Commentary

Rev. Barber kicks off “revival tour” with successful event at Raleigh synagogue

Revival tourIf there’s a most hopeful and encouraging thing about the new brand of 21st Century “fusion politics” championed by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, it’s the way this man and the movement he leads are truly serious about being an always evolving and progressing, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-faith effort.

The inspiring diversity of the “Forward Together Moral Movement” was on full display again last night at Raleigh’s Temple Beth Or synagogue as a large and diverse crowd in the hundreds gathered to help kick off a national “revival tour” that Barber and several other faith leaders from around the country have launched.

Last night’s event, which came on the heels of a similar one the day before at New York City’s Riverside Church, is part of a tour that will take Barber and his friends and allies into dozens of states around the country this spring and summer as they spread the word of what Barber calls “the Third Reconstruction.”

This is from the “Repairers of the Breach” website that has been constructed to support the effort:

“Repairers of the Breach, Inc. is a nonpartisan and ecumenical organization that seeks to build a progressive agenda rooted in a moral framework to counter the ultra-conservative constructs that try to dominate the public square. Repairers will help frame public policies which are not constrained or confined by the narrow tenets of neo-conservatism. Repairers will bring together clergy and lay people from different faith traditions, with people without a spiritual practice but who share the moral principles at the heart of the great moral teachings. Repairers will expand a ‘school of prophets’ who can broadly spread the vision of a nation that is just and loving.”

As is usually the case at events led by Barber, a Disciples of Christ minister, there were plenty of the trappings of the modern African-American church evident in the program — from the loud and joyful music to the testimonies offered by various speakers to the length (nearly three hours) of the event.

Still, however, as Barber also makes sure in the events he leads, there were plenty of efforts to make everyone feel welcome and a part of the movement — from the setting itself and the enthusiastic welcome of Rabbi Lucy Dinner to the inclusion of leaders from various faith traditions to the frequent references and statements of welcome directed to non-believers.

If there was symbol of how far the Moral Movement has come and how naturally and effectively is has become entwined with (and become a spearhead for) the progressive cause, however, Read more

Commentary

Rev. Barber highlights the racism lurking behind NC’s new anti-LGBT law

Rev. barber 2North Carolina NAACP President William Barber is on the money again this week with an op-ed in Soujourner magazine (co-written with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove) about some of the less well-reported facts about Gov. Pat McCrory’s new discrimination law.

As Barber highlights, it’s been lost in the widespread outrage over the LGBT discrimination language in the new law that the law also targets other vulnerable people — especially people of color — for unfair treatment. One section, for instance, repeals the common law right of North Carolinians to sue in state court for discrimination in the workplace. This makes one of just two states (Mississippi is the other — what a surprise!) to sink to this level.

But wait, it gets worse. Here’s Barber:

“This week in North Carolina, Tammy Covil, a Republican candidate for a House seat in N.C.’s General Assembly, sent out a campaign flier that said, ‘Liberals in our state voted to potentially allow sexual predators access to women’s bathrooms!’ The picture on the flier showed a young white woman entering a restroom where a young black man in a hoodie was lurking in the corner. ‘We must stop this liberal movement that puts the innocent at risk and forsakes our Family Values,’ the flier concluded. Once again, the message was clear: The good white people of North Carolina must rise up and take control.

In the quick and heated discussion about HB2, this lurking racism was missed, even by some African-American legislators who voted for the bill. A closer look reveals the more sinister intent of this ’emergency’ session. While Section 1 of the bill is an attack on equal protection — not just for transgender people, but for all sexual minorities — the ‘Wage and Hour Act’ of Section 2 has nothing to do with LGBTQ issues. Citing the ‘police power of the State,’ lawmakers asserted their authority to override local efforts to raise the minimum wage and protect the civil rights of local residents. In a sweeping power grab, extremist Republicans violated their own political philosophy to exert control over municipalities where the electorate is more diverse. Exploiting public fear and ignorance, they persuaded some Democrats to vote with them. The bill was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory before anyone outside the legislature had time to review it.”

As Barber goes on to point out, McCrory’s new law is really a matter of all of the Right’s worst instincts and fears coming to the fore as they seek to undermine the progressive, multi-racial fusion politics that has been unleashed in the state in recent years: Read more

Commentary

The Right’s latest desperate attempt to smear Rev. Barber and the Moral Mondays movement

You can always tell when North Carolina NAACP President and Moral Mondays movement leader Rev. William Barber is having an impact with his fearless and tireless advocacy. It’s always the moment at which paid political hacks on the far right start manufacturing scurrilous personal attacks full of unflattering photos, baseless claims about money and thinly-veiled overtures to their rebel flag-loving supporters.

The latest of these below-the-belt attacks emerged like a virtual stink bomb in recent days as advocates for voting rights advanced their arguments in opposition to the Monster Voter Suppression law that’s now on trial in a federal court in Winston-Salem. The attacks came in the form of some utterly and laughably bogus allegations about “big union money” supposedly underwriting some of Barber’s efforts. The following excerpt from a story on Raleigh’s WTVD is typical:

“Reverend Barber pocketed over $20,000 from the national labor unions to give paid speeches,” alleged N.C. GOP Chairman Hasan Harnett.

Setting aside the absurdity of a man like Mr. Harnett — a self-described, professional “Keynote Speaker. Author. Serial Entrepreneur. Success Mastery Leader” (whatever the hell that is) — attacking Rev. Barber for raising a few thousand bucks for his shoestring movement from some allied organizations, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the whole embarrassing episode.

