“this is no momentary hyperventilation and liberal screaming match, this is a movement.”
– rev. william barber in pack square, asheville. 5 august 2013.
if you haven’t heard of moral mondays yet, you’re about to.
since the end of april, thousands of north carolina residents have gathered in raleigh (the capital of nc) to protest the politics and policies that have been put in place by the current legislature and administration. as the weeks have passed, the numbers of protesters have grown. the diversity of the crowd has grown. and the voices of the progressives has grown as more and more policies have been put in place. these thousands of citizens have gathered for the past 13ish mondays to remind the government what morals are most important to them. they have risked arrest, carried signs, sung songs, chanted & cheered, and made their voices heard.
it’s being called a grassroots movement, a 21st century civil rights movement, led by Rev. William Barber II (president of NC NAACP – a civil rights organization in the US). and what the people are saying is something like this: north carolina is better than this. we care about our citizens, and we will not support this backwards decline. we want equality. and we will stand together and fight for the rights of all people.
so, instead of complaining or feeling overwhelmed & hopeless, the mantra of the determined moral mondays participants is: “forward together! not one step back!”
so, what’s to protest, you ask? well, issues like unemployment, voting rights, abortion, race, marriage equality, poverty, immigration, concealed weapons now allowed in bars and public schools, public water, and education to name a few. if you are an american, perhaps you have heard of some of the somewhat sneaky bills that have been passed (or are on their way to be signed into law by the governor mccrory) in the past few months… things like an abortion bill introduced late in the day, without the voice of the people, which will all but shut down 14 of 15 clinics in nc that perform safe, medical abortions.* there are many decisions which have been made which undermine or take away rights, all for the love of big business and money. policies that seem to hinder many and help a few.
and while there are residents of nc who support these bills and laws, there are many north carolinians who disagree and want to makes their voices heard. so, they began meeting outside the general assembly building in raleigh and voicing their opinions, urging those in government to listen to the people, and to not just make decisions for themselves.
well, as of now, congress is in recession for the summer, but the moral monday protests continue on. since the legislature is no longer meeting in raleigh during their summer break, the protestors decided to take their message on the road throughout the state.
and their first stop… asheville.
so, guess who went to the protest? i was expecting a few hundred people, hoping for no arrests, and praying for a peaceful and powerful demonstration. i got way more than i was expecting.
it is estimated that well over 5000 people attended monday’s mountain moral protest (as it was called – since we are in the mountains), and i’ve heard that there was even possibly around 6500 in attendance.
needless to say, i was blown away. the crowd was most definitely diverse. all ages. all socio-economic statuses. clergy. rabbi. business people. hippies. middle-aged. young. hipsters. african. white. hispanic. gay. straight. lawyers. teachers. college students. all walks of life.
there was singing – “we shall overcome”, a popular civil rights song, and a revised rendition of “hallelujah”. there was praying. there was cheering. and booing. there was laughing. dancing. shouting. and quiet moments of holding hands.
and there were signs. oh, boy, were there signs.
it was a community gathered with one common goal: to take back north carolina. to work for justice for all people. numerous times i had goosebumps or realized that i had some goofy smile on my face. i nodded my head in agreement. shouted out: “oh yeah!”. held the hand of my love, who stood beside me. and i celebrated the right that i have to exercise this freedom to express myself, to gather with others, and to realize, once again, that i am not alone in my thoughts and ideals and beliefs.
it was inspiring to say the least. and i found myself wondering if this is what it felt like in the 60s… a black preacher standing in front of a crowd, inspiring and uniting us in a common dream that one day all we will be equal, that this world will be a place of peace & justice. i looked around at all of the different faces, and i felt that powerful human connection. in those moments, i felt truth. i felt the truth of the possibility of a world, a kingdom (if you want to speak theologically) as it was meant to be. i felt hope. and community.
this is why i was so excited to move back in asheville. because of moments like this mountain moral monday afternoon, with the sun beating down and the breeze gently blowing between all of us, like the breath of the great spirit drawing us together and inspiring us to keep fighting for justice.
my friends, regardless of your political beliefs or your religion or your sexual orientation or anything that makes us different, i honor that spirit that within you. that spirit within us all. because it is that spirit that makes us have more in common than not. i do not care that you agree with me on every issue. what i do care about is that together we join hands and work for justice for each other, and more importantly, for those who are the least, the last, and the lost. i care that we listen to each other. and that we respect each other. and i care that we seek ways to move forward, growing in love with every passing day.