By William Barber II for Ebony – Donald Trump’s triumph across the South and Midwest, which won him the Electoral College and the White House, did not extend to Governor Pat McCrory in my home state of North Carolina. After fighting his loss with false accusations of voter fraud, McCrory finally conceded in early December, becoming the only incumbent GOP governor in America to lose reelection. But partisan extremists in the North Carolina legislature called a special session last week to strip power from McCrory’s opponent, Democrat Roy Cooper.
By Martha Waggoner for TPM – RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The architect of the progressive movement known as “Moral Monday” said he was removed from an American Airlines flight after he responded to a passenger who made disparaging remarks. The Rev. William Barber said in a statement he was removed Friday from a flight from Washington Reagan to Raleigh-Durham. A nearby passenger said loudly that he had problems with “those people” and criticized Barber’s need to purchase two airline seats for himself, said Barber, who is also president of the state chapter of the NAACP.
The grassroots movement that’s led to the arrest of about 1,000 people since 2013 for engaging in nonviolent protests against the policies of North Carolina’s Republican-controlled government is getting ready to kick off another year of action. Led by the N.C. NAACP, the movement behind the high-profile Moral Monday protests will hold a Moral Week of Action next week with daily gatherings at the legislature followed by the Moral March for Love and Justice through Raleigh on Saturday, Feb. 14 — the eighth such annual event known asHistoric Thousands on Jones Street for the thoroughfare where the legislature is located. “HKonJ” promotes a 14-point people’s agenda for North Carolina that includes well-funded public schools, livable wages, and health care for all.
It’s that kind of come one, come all event. And even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP president Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.” And while Moral Mondays movement is left-leaning, Barber told supporters that he wanted them to be political “defibrillators” because “we find we’ve got, not a left problem, or a right problem, or a conservative problem or a liberal problem. We’ve got a heart problem.
Rev. Barber spoke about his vision in Indianapolis at a two-day mass meeting of the newly created Indiana Moral Mondays on September 19-20. On September 19, he briefed Hoosier activists who had been meeting for months to plan for Rev. Barber’s visit as the “kick-off” to a new Indiana Moral Mondays movement. On Saturday, workshops were held on the Moral Mondays issues at Crispus Attucks High School. After the workshops hundreds marched from the high school to the State House. There Rev. Barber spoke passionately about the need for an Indiana Moral Mondays. The assembled supporters also heard supportive words from National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill and Indiana NAACP State President Barbara Bolling Williams. Hoosier activists commented on the specific needs of fast food workers, African-American youth, and health care workers.
Nearly 51 years ago this week, Martin Luther King, Jr. exhorted the 250,000-strong March on Washington audience to “go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” Leaders of the “Forward Together Moral Monday” movement said on a press call Tuesday they are putting King’s words to practice by expanding the movement beyond its origins in North Carolina for a “Moral Week of Action” in 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The week will focus on a different social justice theme each day, starting with labor rights and fair wage issues this Friday, followed by education, criminal justice, equal protection under the law (such as LGBT rights and immigration status), women’s rights, environmental justice and health care coverage. The movement’s North Carolina chapter, composed of the state’s NAACP and a variety of other groups, says it will hold voter registration canvasses each day after marching to the state capitol in Raleigh, culminating in a voting rights rally on Aug. 28 to commemorate the March on Washington anniversary.
Hundreds of people were turned away outside of a packed courtroom in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Monday where inside voting rights activists demanded a halt to what they said was the most restrictive voter suppression legislation since the Jim Crow era, local news reports. The plea, brought forth by the North Carolina NAACP, is calling for temporary injunction of House Bill 589. The law—which was passed by the state legislature immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act last June—mandates that voters show government-issued identification; rolls back early voting; and eliminates same-day registration as well as a high-school civics class that encouraged 18-year-olds to register to vote, among other provisions. “This law—passed by Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate Leader Phil Berger and their extremist counterparts and then signed by Gov. Pat McCrory—represents the most egregious attempt at voter suppression since Jim Crow,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the state chapter of the NAACP. Speaking on MSNBC’s The Reid Report on Monday, Barber explained that after the Supreme Court ruling—which eliminated federal government “preclearance” to changes made to voting laws in certain states, including North Carolina—the bill grew from 12 pages to 57 pages.
Protesters who for over a year have railed against the “extremist” policies of the North Carolina legislature are now bringing their fight to the voting booth as the movement known as Moral Mondays launched a bold initiative to get-out-the-vote this week. “We have exposed the hypocrisy,” Rev. William J. Barber II, chief organizer of the protests and head of the state chapter of the NAACP, said during a rally outside the General Assembly in Raleigh on Monday. Now is the time to organize.” Organizers estimate that upwards of 3,500 protesters from across the state attended the mass demonstration before splitting up into smaller factions for “teach-ins” to discuss the group’s new voter outreach strategy. In what the group is calling an “aggressive” statewide voting campaign, several dozen youth activists who have undergone extensive training are now being deployed to hundreds of communities in North Carolina to initiate “deep organizing work and voter registration.” Dubbed the Moral Freedom Summer, the new campaign is a nod to the 1966 Mississippi voting rights drive when youth activists partnered with local civil rights organizations to educate and register disenfranchised African American voters.
How do we build a people’s movement? We start with vision. Prophetic moral vision seeks to penetrate despair, so that we can believe in and embrace new futures. It does not ask if the vision can be implemented—questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The slaves didn’t get out of slavery by first figuring out how to get out; they got out because they were driven by a vision that said, “Oh freedom over me. / And before I’d be a slave / I’d be buried in my grave / And go home to my Lord and be free.” If we are going to have a real populist movement in this country, we have to reinstate an imagination that is not driven by pundits but by a larger vision. Most of the time, your greatest vision comes in your darkest night, because it is then, Martin Luther King Jr. said, that you see the stars. Populist movements don’t build when everything is fine. A populist moral vision is a form of dissent that says there’s a better way, there’s a moral way.