Two years ago, in response to the equally absurd and offensive claims of the Pope-Civitas Institute that Moral Mondays protesters were driven by their desire to rake in boatloads of government cash, I wrote this in a story on the main NC Policy Watch site:

“On the one hand, [the attacks] are just so downright (and comically) crude and ham-fisted that you almost have to cringe in embarrassment for the Pope-Civitas people. Seriously, the notion that giant organizations with proud histories like the NAACP, AARP and the YWCA are protesting the myriad regressive actions of the 2013 General Assembly because some branch happens to administer a few thousand dollars in public funds is just so patently absurd that it’s hard to believe that a supposedly serious group – a group nervy enough to describe itself as “North Carolina’s Conservative Voice” – would stoop to allege it.

Similarly, to imply that Rev. William Barber – a courageous man who works night and day at enormous personal sacrifice, physical pain and even personal risk; a man who directs a tiny paid staff and who has, for years, tirelessly traveled the length and breadth if the state in an old minivan to help countless underdog causes – is doing what he is doing in order to advance his own personal financial agenda, is just so utterly wrong and, for lack of a better word, malicious that it must render any fair-minded observer virtually speechless.”

These words are true and apt today as well.

The bottom line: There are plenty of substantive debates to have on the issues championed by the Moral Mondays movement. Let’s hope the sad and uninformed mouthpieces spreading lies and innuendo about Rev. Barber finally come this realization in the near future and abandon their slanderous and pathetic efforts.

News

Day one in the court fight over voting rights in North Carolina

Crowd outside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem

Crowd outside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem

The battle over sweeping election law changes adopted in North Carolina in 2013 opened on two fronts yesterday.

In a packed courtroom inside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem, attorneys for both the challengers and the state laid out the case they planned to present to U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder over the next several weeks.

State lawmakers knew exactly what they were doing when they stripped away same day registration, cut early voting days and eliminated the counting of out-of-precinct provisional ballots — provisions used widely by minority voters — Penda D. Hair, an attorney for the North Carolina NAACP, said in her opening statement.

“They were voter suppressors in search of a pretext,” she told the judge.

The state has argued throughout the case that the 2013 changes were neutral on their face, burdening all voters – not just African-American or Latino voters – and that the state’s election laws now resembled those in other states, where same day registration and early voting don’t exist.

But Hair dismissed that argument, saying that other states do not have the same racially-charged history of voter suppression as does North Carolina.

“Poll taxes were neutral on their face,” Hair said. “Literacy tests were neutral on their face. The law teaches it is the impact that matters – an impact that is linked to social and historical conditions – not whether a law explicitly says African Americans or Latinos are not allowed to vote.”

Outside, the trial over the voting changes in the court of public opinion also waged on.

Speakers from the state NAACP held an early morning press conference while their supporters and others from voting rights advocacy groups chanted what’s become the mantra for the Moral Monday movement: “Forward together! Not one step back.”

Ricky Diaz for the NCGOP

Ricky Diaz for the NCGOP

In the opposite corner behind a podium bearing the NCGOP logo, state Republican Party spokesman Ricky Diaz told the media that the election law changes were simply common sense provisions meant to ensure the integrity of the vote.

The parties have identified nearly 100 voters, experts and state officials as possible witnesses in the case, and once opening arguments ended, the challengers began calling them to the stand.

Durham resident Gwendolyn Farrington told the court that she tried to vote near her 6 a.m.-to-6 p.m. job, since she couldn’t get to her own precinct, but was told that she had to cast a provisional ballot — which she later learned would not be counted.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the state NAACP, also took the stand yesterday afternoon in advance of a planned Moral Monday voting rights march held at 5 p.m. in Winston-Salem.

“In North Carolina, a literacy test is still on the books,” Barber said. “The Voting Rights Act overruled it, but it remains there as a symbol.”

“In this country we should be doing everything humanly possible to ensure all people can vote,” he added.

Trial will continue day-to-day at the federal courthouse at 251 N. Main Street, Winston-Salem, and is expected to last at least two weeks.   Read here for more on what to expect during the proceedings.

Commentary

Rev. Barber helps connect the dots in the aftermath of the Charleston attack

“The perpetrator has been arrested, but the killer is still at large.” That’s Rev. William Barber’s insightful take in the aftermath of the Charleston tragedy.

Barber, the President of the North Carolina NAACP, spoke those words today during an interview with Amy Goodman of the Democracy Now! News Hour. As Barber went on to note:

“Reverend Pinckney, as a colleague in ministry, was not just opposed to the flag, he was opposed to the denial of Medicaid expansion, where now the majority of the state is opposing Medicaid expansion where six out of 10 black people live. He was opposed to voter suppression, voter ID in South Carolina. He was opposed to those who have celebrated the ending of the Voting Rights Act, or the gutting of Section 4, which means South Carolina is no longer a preclearance state, and the very district that he served in is vulnerable right now. He was opposed to the lack of funding for public education. He wanted to see living wages raised.

So I would say to my colleagues, let’s take down the flag—to the governor—but also, let’s put together an omnibus bill in the name of the nine martyrs. And all of the things Reverend Pinckney was standing for, if we say we love him and his colleagues, let’s put all of those things in a one big omnibus bill and pass that and bring it to the funeral on Friday or Saturday, saying we will expand Medicaid to help not only black people, but poor white Southerners in South Carolina, because it’s not just the flag.”

You can watch the entire Democracy Now! segment below: