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Barber of Moral Monday Fame Speaks at App State

Rev. William Barber II at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on the ASU campus gave a talk titled “The Necessity of a Moral Movement in North Carolina and the Nation” on Tuesday. Photo by Lonnie Webster

By Mark S. Kenna

Oct. 30, 2013. Seven hundred and fifty people from different demographics watched N.C. NAACP President and leader of the Moral Monday Movement Rev. William Barber II’s lecture at Schaefer Center Monday night, as he outlined the five ideals of the non-partisan Moral Monday Movement and its history in his lecture titled “The Necessity of a Moral Movement in North Carolina and the Nation:”

  • economic sustainability
  • educational equality
  • health care for all and environmental protection
  • fairness in the criminal justice system
  • the right to vote with equal protection for all people under the law 

“It was just wonderful,” Marge McKinney, coordinator for Forward Together Watauga, said. “One of the things that was so good was the organization; this brought the campus people and the community people together.”

In his lecture, Barber explained the historical context of the Moral Monday Movement and its necessity in North Carolina and the United States. Relating his lecture to the Sankofa bird, an African bird that looks backwards to fly forward, Barber emphasized on the importance of knowing the past as a way of recognizing new forms of old problems.

Barber began his lecture by telling the story of Jesus’ first sermon and the need for moral dissenters as a necessity for democracy. As a baseline for the rest of the lecture, Barber kept reverting to the idea of moral dissenters helping to shape social progression in history.

Before moving into the issues of North Carolina, Barber gave many examples of “moral dissenters,” from the beginning of the abolitionist movement in the early 1800s to present day by citing the ideas of Henry Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Henry David Thoreau, John Marshal Harlan, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

More than 750 people attended the event. Photo by Lonnie Webster

There have been three reconstructions in the history of America, Baber said.

“But you must know acts of moral reconstruction are always met with acts of immoral deconstruction,” Barber added.

During this first reconstruction in 1868, issues like voting rights, education, labor rights, health care and a fair criminal justice system were the priority of reconstructionists, but this moral reconstruction was met with immoral deconstruction, Barber said.

The backlash of the Redemption movement attacked all the ideals that the reconstruction movement set to enact, because of their fear of black and white fusion politics brought an end to the second reconstruction, Barber added.

Barber then brought up the beginning of the seconded reconstruction, which started in 1954 with the Brown v. Board of Education decision that overturned the decision of Plessy v. Ferguson, where Thurgood Marshal questioned the morality of “separate but equal.”

This was an event that opened up the floor for civil rights activists like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and for progressive policies like Medicare, Medicade, affirmative action, the minimum wage increase, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Barber added.

Fusion politics gained tremendous ground during this time, Barber said.

Barber continued by explaining the deconstruction movement was in response to Kevin Phillips, a Nixon Republican strategist, called the “White Southern Strategy,” which sought to disband fusion politics, drive white males to the Republican party and create policies that hurt blacks more than whites. This brought an end to the second reconstruction.

The third reconstruction, Barber believes, started with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, with the creation of a new electorate.

Unlike the first and second deconstruction, which took 30 years from 1868 to 1898 and 14 years from 1954 to 1968, this deconstruction happened almost instantly, Barber added.

“We believe that now more than ever before, in the middle of this fresh third reconstruction that if you understand the previous two reconstructions it makes it clearer as to why we must have fresh fusion politics with a moral center in North Carolina, in the nation, in the South like never before,” Barber said. ” We know from whence we have come, and we are not going backwards by any stretch of the imagination.”

After explaining the historical context of the Moral Monday Movement, Barber delved into the specific issues that they’re fighting to stop in North Carolina like the defunding for 500,000 individuals on Medicade and 170,000 individuals on unemployment, voter suppression, lack of funding in public education and a tax cut for 23 of the wealthiest families in North Carolina.

“That’s not Democrat or Republican; that’s just wrong,” Barber said.

Many members of the audience enjoyed the non-partisan message of Barber’s lecture.

“I really like how the whole moral came out into his speeches,” Patrick Long, sophomore psychology major at ASU, said. “It was not just about a political agenda, it was about doing what’s right for humanity.”

Near the end of his lecture Barber spoke about the arguments of the Christian Right, and how their message has diluted true Christian values, like helping the poor.

“What’s going on in your mind when you think the goal and the role of faith and morality is to figure out how many people you can dismiss and hate, disregard and destroy,” Barber said. “That is why moral dissent is a necessity for our democracy.”

However, Barber does not believe that it is too late for the North Carolina General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory. In conjunction with others, Barber wants to call on McCrory to call a special “redemption session” starting on Hanukkah though the advent season.

There will also be a Moral Monday on Dec. 23 in Raleigh, either as a celebration of redemption or as a fresh protest, Barber added.

One of the 941 protestors that were arrested at Raleigh’s Moral Monday believes that there is camaraderie to the Moral Monday Movement.

“He alluded that there was something bonding about being arrested with a large group of people for social justice issues, so that was definitely a bonding experience,” Catherine Hopkins, member of Forward Together Watauga, said.  “Just the sense of us all being in it together, people of privilege and people who are marginalized, and I have experienced marginalization for mental illness issues, disability issues, being gay, so for me seeing all these people come together from so many different backgrounds is really heart-warming.”

Before and after Barber’s lecture, Yara Allen, another individual arrested during the Moral Monday Protest in Raleigh, sang to and with the audience.

Some audience members felt the historical significance of the Moral Monday Movement and where it is heading.

“I found it incredibly inspiring to really think about it in the terms of the historical significance of what’s happening now, and we’re just picking up now where so many civil rights leaders left off,” Rio Tazewell said.

After his lecture Barber fielded questions from the audience.  Click here to go to the N.C. NAACP Facebook page to find the video  Each of the questions is at: 1:27:55, 1:33:26, 1:47:09, 1:53:18 

Rev. William Barber II at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on the ASU campus gave a talk titled “The Necessity of a Moral Movement in North Carolina and the Nation” on Tuesday. Photo by Lonnie Webster


Yara Allen at the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on the ASU campus speaking before Rev. Barber’s lecture “The Necessity of a Moral Movement in North Carolina and the Nation” on Tuesday. Photo by Lonnie Webster