North Carolina’s Reverend Barber says it’s time for some righteous indignation.
“These are serious times,” Reverend William Barber II told the CFT Convention delegates on Sunday morning. Barber is president of the NAACP in North Carolina and the leader of the fast-growing Moral Mondays Movement, which protests cuts to education, healthcare and food stamps. He worked delegates into a fervor telling them that sometimes they needed to get out of their conference seats and go into the streets to fight back against things they think are wrong, and that it’s time for some righteous indignation.
“I stopped by this morning to tell you no political majority has a right to run roughshod over constitutional values,” Barber said. “There must be a struggle because power concedes nothing without a demand — it never did, and it never will.”
Programs like Headstart, Medicaid and Pell Grants show a moral commitment to lift the poor, Barber said — and he claimed those programs have been a success just as Social Security has been in reducing poverty, and children whose families receive food stamps less likely to be the victims of abuse. But now we’re engaged in violence against the poor, Barber said, cutting those programs that help them. He cited statements such as those by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who said these types of programs just make the poor lazy. Ryan suggested cutting them, along with taxes for the wealthy. Here, Barber quoted his own mother: “Poor people aren’t lazy — but somebody has a real lazy mind if that’s the way they think.”
Public education has also suffered, Barber said, with teachers being devalued and segregation increasing in schools. Barber points out that public education is hardly a new liberal idea — the Puritans called it necessary, and Thomas Jefferson suggesting tax dollars be used to fund it. Now that is threatened, Barber said.
“Extremists have decided on an all-out assault on public education,” he said. “It’s almost as if they believe in the dumbing down of society.”
With North Carolina’s governor and the state Legislature cutting funding for public education, along with programs that help people in poverty, such as unemployment and Medicaid, Barber has mobilized the multi-racial, multi-generational Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, engaging in mass protest and civil disobedience.
It’s not about right and left, Barber said — but about right and wrong.
“We weren’t what the media calls a bunch of liberals,” said Barber, who for the past 22 years has been pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina. “We’re African American and we’re white and we’re Latino and we’re Native American and we’re business leaders and students and parents and we are gay and straight, and we are North Carolina and we have stood up to say, ‘We ain’t goin’ nowhere.’”
When the rallies began, only a few people showed up, Barber said, but recently, tens of thousands have come and more than 900 have been arrested for civil disobedience during the past year. That kind of unity is what’s necessary to turn things around, Barber says. The song of another reverend, Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together,” swelled at the end of Barber’s speech, as the audience rose to its feet, and Barber talked about the power of togetherness.
“When elephants feel an attack coming, they form a circle and put the children in the middle,” Barber told them. “We can’t allow elephants in the wild to have more sense than us.”
“When elephants feel an attack coming, they form a circle and put the children in the middle. We can’t allow elephants in the wild to have more sense than us.”