Moral Monday, Week 10: I Finally Attend For The First Time

IMAG0245North Carolina has been garnering attention from across the nation for the Moral Monday movement which is now in its tenth week.  Moral Mondays protest a broad range of issues, but I was initially a little reluctant to join as they are specifically partisan and also somewhat religious.  However, I began to get a sense that this Moral Monday thing is not going away and it is going to be important. So this Monday, I went with a few of my friends. It was all of our first time.

Megan, Bekkah and I got there a little late, joining Kara and her mom and aunt who were already on the Halifax Mall.  As we approached the wide grassy space filled with people holding signs and flags, we could hear a preacher giving an inspirational speech.  He was reminding the gathered crowd of important steps forward that everyone was told couldn’t be done. “But read the rest of the story!” he bellowed triumphantly.  At the end of the speech, he uttered the phrase which has become a theme for Moral Monday: “Forward together!” The crowd responded, “Not one step back!”

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After the speech, a series of people came up to present facts. Facts on fracking, on education, on health care, on various vital economic issues.  I hadn’t realized just what was going on this state, but I recognized a lot of issues as the same sorts of things faced by many other states.  Also I was impressed by the fact that the organizers were making sure the protestors were educated.  A sustainable movement must include education for the populace.

As the people who were willing to risk arrest proceeded into the legislature building, a local musician sang a song he’d written called, “We Are Not For Sale,” an excellent protest song for this age of getting doubly fucked by both corporations and politicians.   Here’s a video of the song, seriously you should watch it.

Protesters walking into the legislature building, risking arrest.

Protesters walking into the legislature building, risking arrest.

Those of us who didn’t want to risk arrest went down and lined the streets along where the cops had backed correctional facility busses up to the legislature building.  As we waited for the arrests to happen and the arrested protestors to be taken away, the organizers led us in all sorts of inspiration chants.  The chants revolved around themes of justice, and themes of democracy.  In true black preaching style, one man riffed on the “Forward Together”: forward together for our women, our children, latinos, blacks, natives, for the earth, for the poor, and so on, chanting each phrase several times to the audience response “Not one step back!”

Protesters lined up across the street from the buses waiting to take arrested people away.

Protesters lined up across the street from the buses waiting to take arrested people away.

Two things most impressed me about this Moral Monday.  First, that an initially small movement had grown so large and diverse, embracing tons of issues. That’s probably the most diverse crowd of people I’ve ever been in, on all spectrums.  Second, that it was so well organized.  The movement was begun by the NAACP (prompting my roommate to observe, “I’m surprised there were so many white people there! But, you know, surprised in a good way”) which means the people behind Moral Monday are bringing decades of organizing experience to the table.  That gives me a lot of hope that this movement is going to go far.

This is a long-range movement, with long-range goals.  They are scheduling a march on Washington toward the end of August.  They have a specific theme each week: next week is Women’s Moral Monday, the week after that is dedicated to criminal justice and incarceration, and the week after is an huge inter-faith service.  Then there are going to be protests in each of the congressional districts of North Carolina, bringing the movement even more local, even more close to home.  It was clear throughout the protest, in the electrifying atmosphere and the sense of the people taking the power back, that Moral Monday is going to matter in the long run.  It’s going to matter to everyone at that protest: the family with young children, the little old lady with the “Jailbird for Justice” sign, the person with a shirt proudly identifying as genderqueer, the singer who sang a protest song with the chorus “We are not for sale,” the redneck boys who drove away in a rusty pickup and the fratty boy who drove away in a flashy convertible, and me and my friends, all young women whose rights are at risk in this state.  I spoke to a couple of people who are recording a documentary already, because they know this Moral Monday thing is huge.

There were a couple thousand people at last week’s Moral Monday, with 64 of them being arrested.  I will continue to update you all on my experiences and on how Moral Monday is advancing as a whole.  In the meantime, I encourage you to do some further reading on the topic:

The New York Times on the troubling policies of the NC GOP

A reporter for The American Prospect photographs a Moral Monday about a month ago

Allison Kilkenny at the Nation writes about this past week’s protest, with extensive quotes from my comrade-in-protest Megan

More photographs, from the Winston-Salem Journal, of the July 8th protest

And try googling the words “Moral Monday” to find a ton more information and documentation on what’s going on down here in North Carolina.  Southern activism is very much alive and it’s going to change the nation.

And here’s some more pictures:

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"Don't Tread On Our Rights.  Take Back NC"

Kara: “Don’t Tread On Our Rights. Take Back NC”

In opposition to the accusation of shipping in outside agitators, many protesters proudly proclaimed themselves to be local.

In opposition to the accusation of shipping in outside agitators, many protesters proudly proclaimed themselves to be local. Megan: “Local Agitator”

"My home, body, healthcare, choice, voice, love NC"

Bekkah: “My home, body, healthcare, choice, voice, love NC”

"Getting weird is for parties, not legislative procedure" (the other side of my sign said "Our voices matter" in reference to the Senator who told the gallery "your Senators are the only voices on this issue.")

Me: “Getting weird is for parties, not legislative procedure” (the other side of my sign said “Our voices matter” in reference to the Senator who told the gallery “your Senators are the only voices on this issue.”)

"Proud member of an 'unruly mob'", hearkening back to Lt. Governor Dewhurst's comment about the feminist army in Texas

Megan: “Proud member of an ‘unruly mob'”, hearkening back to Lt. Governor Dewhurst’s comment about the feminist army in Texas

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