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Moral MarchThere are actually dozens of good reasons to get off your keister, come to downtown Raleigh this Saturday and add your voice to the thousands who will march for justice in our state at the 10th annual HK on J People’s Assembly. In fact, as we reported last October in “This year’s dirty dozen: Twelve of the most destructive acts taken by the Governor and the 2015 General Assembly,” North Carolina’s conservative elected leaders provided plenty in just the last year alone.

If those aren’t enough to motivate you, however, here are five more biggies:

#1 – To reclaim our state’s hijacked electoral system – As the latest federal court decision this past Friday makes clear, North Carolina’s electoral system has been hijacked by partisan conservative ideologues who will use any tactic at their disposal to win elections and cement their destructive rollback of the 20th Century. Caring and thinking people simply cannot stand idly by in the face of this theft.

#2 – To help save thousands of lives – The plain and simple truth is that thousands more North Carolinians will die prematurely and unnecessarily this year for want of proper medical care — medical care that they could easily receive if North Carolina followed the lead of most other states and closed the Medicaid gap under the Affordable Care Act. Any chance we get to remind our leaders of this simple and powerful fact should not be missed.

#3 – To push back against the effort to privatize and sell off our public schools – Right now, in 2016 North Carolina, thousands of schoolchildren are being taught with fundamentalist Christian “science” books financed by your tax dollars that dinosaurs and humans once walked the earth at the same time. This is one of the very specific and undeniable results of the state’s unaccountable school voucher program. How can any thinking person stand by without speaking out against such a disgraceful situation?

#4 – The fact that conservative ideologues are far from finished – Despite having inflicted five years of political and policy havoc, the far right is just getting started. Unless progressives push back now, the transformation of North Carolina into a larger version of Mississippi and South Carolina will continue apace. Right now, in fact, conservative ideologues are pushing hard on a plan to amend the state constitution to lock in their disastrous tax and spending changes in perpetuity through a dishonestly mislabeled travesty called the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” This must be stopped,

#5 – History remains on our side – Despite all the bad news, as was pointed out in the conclusion to the special N.C. Policy watch report, Altered State: How 5 years of conservative rule have redefined North Carolina, numerous important trends favor progressive policies. What’s more, as was also noted. we know what to do.

“Fifty-plus years ago, the forebears of modern North Carolina progressives faced down and overcame the obstructionism of a cast of conservative characters far more hateful and shameless than the wrecking crew running the show today. Through determined advocacy and sacrifice they helped turn the tide and usher in a new era of relative social progress and widely shared prosperity.

Now is the time to do so once again.”

See you there Saturday!

Commentary

Moral MarchIn an apparent effort to provide air “both sides” of the issue, Raleigh’s News & Observer posted two essays side-by-side this morning on its editorial page — one extolling the growing movement for justice in North Carolina by Rev. Barber of the North Carolina NAACP and the other an editorial criticizing it from the Lenoir News-Topic.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that this is kind of like matching LeBron James (Barber) against a high school player (the News-Topic) in a game of one-on-one, the two essays are helpful in illustrating a critical fact about the leaders of the modern Right: They just don’t get it.

According to the defenders of Jones Street at the News-Topic:

“[The protests] are pointless…because the scope of the so-called injustices being highlighted are both limited, failing to rouse outrage in general public, and easily addressed by democratic means.”

Is that so? Skyrocketing inequality and suffering (and even hunger) in the world’s wealthiest nation is a “so-called injustice”? And it can be “easily addressed”?If this is so, why have both of these problems been ignored and allowed to get dramatically worse for decades under the leadership of both political parties?

Sorry guys. It’s not that simple. The list of critically important issues held up by the Forward Together movement and given voice by Rev. Barber are a lot more than just a handful of grievances that can be fixed with a bill or two (or even an election or two). Indeed, they highlight some fundamental flaws that have emerged in our democracy that will take decades to repair — if we’re lucky. Bringing real justice to our economy is a lot different than fixing a list of broken streetlights.

It’s understandable that some folks on the Right find Barber and the movement he helps lead annoying and that they wish it would go away. Unfortunately, for them, that just ain’t gonna happen.

Commentary

Moral MarchWith the ninth annual Moral March on Raleigh/HK on J set for this Saturday, this morning’s Weekly Briefing attempts to remind readers of the enormous similarities between the civil rights movement of the 20th Century and today’s movement for justice in North Carolina. If you’re wavering on whether to attend, the piece may provide an extra boost of enthusiasm.

The same is true for the essay below from a very inspiring Guilford County public school teacher.