A budget is a moral document. Through it, we can measure a state’s values and its vision for the common good. In North Carolina, we toast ourselves as a place “where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.” But there is no greatness in our current budget proposals. The draft budgets pushed by Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate Leader Phil Berger and their allies deepen the flood of extremist policies that they unleashed into law last summer. I am no lonely voice crying in the wilderness here. Only 18 percent of North Carolinians approve of the work our state legislators are carrying out this June. This short session, the Forward Together Moral Movement called upon our legislators to repeal huge tax cuts for the wealthy that hurt the most vulnerable among us. Those harmed by these policies – the sick without Medicaid, working families without the Earned Income Tax Credit – spoke for themselves. But the extremists look away. They veil their immoral choices behind the rhetoric of economic necessity. There simply isn’t enough to go around, they say.
Recently, I marched with McDonald’s workers from three dozen cities to the company’s corporate headquarters outside of Chicago. After they refused to leave the corporate campus of the fast-food giant with its $5.6 billion in profits last year, 101 workers were arrested. I knew I had to come when the workers invited me to share some of the lessons we have been learning in North Carolina about civil disobedience — and moral support. I watched my new friends sit down. I watched the police gather. I prayed with the McDonald’s workers as the police looked on and then slapped plastic handcuffs on more than 100 of the workers and arrested them. I could not help but think of the historic arc of the civil rights movement. For all the gains we have been making, the treatment of low-paid workers by some of the most profitable corporations in the world ranks high in the more significant causes of the growing inequalities in the U.S. I have helped lead the fight against backward laws passed by an extremist group of legislators that, three years ago, took power in North Carolina. Last year, national media discovered us, calling us the Moral Monday protesters.
There is a bit of mythology percolating through the mainstream news media these days that the Moral Mondays/Forward Together movement led by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP is somehow acting as stalking horse for the state Democratic Party and Democratic politicians. Associated Press reporter Katelyn Ferral even “reported” as much in a “news” story this week that several media outlets ran under the headline “NC’s protests are Democratic tool in election year.” This is from the story: “The weekly protesters at the North Carolina legislature call their charge against Republican policies a moral imperative. But it is a moral imperative replete with a Democratic agenda in an election year. The “Moral Monday” movement has become a de-facto campaign tool for Democrats to publicize their platform and recruit volunteers to help them win elections. In a year where North Carolina’s heated U.S. Senate race can decide the direction of the upper chamber, results will hinge on the movement’s ability to translate the voices to votes come November.” Ferral’s conclusion is, of course, plainly and utterly off-base.
I believe that deep within our being is a longing for a moral compass. For those of us who are moved by the cries of our sisters and brothers, we know that, like justice, the acts of caring for the vulnerable, embracing the stranger, healing the sick, protecting workers, welcoming and being fair to all members of the human family, and educating all children should never be relegated to the margins of our social consciousness. These are not just policy issues; these are not issues for some left vs. right debate; these are the centerpieces of our deepest traditions of our faiths, of our values, of our sense of morality and righteousness. We must remind those who make decisions regarding public policy what the prophet Isaiah said “Woe unto those who legislate evil … Rob the poor of their rights … make children and women their prey.” Isaiah 10: 1-2 Martin Luther King, Jr. said 46 years ago in one of his last sermons that if you ignore the poor, one day the whole system will collapse and implode. The costs are too high if we don’t address systemic racism and poverty. It costs us our soul as a nation. Every time we fail to educate a child on the front side of life, it costs us on the back side — financially and morally.
The Moral Monday protests that led to the arrests of more than 900 people last year for engaging in civil disobedience have returned to the North Carolina legislature, with several thousand people gathering outside this week as lawmakers convened for the first full week of the 2014 short session. Following speeches by protest leader and N.C. NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber and others decrying the extremist policies of the Republican-controlled legislature, the protesters broke pieces of bread from loaves passed through the crowd as part of a love feast, an ancient Christian ritual carried out to symbolize the protesters’ moral conviction that there is more than enough to meet everyone’s need. Among the policy changes the protesters are calling for are Medicaid expansion, restoration of the state earned income tax credit, a reversal of cuts to unemployment benefits, and restoration of curtailed voting rights. The protesters then placed tape over their mouths and filed silently through the General Assembly building to dramatize their opposition to rule changes a legislative committee approved last week without public debate that prohibit visiting groups from making enough noise to interfere with normal conversation. Before he placed the piece of tape over his own mouth, Barber called the policy change “political tyranny” and said it was “like trying to tape up democracy.” “We do it not to be complicit with the law,” he said of the tape, “but to be defiant of the law.”
North Carolina lawmakers announced strict new rules limiting where and how citizens can protest in the state Legislative Building on Thursday, a move many see as an attempt to stifle the progressive “Moral Monday” protests that continue to gain momentum in the Tar Heel state. During the second day of the state’s 2014 legislative session, the North Carolina Legislative Services Commission, which has not met since 1999, announced a new set of regulations that overhaul building rules unchanged since 1987. Although state Republicans claim the new rules are only meant to lesson “disturbances” so lawmakers can conduct business, the regulations are sure to impact the ongoing Moral Mondays protests, a progressive grassroots movement in North Carolina that sprung up last year in opposition to a series of conservative laws passed by the North Carolina state legislature. Thousands of North Carolinians have expressed their fierce disapproval of the Republican-dominated General Assembly by protesting in and around the state Legislative Building over the past year, with more than 900 people reportedly arrested inside the building’s central rotunda for civil disobedience since April 2013.