Barber: NC, nation at moral crossroads
by Anna Oakes
The North Carolina NAACP president announced the strategies of the Moral Mondays/Forward Together movement and the creation of a Watauga County NAACP chapter before a crowd of several hundred people at Appalachian State University's Schaefer Center on Monday.
The Rev. William Barber II has led the N.C. NAACP since 2005 and is the leader and founder of the Forward Together movement that spearheaded Moral Monday protests at the state legislature building in Raleigh this summer. A Forward Together group that formed in Boone after this year's legislative session coordinated Barber's visit.
Barber framed the debate about the Republican-led legislature's policies -- including voting law changes, cuts to unemployment benefits, public education cuts and the decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act -- as a moral dilemma facing the state and nation.
"This is bigger than partisan politics," Barber said. "It's not about Democrats and Republicans. It's about the good of the whole."
An ordained minister with a doctoral degree, Barber based large portions of his nearly two-hour-long lecture on historical events and Biblical scriptures, noting that many scriptures speak to the misuse of wealth and the treatment of the poor. He also said the treatment of women, immigrants and the LGBT community under the law had deep moral implications.
"Do we write our laws in a way that codifies hate?" he said at a press conference held earlier in the day. "On our best days, we want to be a state where the weak grow strong."
Barber said he believed that the nation is in the beginnings of a Third Reconstruction (the first being the period after slavery was abolished and the second being the 20th century Civil Rights Movement). The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 signaled a change in the electorate, he said.
Barber said acts of reconstruction are always followed in history by acts of "deconstruction," including attacks on voting rights, progressive taxes, labor rights and public education.
"We should be working for more access to the ballot -- not less access to the ballot," Barber said, referring to the voter ID law passed this year that requires photo identification to vote, shortens the early voting period, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting and ends pre-registration of high school students.
Barber outlined a number of strategies going forward, including a call for Gov. Pat McCrory to call a special session of the General Assembly to rescind the actions to prevent Medicaid expansion and to reduce unemployment benefits by Dec. 20. A Moral Mondays demonstration is planned in Raleigh Dec. 23 to either celebrate or further protest state actions in response, he said. A Moral Mondays rally is also planned in Raleigh on Feb. 8, 2014.
The N.C. NAACP initially announced its request for a special session on Oct. 23, and McCrory responded in a statement on Monday, saying, "Calling a special session to further expand Obamacare in North Carolina is out of the question."
According to the statement, "McCrory said he wants to first ensure that the current Medicaid system is fixed so existing services for the elderly, women, children and the disabled are secure for future generations in North Carolina."
Medicaid is currently only available to low-income seniors, women, children and the disabled in North Carolina; the expansion would have provided coverage to adults up to 133 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which is an annual income of $11,490 for a single person.
Barber said the NAACP continues to partner with other organizations to pursue lawsuits against the state over the voter ID law and spending on public education.
He announced the organization of the first NAACP branch in Watauga County, and fliers distributed at the event indicate an organizational meeting will be held this Saturday, Nov. 2, at 3 p.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The flier invites persons of all races and states the mission of the NAACP is "to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination."
Forward Together Watauga County has a Facebook page and can be reached
by email at (ForTogWatCou@gmail.com)