North Carolina was one of the first states in America to raise its voice against the immoral behavior of their state legislature. The Forward Together Movement began in May and with each passing week, North Carolinians have become fully aware of the Republican-controlled legislature’s actions in Raleigh. July 29th was the final scheduled Moral Monday, but Forward Together Movement leader Rev. Dr. William Barber says the fight is far from over.
Rather, the actions are traveling from Raleigh to multiple Congressional districts and counties in North Carolina. The “Mountain Moral Monday” action in Asheville on August 5 drew more than 10,000 people. Raleigh was just the beginning and North Carolinians are now aware and activated across the state.
The first Moral Monday was a rather small affair compared to what it turned into. It began with Rev. Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP, and a handful of other conscientious clergymen who said enough is enough. That first week bolstered the people of North Carolina and in the weeks that followed, more and more people stepped up to be arrested, or “bear witness” for justice. After 13 weeks of protest, over 1,000 have been arrested, making it the largest act of civil disobedience in America next to the Occupy movement.
On July 8 (my youngest son’s 6th birthday) I was arrested alongside my father, Harvey Smith. It was the first time for both of us and neither of us would have made a different decision. The following week, July 15, the rest of my family followed suit with my mother, Jane Smith (58), my husband, Anthony Glover (37), my sister-in-law, Alisa Denbow (35), and my nephews, Dennis and Dustin Bailey (16 and 17), who all stepped up to be arrested for the cause.
My 14-year-old son, William Glover, wanted to be arrested for justice but was too young. He understand what many people his age do not: that this fight, or a new one, will likely take place in his adult years, and this makes him steadfast in his commitment to do whatever he can to help further the movement.
Each Moral Monday mobilized around a single issue. One week was for labor issues, another for women’s rights, another for voting rights, and so on. The beautiful thing was that no matter what the theme, people came out in droves. This is the meaning of intersectionality -- just because an issue may not affect us on a personal level, we’re still willing to speak up and fight for the fairness and freedom of others.
On the 15th, when we were focused on women’s rights, a fair amount of men were arrested (even though women had the majority.) During the voting rights Moral Monday, many people who would not be affected by the new laws showed up in solidarity as well. I am a white woman with an ID so the only thing that affected me about these laws was the fact that they would end early and Sunday voting. None of us cared. Once you mess with one citizen’s rights you mess with everyone’s rights.
This is a movement like North Carolina has never seen. We came together in one large sea of people; black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Arab. We were poor and we were rich. We were Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Humanist, Agnostic and Atheist. We were old and young. We were working as one for a common goal, which is what the GOP legislature is scared of. We couldn’t accomplish anything as long as we were divided.
The sad thing is that many people still don’t get it. We still hear the term “Moron Monday” floating around. We still see people who really do not understand the issues and instead of becoming educated, chose to dismiss us as tree hugging, jobless, lazy hippies who are simply looking for free handouts. This is no surprise and I don’t allow it to bother me. The Occupy Movement faced the same challenges, and we should expect to hear it in the future. All we can really do is continue to educate people on the real issues.
Overall, Moral Monday 13 ended on an extremely positive note. Reverend Barber would not have had it any other way. It was an uplifting experience even for those of in in the huge group who are religiously unaffiliated. In the end Moral Monday brought us all together and we have the NAACP and all of the community groups organizing together to thank for that. It may prove to pave the way for North Carolinians to take back their government from those enacting immoral policies.
Testimony from Moral Monday Arrestees
Mr. Fager is the arrestee that stands out the most to me because of his long history of fighting for civil and social rights. He contacted me to offer an interview:
“I was arrested on July 22. I had a sign noting that I was arrested in Selma Alabama in 1965, with Dr. King's campaign there which resulted in the Voting Rights Act. I chose to court arrest on July 22 because of the focus on vote suppression, which is undoing Dr. King's achievement and dishonoring the sacrifice of so many who struggled and suffered for voting rights.”
Mr. High was arrested on May 30th. He was led to do so for many reasons. ”The first is a belief in democracy, based on logic and reason,” High said.
“For the past 40 years of my life (I am now 60) I have watched, with varying but increasing degrees of attention and dismay, as the main institutions which hold the key to the functioning of our democracy have either been battered or outright broken.”
Mr. Bailey is the youngest Moral Monday protester to get arrested (as far as I know) at the age of 16. When asked why he was willing to go to jail at such a young age, he replied, “I know everything that has been done by the legislature has hurt every person in my family. I wanted people to see that just because I am young that I don’t understand what the issues are. I get it and may have to fight for it myself when I get older.”
There are so many more stories to be told, and they will be. As the movement’s rallying cry goes:
“FORWARD TOGETHER, NOT. ONE. STEP. BACK!”