Why I’ll be marching this Saturday
By Todd Warren

As a North Carolina public school teacher, I know where I’ll be this Valentine’s Day: Marching on a cold February morning with other public education allies at this year’s Mass Moral March in downtown Raleigh. Hundreds of educators will be there, wearing red and marching with Raise Up for 15, the fast-food workers organizing for $15 per hour. We’ll be there marching to the NC State Capitol, demanding full funding for public education, and saying unequivocally, “Poverty Is An Education Issue.”

If it wasn’t already clear how closely academic achievement is tied to household income, the new state school report cards clearly demonstrate this connection. Data recently released by the NC Department of Public Instruction shows that of the 146 schools that received F’s, all were schools with over a 50 percent poverty rate. Of the 561 schools that received D’s, over 97 percent had a more than 50 percent poverty rate. A recent report from the Southern Education Foundation shows that 53 percent of our students in NC are in low income families.

The strong correlation between poverty and academic achievement has been noted for decades. Nutrition, stress, lack of health-care and housing stability all play a role in brain development and student learning. This is not disputed, yet as educators, we largely ignore poverty and instead focus on how to better teach our students. No amount of revised lesson plans or new curriculum will remove the impact of poverty on student learning. Taking a stand against low wage poverty is a stand for education.

I want to be clear: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the academic abilities of poor children. In fact, when you remove the stresses created by poverty, academic achievement goes up. There is something wrong with a society and economic system that allows so many of our children to live in poverty. Read More

Commentary

Valentine’s Day 2015, February 14, will be especially memorable this year. This is from the good fols at the NAACP and HKonJ coalition:

On this Valentine’s Day, bring your sweetheart to Raleigh and JOIN THE LARGEST LOVE AND JUSTICE MOVEMENT SINCE SELMA!

We will show our LOVE for JUSTICE! We LOVE justice in Education; We LOVE Economic Sustainability, We LOVE Workers and Workers’ Rights and Livable Wages; We LOVE Health Care For All, Medicaid Expansion: We LOVE our Environment; We LOVE Equal Protection Under the Law, without regard to creed, race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation; We LOVE Voting Rights For All; We LOVE criminal justice.

We LOVE the most vulnerable within our State and Nation; We LOVE the power and beauty of diversity within our State and Nation; We LOVE our neighbors; WE ARE IN THIS LOVE TOGETHER! And We are determined to go “FORWARD TOGETHER, NOT ONE STEP BACK!”

On February 14, 2015, we will gather at 9:00 a.m. in downtown Raleigh. The march will begin at 10:00 a.m. after which we will begin the mass people’s assembly on the doorstep of the State Capitol. Read More

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Moral MarchThe following essay was submitted to NC Policy Watch by the Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, a national organization based in Washington, DC that is dedicated to “advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.”

Attacks on Moral March miss their mark
By Rev. Jennifer Butler

The recent criticisms leveled by newspaper columnist J. Peder Zane and others against Rev. William Barber II for using religious and moral language to inspire political change displayed a disregard for history and even contempt for the role of faith in public life.

As we commemorate the 54th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in that sought to end legal segregation, let’s never forget that the Civil Rights movement was a religiously inspired, prophetic movement led by pastors and diverse people of faith. The late Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four, said the question that inspired him and three other students at the Agricultural and Technical College (AT&T) of North Carolina in Greensboro was this: “At what point does a moral man act against injustice?”

Religious leaders have been central to movements that drive political change. The struggle to end the evil of slavery, create fair labor practices and secure equal rights for all citizens were profound moral causes. We are stronger as a country because determined people of faith challenged political and social threats to human dignity. The unfinished task of living up to the ideals of our democracy and stirring the conscience of Americans continues today.

Rev Barber is raising important and often uncomfortable questions about educational disparities, voting rights and economic injustice that impact not only North Carolinians, but the entire nation. Here are some telling signs of the times. CEOs often earn as much in a single day as their workers make in an entire year. Minimum wage jobs don’t pay enough to keep many hardworking Americas out of poverty. Half of all workers are not allowed to take a sick day without being docked pay or potentially losing their job. Congress is slashing food nutrition programs for struggling families even as corporations are coddled with tax breaks. These are moral scandals. Faith leaders will continue to speak truth to power.

The separation of church and state is meant to protect both religion and democracy. Because our government does not enforce an official religion, America has a diverse religious marketplace. Speaking from deeply held beliefs about the issues that affect us all is a healthy sign of pluralism and strength, not confining moralism. Those who argue that religious leaders should be silent in public debates have not only failed to learn the lessons of the past, they deprive us of powerful voices that can help forge a more just future.

For more information on the organization Faith in Public Life, visit the website by clicking here.