#MoralMonday

When I first heard the phrase “Moral Monday” on Twitter (#MoralMonday), I assumed it was a social media phenomenon like Throwback Thursday (#tbt), Friday Follow (#ff), or Caturday (#caturday). Instead, this catchy phrase has a much deeper and just purpose. It is a revival of 1960s Civil Rights Era activism and the old-school-style protests that took place in the South. This movement is pushing back on conservative policy changes that began in North Carolina in the early 2010’s that directly harm many already marginalized communities in the state.

The first large activism around Moral Monday occurred in April 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Organized by Reverend William Barber II, a local pastor and president of the North Carolina NAACP, the inaugural Moral Monday protested recent voting laws that required government-issued identification, decreased days for early voting, and eliminated same-day registration. This kind of voter suppression laws have been shown to affect Black people. In addition, these voter suppression acts were just one more set-back along a long list of legislative injustices by Republican-controlled state legislature and the NC governor’s mansion.

Enough was enough. Barber gathered activists and religious leaders and headed to the state legislative building to peacefully protest through song, reading from the Bible, and blocking the doors. This action resonated with North Carolinians and each Monday, more people gathered and joined the Moral Monday movement. Dozens grew to hundreds and then thousands. People were so committed that approximately 945 people were charged with trespassing and other misdemeanors while protesting.

Moral March. Image Courtesy of

An estimated 80,000 people marched from Shaw University to the North Carolina State Capital at the Moral March, February 8, 2014. Image Courtesy of Workers United.

The movement continued to gain momentum as North Carolinians raised their voices against the litany of legislation they believed to be morally reprehensible for themselves and neighbors. The Nation reported a long list of unjust legislation that passed, “Republicans eliminated the earned-income tax credit for 900,000 North Carolinians; refused Medicaid coverage for 500,000; ended federal unemployment benefits for 170,000; cut pre-K for 30,000 kids while shifting $90 million from public education to voucher schools; slashed taxes for the top 5 percent while raising taxes on the bottom 95 percent; axed public financing of judicial races; prohibited death row inmates from challenging racially discriminatory verdicts.” Many of these issues cross various socioeconomic and racial lines.

On February 8, 2014 a “Moral March” was held in Raleigh. It was the capstone to nearly a year of grassroots activism. An estimated 80,000 people marched from Shaw University to the North Carolina State Capital to voice their opposition of the Republican policies.

According to a press release by the North Carolina NAACP, the “five fundamental demands” are:

1. Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability;
2. Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;
3. Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities;
4. Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
5. Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

These demands are a clear reflection of what the North Carolina NAACP lead by Barber, believes to be the morally reprehensible issues directly hurting the people of his state.  Mother Jones’s articleMeet the Preacher Behind Moral Mondays, quotes Barber speaking at a rally: “This is a fight for the future and soul of our state. It doesn’t matter what the critics call us…They can deride us, they can try to deflect from the issue. And we understand that, because they can’t debate us on the issue. They can’t make their case on moral and constitutional grounds.” The same article notes that this passion has helped spark similar protests in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.
Whether in social media or at a rally, the refrain, “Forward Together,” is repeated by Moral Monday supporters no matter what their color or religion. These simple two words exemplify the spirit of inclusion that is a key strength to Moral Mondays. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
By Kelly Titus

M.S. Candidate in Change Management at the New School for Public Engagement

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6 Comments

  1. Jesus Reyes

     /  November 18, 2014

    Civilian movements constitute, I think, the very core of the democratic process, even more so than voting, which seems to bring more questions than answers (from a social justice perspective, anyway). In recent years, Puerto Rico (where I come from) has seen an interesting rise in marches and massive manifestations spurred by ultrafundamentalist religious groups and the politicians that serve them. In the meantime, social justice advocates have not succeeded in countering these efforts. I womder what it would take to change the tide and tip the balance.

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  2. Melissa B

     /  November 18, 2014

    This post was very interesting. I hadn’t heard about the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, but I found it encouraging. Many times as minorities we take things in stride and it is good to know that it’s not just citizens of North Carolina that are starting these grassroots movements. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to see any substantial changes.

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  3. L. Smith

     /  November 19, 2014

    This is a great post and great idea. Is Moral Monday still happening? And if so, is there also an online campaign to rally followers and build support? It would be great to learn how the movement got started and how the leaders incited a desire in others to become active about what they want. The only problem I see is that the demands are really vague. They list great goals but don’t really offer ideas as to how to achieve them. Is anyone else working on breaking these down further?

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  4. Tiffany Kipps

     /  November 19, 2014

    This was an interesting post. I never heard of Moral Monday while living in North Carolina. I think this can be a useful tactic for grass-roots organizations to adopt when trying to implement change within our society. I think they should also include felons within their fundamental demands.

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  5. Sarah C

     /  November 19, 2014

    Unfortunately, when it comes to voting rights, the Supreme Court is only moving our country backwards. When they repealed the crucial provision of the Voter Rights Act that protected the laws you’re talking about they said they did it because things had changed significantly in the US since the act was originally passed. The results have been devastating, especially in the south, and I’m glad people are taking a stand and fighting for their right to vote.

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  6. Evan List

     /  December 2, 2014

    I’m glad that I read this article, otherwise I’d never have known about what was happening in NC. It’s so refreshing to see a large group stand up when clearly reprehensible policies are put into place, and yet so disconcerting that this is my first time hearing about it. I read a variety of news publications, and an event like this is clearly worthy of national attention. I never saw it, and I doubt many people did. Has this movement done anything additional to force itself into the national spotlight? Too many movements are undercut in mass media by discussions around specially-fabricated terminology like “race baiting,” or by mindless headlines like “Protesters Cause Traffic Jam.” Even if their the demands are vague, they prompt a discussion about real issues that impact day-today lives. When people are in the street demanding change, in that moment, their presence and purpose can’t be deflected or diverted by some asinine remark.

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