Moral Monday comes to the mountains
The Jackson County Branch of the NAACP will host more than a dozen like-minded Western North Carolina organizations in Sylva on June 13 for an event called “Mountain Moral Monday.”
The event will include a keynote address from Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, as well as speeches from local people who have been negatively impacted by the policies being passed in Raleigh for the last several years.
“You will hear people testify about how their lives have been impacted,” Barber said. “You have to show the face of it.”
The Moral Monday Movement, a large nonpartisan coalition, actually began organizing 10 years ago as the HK on J (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) Coalition in North Carolina under Barber’s leadership. For the last three years, the movement has been focused on fighting legislation passed by the General Assembly and the governor that its organizers claim has negatively impacted the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
These issues include the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid, cuts to public education, voter suppression laws, labor rights, affordable housing, immigration, environmental concerns, tax reform and more. Barber describes it as an “indigenously-led, state-based, state-government focused, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, anti-racist, anti-poverty, pro-justice, pro-labor, transformative, fusion movement.”
“The movement in North Carolina is about the moral fabric of our society, and we are called by a deeply moral and constitutional vision of what is possible,” Barber said. “We look at public policy through a moral lens of justice for all and through the constitutional principle of governing for the good of the whole. Our work points out how these extremist policies are morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent and economically insane.”
This is the first time a Moral Monday Movement event will be held west of Asheville since the protests began in Raleigh more than three years ago. “Forward together, not one step back” has been the mantra of the movement, and its leaders say it has supporters from all walks of life and every end of the political spectrum who have come together to rally against what they call extremist policies.
Thousands of North Carolinians have descended upon the state capitol each Monday legislators have been in session to hold peaceful demonstrations inside and outsie the Legislative Building. More than 1,000 people have willingly been arrested for civil disobedience by General Assembly police.
Barber attributes the success of the movement to the people willing to fight for a better state. He said people are tired of politicians talking about “wedge issues” like abortion, homosexuality and prayer in school and are ready for a deeper discussion about the moral issues that affect people’s lives.
“We are challenging the position of the religious right that the preeminent moral issues today are about religion in public schools, abortion and homosexuality with a critique that says the deepest public concerns of our faith traditions deal with how do you treat the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, children, workers, immigrants and the sick,” Barber said.
The Jackson County NAACP branch hopes Barber’s national recognition and his ability to engage an audience will spur more involvement in the local NAACP efforts.
“He is a figure of national recognition. He is a person that will talk to and be consulted by candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. He writes editorials — opinions — for the New York Times, and he has a regular column in The Nation magazine, which was a column that used to be written by Martin Luther King,” said Dr. Enrique Gomez, a Western Carolina University professor and president of the Jackson County NAACP. “There are a lot of people who, in their opinion, think that he has essentially ‘taken the mantel’ of the Civil Rights Movement nationwide. So yeah, he is a figure of import.”
Avram Friedman, vice president of the Jackson NAACP, encouraged the public to attend the rally to hear from many of the local coalition partners that will have informational booths set up at the event. Live music at the event will include a performance by nationally acclaimed singer-songwriter David LaMotte. Sylva resident Stella Moore will lead the crowd in singing songs of the Movement. The gathering will begin with the Sounding of the Shofar by Frank Goldsmith of WNC Jews for Justice.
“We want people to understand that they really do have power and the importance of participating in the political process if you want to see change happen,” Friedman said. “Change always happens from the bottom up. People in power will never give it up willingly — they have to feel the pressure from the bottom up.”
Rev. Charles Lee of Liberty Baptist Church will serve as master of ceremonies for the June 13 event in Sylva. Also scheduled to speak are:
• Sylva resident Connie Jean Conklin, who suffers from physical disabilities and has been refused Medicaid due to the refusal of North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
• Franklin educator John deVille, who will speak on the effect cuts in public educational funding have had on both teachers and students.
• Other speakers will also address the adverse effects of North Carolina’s voter ID law, the elimination of funding for the representation of defendants with limited financial resources in federal criminal courts, and the reduction of assistance provided by the North Carolina Department of Employment Security.
Since the movement is non-partisan, the Jackson County NAACP asks attendants to refrain from bringing campaign signs or other political materials. For more information, call 828.631.3447 or visit jacksonncnaacp.org.
Mountain Moral Monday
• 5 p.m. Monday, June 13, rain or shine
• Bridge Park, 76 Railroad Ave., Sylva
• 828.631.3447 or visit www.jacksonncnaacp.org