The “Moral Mondays” movement in North Carolina, which captured attention last year for its weekly protests against far-right policies passed by the state legislature, announced this week that it will hold a “Moral Week of Action” from August 22 to 28.
A broad coalition of faith, labor, and social justice organizations will hold events in 12 mostly Southern states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin—with a different social justice theme every day. Friday kicked off with discussions of labor rights, fair and living wages, and economic justice. The weekend will feature actions on education and criminal justice, then equal protection under the law. A “Youth Moral Monday” will start the work week, then women’s rights will take the stage on Women’s Equality Day (August 26), followed by health care and environmental justice actions, and finally voting rights.
Moral Mondays, which have been going on for almost 70 weeks, have always protested against a diversity of issues, from cuts in social spending to gutting teachers unions to defending reproductive rights against onerous restrictions. Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and the charismatic face of the Moral Mondays movement, called for a “moral fusion movement” to defeat the far-right in a speech at this year’s Netroots Nation political conference. Barber said America is currently in a “Third Reconstruction,” and that the two before us—the Civil War Reconstruction as well as the Civil Rights era—were defined both by “a vision of reconstructing the nation along our deepest moral values,” and by the racist backlash against them. Those backlashes have always attacked the same group of issues, Barber said—first voting rights, then public education, then labor rights, then fair tax policies that would lift up the poor, and finally attacks on progressive leaders themselves.
Barber uses his skills as as preacher to advocate for progressive ideas, urging his supporters to seek “higher ground” and calling for a movement that goes “forward together, not one step back.” But the movement has a wonkier side as well, as evidenced by a press conference on Wednesday. Barber cited the North Carolina Constitution, which reads that “Beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate, and the orphan is one of the first duties of a civilized and a Christian state.” And his remarks were followed by three policy experts going into the nitty-gritty of all the bad bills passed by North Carolina’s legislature, which Rob Schofield of North Carolina Policy Watch called “strikingly dysfunctional.” There were cuts to early child-care education and care for homebound seniors, letting the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit expire for 900,000 low-income households, the well-known refusal to fund Medicaid expansion—all apparently sacrificed to fund personal income tax cuts that were going to cost more than expected, and all contributing to what the speakers called a fiscally unsustainable situation.
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Barber often invokes the work of Martin Luther King Jr. in his speeches, drawing parallels between his local organizing in the South and what must be done today to achieve similar goals. At this week’s press conference, Barber said that 51 years after the March on Washington, we are seeing “a modern form of interposition and nullification” from some politicians. The Moral Week of Action, Barber said, continues in King’s tradition of organizing.
Some states will feature daily, livestreamed actions at the state capitols, followed by voter registration drives. Other participating states have one-day events, like the big “Vote Your Dreams and Not Your Fears” rally planned for August 28 in New York.