My family and I departed the warm and comfortable confines of our house in the pitch dark of the early morning to drive two and a half hours to our state’s capital… Raleigh. It was my first protest march. A march for social justice. A march for equal rights. But what would I have to gain from marching? Let’s face it: I’m male, white and affluent and have never faced discrimination in my life. What could I possibly be marching for? And already had a lot of homework, tests to study for and a project due dark and early Monday morning. I was in no position to spend time doing anything else this weekend.
As we drove on to Raleigh I constantly adjusted my position in the back of the car, trying to get as much sleep in as possible before our crusade for social justice. The sun was slowly rising as we made our trek across the great state of North Carolina so that social justice could be heard from the mountains to the sea.
We were headed to Raleigh to join others in a Moral Monday march. No, it wasn’t Monday. This was special rendition of the now famous march led by Rev. William Barber being held on a Saturday. The Moral Monday movement began in 2013 in response to the regressive policies and laws passed by a General Assembly that had a Republican majority for the first time in a century in this state. This General Assembly, along with a Republican governor, had stood in opposition to every progressive ideal that North Carolina is known for. They refused to expand Medicaid, leaving thousands of poor North Carolina citizens without healthcare. They passed extreme restrictions on voting rights, ignored protecting the environment, disrespected teachers and refused to fully fund public and higher education, and made major cuts to social programs that help our state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Finally we got off of US Interstate 40 at exit 289; pulled into Raleigh and then parked in a tall state government parking garage that would normally be packed with vehicles during the work week. Escaping the car, we were greeted by a chilly 52 degree Fahrenheit day which was also partially cloudy. We quickly found a steady stream of protestors heading to the march. People of all ages, races and economic backgrounds were there. I looked around and noticed that I was surrounded by a group of fellow protestors who I guessed were about 65 year olds. I pictured in my head as I walked that these were the same people who back in their youth were burning draft cards and filing for Conscientious Objector Status. The sense of social justice and doing what is right and just had never seemed to have left them. Marching from one protest to another while stomping out injustices as they went. As we got closer towards the protest we could hear the crowd chanting not so far off in the distance “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!” As we got even closer to the march we began to see a sea of pink toboggans. Women young and old volunteering for Planned Parenthood found allies in the group who wanted a hat to keep warm and to demonstrate their objection to the General Assembly’s restrictive stance on reproductive healthcare. A protest held a sign reading “OMG GOP WTF?” Another said, “Welcome To North Carolina, Set Your Clock Back 50 Years.” Huddled together to avoid the harsh wind as they discuss how they and others has been harmed. How to many people were finding it harder every day to survive. This signaling the important fact that our state was unfortunately going back to a time of oppression and segregation. We started our march at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts where we heard speakers talk about how we are at a crucial turning point in our democracy. How is it that taxes are going up on the poorest, while the wealthy get tax breaks. We heard the voices of empowered black men and women standing up and saying we will not stand ideally by as our rights are slowly restricted. We will stand together united as one because “A People United Will Never Be Defeated!”
During the beginning of the march I was introduced to United States Congressman David Price (D-NC4). Between by Dad’s freshman and sophomore years in college at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He worked for United States Congressman David Price writing letters to constituents at Washington, D.C. office regarding their concerns and how Congressman David Price was working to address them. I could see a little more why my Dad wanted me to come this morning.
As we marched down the street the mood was upbeat and hopeful. Hopeful that our actions today would ring clear for millions to hear that injustices have no place to hide. Chanting “A People United Will Never Be Defeated!” as we marched passing by empty streets that during the work week would be bustling with traffic. Today those streets were filled with thousands of citizens who were angry with their government. With every footstep I could feel the passion to set these wrongs right. We arrived at the steps of the General Assembly to voice our opposition to the discriminatory and destructive bills passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by our former mayor Governor Pat McCrory. These laws have hurt workers, families, the unemployed and minorities.
We heard incredible speeches from Rev. William Barber the president of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and others in the religious community. Rev. William Barber talked about how we need to be the defibrillators to shock the heart of North Carolina into a steady beat. I left feeling energized and ready to get back out there to fight for the North Carolina I know a better North Carolina. Because “Forward Together Not One Step Back!”.
On this Saturday I think I learned more studying the … than at my desk in my room.