The Forward Together Moral Movement is a foretaste of a 4th Great Awakening in America. Anyone interested in the future of public religion should pay attention to what’s happening here.
By Sarah Bufkin
Activists from across North Carolina protested with their feet and their voices yesterday at the state capitol as they challenged the flood of regressive policies passed by this state legislature over the past two years and committed themselves to turn their anger and discontent into action at the polls this November.
“Fifty-eight years ago, Emmet Louis Till was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 for supposedly whistling at a white woman,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP. “His mother insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing. Four months after Till’s death and two months after the verdict let his white killers go free, Rosa Parks took the pain of the moment and turned it into power by sitting down on a bus and refusing to get up. Fifty-eight years ago, it was Rosa Parks’ time. Now it’s our time. If you are tired of seeing policies that hurt the poor and vulnerable, workers, public education, patients and the uninsured, you better raise your voice and cast your vote.”
Yesterday’s Jericho March around the NC state capitol pulled together the social justice issues that people had rallied around all week into a specific set of policy proposals for the governor and the state legislature.
But in the instance that Gov. Pat McCrory, Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger continue to ignore the people’s voices, the Vote Your Dreams, Not Your Fears – Mass Rally for Voting Rights prepared advocates to make themselves and their communities heard at the ballot box this November.
The marchers gathered for the final day of Jericho Marches at 3:30 pm yesterday afternoon. In a nod to the biblical triumph over the towering walls of Jericho, the advocates marched seven times around the state capitol walls. After each circuit, speakers connected the social justice and policy issues lifted up on the previous six days to the urgency of this upcoming election.
“Our founding fathers, probably advised by our founding mothers, made sure that our constitution did not create a difference between people who come to this country, pledge their support to it and invest in their lives here and those people who were born here,” Rev. Maria Palmer said. “We are all Americans. Immigrants, you need to register to vote. We need to go to the polls. The future of NC depends on us.”
During the Jericho Marches, a representative coalition from the Forward Together Moral Movement entered the NC state capitol with specific policy proposals that the governor and the state lawmakers could take action on to take North Carolina to the higher ground of justice and equal opportunity. Inside the rotunda, the cheers of the hundreds marching outside could still be heard through the walls as voices called out, “Voting Rights,” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
Later in the day, young people led the way back to the NC state capitol grounds where they began a five-hour sit-out and teach-in modeled after the 1964 Freedom Schools. Determined to retake the state capitol grounds for the people’s use and hold their own legislative session of sorts, youth led and listened to workshops, performances and sessions from policy experts late into the night.
“There should be strict regulation on the use of guns by police officers,” Creeshona Berry said as the youth discussed how to deal with police brutality and racial profiling in their communities. “Guns are made to kill people. There are only a few instances in which police officers need their guns. There are many other things they can use to disable anyone they perceive as a potential threat. Deadly force is supposed to be the last resort.”
Fifty one years after people gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to declare that a new America was possible, North Carolinians of all races, classes, genders, creeds and ages marched to the steps of the state capitol to affirm that “America will yet be” and that they will fight this November and beyond to make our state a land where the weak can once more grow strong and the strong grow great.