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“Forward Together – Not one step back!”

John Slallugher  |  Issue: March | April 2014
group of young people take their demand to the Moral Monday Rally

On February 8, a group of young people take their demand to the Moral Monday Rally, “Up with Education, Down with Deportation.”
Photo: Susan Melkisethian

 

The Moral Monday Movement gathered together a growing movement across the South on February 8 in Raleigh, North Carolina, with a massive rally estimated to be between 80,000-100,000 people. Sparked by the North Carolina Moral Monday movement, the movement is spreading and growing in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and other states. The rally was staged as a kickoff for 2014, particularly “Freedom Summer 2014,” commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer in the South.

The Rev. William Barber, North Carolina president of the NAACP and leader of Moral Monday North Carolina, spoke about the meaning of the Moral Monday movement to the crowd assembled to launch Georgia’s Moral Monday movement on January 13 in Atlanta. Moral Monday GA has gone on to conduct Moral Monday events that demand the expansion of Medicaid and  healthcare for all, the repeal of Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law, and for quality education for all. Rev. Barber spoke of the movement through the lens of Southern history, particularly the periods of Reconstruction, where Blacks and poor whites came together to pass voting rights, labor rights, education and progressive taxation. That period of the first reconstruction was defeated by the “Redeemers” who moved to turn the clock back to a time of near-slavery. This time, says Barber, we will not go back.

The Redeemers represented an immoral movement whose strategy was a white supremacy designed to cause white workers to vote against their own interests. “Taking back America” meant a reassertion of states’ rights, denying voting rights and cutting taxes. As Tim Franzen, a leader of Moral Monday GA says, “Our state budgets are immoral.”

Our Moral Imperative: Reconstruct the South

This is the meaning of “Forward.” Beginning with a vision of a just and moral society, how do we accomplish that? We have to move beyond scattered, defensive battles to  oppose the deconstruction that prevails in the Southern states to a reconstruction that puts the people first. Rev. Barber noted that he believed that there was “a longing in the hearts of most Americans for moral justice.” Moral Mondays, he says, “is a transformative coalition rooted in the language of a moral movement.” To change America, you have to change the South.

The state governments in North Carolina, Georgia and across the South have been taken by an extreme politics (government of, by and for the corporations) that have a common agenda. And as Barber puts it again, if we all have a common adversary, then why fight separately? This is the meaning of “Together.” An attack on one of us is an attack upon us all. An injury to one is an injury to us all.

Victory is in the struggle

As this movement is beginning to just get underway, and as it grows, it is being met by forces determined not to concede an inch. Not one concession, not one reform. But as state Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, Alabama says, “ You have to keep fighting and the changes will come. Victory is in the struggle.” We will not go back.

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