Moral Mondays are coming to Wilmington and a political rock star is coming, too. The Rev. William Barber—president of NC NAACP, dubbed “The Preacher Behind Moral Mondays” in Mother Jones magazine and a charismatic presence on the scale of Dr. King—will be in town for the inaugural Port City Moral Monday Rally, which takes place on September 15th.
Moral Mondays began in 2013 in response to the NC General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory’s detrimental agenda. He’s advocated voting restrictions, environmental destruction, regressive taxation, among other things. As well, he’s has assaulted the public-education system, which has driven teachers out of our state.
In April 2013 a group of 17 people were arrested at the NC General Assembly for protesting these actions. Rather than discouraging the protests, the arrests struck a chord with others who were appalled by the direction our state was heading. By the end of the 2013 legislative session over 900 people had been arrested in connection with protests at the NC General Assembly. The movement has gained national attention and spawned incarnations in other states, including Georgia and South Carolina. Processing the cases in the courts has been slow: Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County NAACP, was arrested in June of last year and has yet to appear in court. “I keep checking with my lawyer,” she said.
At a press conference at the Alton Lennon Federal Courthouse steps last week, Maxwell announced the coming of Port City Moral Monday. He also stressed the involvement of a number of partner organizations who were helping to make this happen.
“More than 20 organizations, along with New Hanover County NAACP, are partner for this historic event,” Maxwell pointed out. The organizations include: Cape Fear River Watch, YWCA, the League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear, Carolina Jews for Justice, Sierra Club, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Working Films, and the North Carolina Black Film Festival, among others.
“What we have seen in the last few years in North Carolina is a moral disgrace,” Molly Murphy, co-director of Working Films, said. “There is a moral imperative for people of conscience to take a stand.”
Murphy spoke to the dismantlement of democracy and the economy in our state. “It is not OK to be first in teacher flight, it is not okay to have the fastest growing number of people living in high poverty,” Murphy said. She also cited the dangers of fracking on the heels of the Duke Energy coal-ash spill as additional concerns.
“Port City Moral Monday is part of the ‘Forward Together Movement’ and invites citizens from all counties across southeastern North Carolina to come participate in the first Moral Monday in this area,” Maxwell noted.
Reverend Dr. Kojo Notumba, Wilmington’s native son, is the keynote speaker for the September 15th event. He is president of the Charlotte chapter of NAACP and a powerful community organizer.
The big draw is likely to be the Rev. Barber. Though he walks with the aid of a cane as a result of an arthritic spinal condition, he is far from weak in heart or mind. Rev. Barber was traveling in Minnesota and Indiana to gain participation for the Moral Monday movement in the Midwest. Despite his heavy traveling schedule and ongoing pastoral work, he has found time to write a book, “Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation.” Published by Chalice Press, it will hit shelves at the end of October. The early publicity indicates that it not only chronicles the movement in NC, but it also uses NC as a template and case study to implement similar work in other communities searching for a voice.
On September 8th, Moral Mondays was in Cleveland County in Shelby, NC. The event focused on voting as the key issue; both registration and participation. The provisions of new voter laws hinder an array of people from exercising their constitutional right. My father, a retired university professor without a valid driver’s license and no active state issued photo ID, would not be able to vote with the new laws. The impact that the state government’s agenda has on the day-to-day lives of private citizens can take one’s breath away.
Folks can learn more about what is happening in our state and make their voices heard in defense of their own civil liberties by attending the event this Monday.
Port City Moral Monday Rally
Riverfront Park, 5 N Water St.
Monday, September 15th, 5:30 p.m.