|Moral Mondays advocacy boosts NAACP|
|Protests pushes civil rights group to forefront|
|Published Sunday, July 21, 2013 6:07 pm|
RALEIGH – The N.C. NAACP is back on the civil rights map with Moral Mondays.
|North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber addresses protesters at a Moral Monday rally in Raleigh. Moral Mondays have sparked a wave of grassroots activism across the state and attracted national media attention on North Carolina’s political turn toward conservatism.|
Weekly protests at the N.C. General Assembly have shined a spotlight on the organization and the Rev. William J. Barber, the state NAACP president and leader of the rallies. Moral Mondays have sparked a wave of grassroots activism across the state and attracted national media attention on North Carolina’s political turn to the right.
“Unfortunately, the (NAACP) resurgence has come at the expense of the masses,” said Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP. “People are suffering and that is how the NAACP has become more prominent. But that is how God always works.”
Over the last 11 weeks of protests against Republican initiatives, Barber has been able to build more grassroots involvement across the state. Throughout the 2013 legislative session, the NAACP has staged rallies against policies progressives feel negatively affect North Carolina.
Last week, for example, thousands poured onto Halifax Mall behind the General Assembly building to protest a bill they contend could shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics.
Sarah Kowitt, 23, a PhD student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Public Health, has attended six Moral Monday protests. She was interested in the experience.
“No Medicaid expansion in North Carolina was my initial reason since I’m interested in health,” she said. “But unfortunately, I feel like the legislature keeps giving me more and more reason to go.”
“The further you go back in time, the more active the organization is in the public mind,” said N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr., a Charlotte Democrat and former N.C. NAACP president and national board member. “The prominence of the NAACP is not as great as it has been in the (19)30s or ‘40s, but we are entering a period in North Carolina where President Barber has created a multiracial organization. He has helped heighten awareness in the public eye.”
Others are critical of Moral Mondays and the NAACP’s role. Henry Mandeville, a Durham resident, expressed his opinion via the Tribune’s Facebook page, writing:
“… The NAACP is about race baiting, blame, and trying to perpetuate a bias and subjugation that has no place in modern America. They are a strong arm tactic group that fails to realize they do more harm than good for their actual ‘cause.’”
Alexander, whose father Kelly Sr. was state NAACP president during the turbulent civil rights era of the 1950s and ‘60s, offers a differing opinion.
“I’m very happy to see organizations such as the NAACP to be engaged in protests and in contradict heightening that leads people away from doing stupid things and uses the system as best we can to show people we are paying attention,” he said.
Christopher Clark, an associate professor of political science at UNC-Chapel Hill, said interests groups such as the NAACP create a greater level of knowledge and efficacy.
“Interest groups matter,” he said. “They can influence voting. A strong organization can keep an eye on elected officials.”
Clark said that even though things have changed since the ‘60s, they haven’t changed “that much,” citing poverty and voting rights as reasons why “the fight still exists.”
“There is a need for social justice and the NAACP is that person,” Nantambu said. “We are not doing this against any one particular person - we are fighting against evil.”
Moral Monday participants cross ethnic, gender and economic lines and organizers say the rallies are for anyone who disagrees with the state’s path and want their voice to be heard.
“I think the GOP made a bad tactical error when they snuck this abortion bill in,” Alexander said. “That stirred up a whole other set of people.”
Nantambu said the NAACP has always been an ally for America’s have-nots.
“There is a resurgence of oppression and the wealthy are taking advantage of the poor,” he said. “It is comparable to fighting for rights of education, voting, and equality of all people.”
Said Kowitt: “It’s a really neat experience because you’re surrounded by a bunch of different people who are there for different causes.”
N.C. Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, has a different outlook. Goolsby, who initially created the moniker “Moron Mondays” for the protests, revamped it to “Money Mondays.”
Goolsby, who emails a weekly column to constituents, called Barber “clever as a fox” for bringing together a coalition of two dozen not-for-profit organizations, which together received more than $100 million in direct state grants when Democrats were in charge.
“Imagine the collective shock the coalition members felt after… Republicans consolidated their power base by winning the governor’s office and maintaining control of the General Assembly for the first time in over 140 years,” Goolsby wrote. “The screeching sound of the gravy train coming to a halt must have been deafening in the offices of Barber’s coalition members.”
Goolsby went on to say that instead of crying while his hand-outs were cut by “fiscally responsible Republicans,” Barber countered by creating Moral Mondays as a way to garner attention and media attention.
Clark said people are more likely to write checks than join interest groups, but groups like the NAACP are positive outlets for democracy.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “Anytime people get involved in politics it is a good thing.”
The NAACP has no official political party affiliation and while it is no secret the majority of African-American voters lean Democratic, the civil rights group focuses on racial justice.
“We aren’t doing this for fame or fortune,” Nantambu said. “We are doing this because of desperation.”
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