s a legacy, and I feel grateful in some ways to have it because it’s impossible for me not to adhere to some truths,” Nathan said.

Many other Greensboro residents said it’s a legacy they plan to remember.

Leaders who spoke during a service before the ceremony included Guilford County Commissioner Ray Trapp, Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson, Rep. Ralph Johnson, state Sen. Gladys Robinson and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams.

“They will never be forgotten,” Trapp said. “That day will never be forgotten. We celebrate their sacrifice and honor their lives.”

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Contact Danielle Battaglia at (336) 373-4476, and follow @dbattaglianr on Twitter.

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