A remarkable event happened in Raleigh, NC, on Saturday, Feb. 8. Nearly 100,000 people gathered for a Moral March on the State Capital in support of a “fusion agenda” focusing on democratic rights, economic justice, and the “soul and future of the state.”
The catalytic generating force for this event happened in 2010 when right-wing Republicans took over the Statehouse and ran a steamroller over various state programs. They redistricted the state and imposed a harsh voter-suppression law, imposed crippling restrictions on women’s rights to health care, passed legislation undermining union rights, rejected the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, cutting health care for poor people, made it harder to reconsider death row sentences even if racial bias in the trial could be proved, cut unemployment compensation, cut taxes on the rich and imposed new tax burdens on the middle class and poor, cut funds for education while subsidizing vouchers for privatized schools, opposed environmental protection laws, and undermined the rights of immigrants and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender North Carolinians.
In response to these steps the North Carolina NAACP, under the leadership of its president, Rev. William Barber, organized weekly “Moral Monday” demonstrations and a multi-level approach through public education and action in the streets, the courts, and electoral campaigns. Invited to be part of this moral coalition were secular and religious progressives of all kinds. Finding inspiration in both the Constitution, in its deep values promoting “the common good,” and in the Bible, which he sees teaching that love and justice should be at the center of public policy, Rev. Barber brought together many diverse groups. An inclusive People’s Agenda was forged, supported by such coalition partners as faith groups, labor unions, women’s groups, LGBT rights organizations, and environmentalists.
At the march Rev. Barber said, “We are black, white, Latino, Native American. We are Democrat, Republican, independent. We are people of all faiths, and people not of faith but who believe in a moral universe. We are natives and immigrants, business leaders and workers and unemployed, doctors and the uninsured, gay and straight, students and parents and retirees. We stand here—a quilt of many colors, faiths, and creeds.”
And at a meeting of coalition partners after the march, he declared: “When blacks and progressive whites came together 144 years ago to begin the long journey out of the division of the civil war, the good of the whole state was their vision—a vision that was blown up by racism wielded by the wealthy whose interests were threatened. Their original populist vision is what must guide us now. That higher ground is the way forward. It is the better way.”
That higher ground can seem quite threatening to some, however. Perhaps that is why the corporate media did not give much coverage to the march. But the march also poses big questions for progressives as well, as Ira Chernus, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has pointed out:
“Nearly 100,000 people took to the streets in Raleigh, North Carolina on February 8 in a Moral March to say ‘NO’ to the state’s sharp right-wing political turn and ‘YES’ to a new, truly progressive America.
“They weren’t just marching for one issue or another. They were marching for every issue progressives care about: economic justice; a living wage for every worker; support for organized labor; justice in banking and lending; high quality, well-funded, diverse public schools; affordable health care and health insurance for all, especially women; environmental justice and green jobs; affordable housing for every person; abolishing the death penalty and mandatory sentencing; expanded services for released prisoners; comprehensive immigration reform to provide immigrants with health care, education, and workers rights; ensuring everyone the right to vote; enhancing LGBT rights; keeping America’s young men and women out of wars on foreign soil, and more.”
Spin-offs of the Moral Monday movement are already starting up in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama. Will this challenging populist vision find birthing in Tennessee as well?
• • •
This column by local writers is dedicated to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world of peace and justice. Opinions expressed in “Lion and Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.