By Natascha F. Saunders, Special to the AFRO
Community members, leaders and activists of all ages from Virginia and the District of Columbia gathered at Busboys and Poets in Arlington, Va. on Nov. 10 to hear Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, share excerpts from his new book, ‘Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation.’ The event was organized by the Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization.
This book signing was held to provide Barber with a platform to share insights on how the moral movement began, why it’s needed, the successes which have sustained this movement’s progress and where he sees this movement going in the future.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II speaks at the Nov. 10 event. (Photo by Natascha Saunders)
The talk given by Barber can be found within his book, which frames a spring 2013 gathering of 17 people in North Carolina protesting at the state legislature on matters passed by the General Assembly around health insurance, unemployment, labor and voting rights. Many of these activists were arrested. From this demonstration, the moral movement grew into thousands of participants. More than 80,000 people gathered in a North Carolina rally protesting these same rights, which lead to these rallies being called, ‘Moral Mondays.’
“We call it ‘Moral Mondays’ because we were protesting for our scriptural and constitutional rights. And we selected Monday as the day to protest because the general assembly members are returning to session,” Barber said.
Barber frames these rallies as supporting basic spiritual and constitutional rights. “We need a recovering in this country of movement mentality that’s not bound by any one election,” he said at the book signing. “It’s not about constantly fighting. It’s about constantly pushing forward a moral agenda.” According to Barber, politics attempt to find the best compromise. But he insists that we must be for or against something in the moral movement.
“You are either for voting rights or against it. You are either for women’s rights or against it. You are for being a welcoming nation of immigrants or against it. Those are not principles you are to play around with.” Barber said to his captive audience.
In continuing to drive this moral movement, Barber emphasized the need to address those which call this movement religious or uncompromising. “Every movement that changed this country had a deep moral foundation. The abolitionists had to say they will not compromise with slavery, but that there will be no slavery. In the first reconstruction of the constitution equal protection under the law had to be a constitutional right, not a debate,” Barber said.
“The Civil Rights, Labor Movement, Voting Rights, New Deal and Abolitionist Movement all had an ‘I Have a Dream’ feel. There were some things they refused to believe. In order to conduct such movements it must start from the bottom up. We need state-based movements with indigenous leadership rising up. We are building a coalition of Black, Whites, Asians, Republicans and Democrats of whom all believe in deeper values,” Barber said.
His dedication in talking about how and why we must support this movement was understood through his words, but felt through his tone. Understanding that we need to start from the bottom up was Dr. Barber’s key takeaway of his talk, and he further encouraged his audience to learn more by reading his new book.