North Carolinians welcome truth-tellers



North Carolinians gave truth-tellers a good reception last week in Asheville, Raleigh, Fayetteville, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Durham. John Kiriakou, the former CIA operative who exposed torture of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo prison, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at North Carolina State University and also made appearances at N.C. Central University, Guilford College, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Quaker House.  (You can hear his interview at WUNC.)

Though once optimistic about the potential for change in the CIA and federal government’s policies, his hopes for an overhaul of the system by the Obama Administration were unmet. “With Bush, all of the tortures went free,” he told The Daily Tar Heel. “With Obama, all of the torturers are going to stay free, and we’re going to clamp down on all these other whistleblowers, too.”

Also, that week, Asheville  hosted “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” an exhibit of acrylic-on-wood portraits by Robert Shetterly of individuals he views as “models of courageous citizenship.” The traveling exhibit, a portion of the total collection of more than 100 portraits, closes at the YMI Cultural Center on November 7.  It opens in Greensboro on November 16 at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, where it will remain through February 13.  Greensboro’s Guilford College will host an exhibit of eight paintings. Shetterly’s portrait of Kiriakou, unfortunately, was not among those displayed last week in Asheville.

IMG_4448 “Americans Who Tell the Truth” exhibit in Asheville, NC. Photo by Linda Lewis.

Ellie Richard, a progressive activist and arts educator, conceived of bringing the exhibits to North Carolina and generously used her retirement savings to sponsor them.  Bringing the portraits and the artist to North Carolina cost $35,000, and allied costs could be as much as $25,000. Richard hopes people will the make the suggested $10 donation, which would enable her to bring in portraits of truthtellers in other categories–for example, peacemakers and whistleblowers. (

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Richard also worked with local schools to create a youth art project that accompanies the AWTTT exhibit, “the portrait work of young people who had thought about what courage is, who a hero is, and who had looked for those individuals among the people they knew.” (per Cathy T. Scott, exhibit brochure)  Their drawings and paintings make up a second exhibit, “Courage in Our Midst.”

The projects received additional support from a long list of churches, citizens’ groups, schools and individuals in Asheville, Greensboro and Durham. Some sponsored individual portraits while others contributed time and/or money to the exhibit as a whole. That community support is itself heroic and makes the truth-telling exhibits even more inspiring.

IMG_4458 Poster advertising the AWTTT exhibit in Asheville. Photo by Linda Lewis.

Learn more about “Americans Who Tell the Truth” at

[Note:  Story cross-posted at the Whistleblower Support Fund website]

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