• 86°

D.G. Martin: Moral Monday about to spread to rest of country


D.G. Martin

Is the Rev. William Barber, leader of North Carolina’s Moral Monday protests, going to take the movement to the rest of the country?

Beginning in 2013, the Goldsboro minister has led demonstrations at the state’s legislative building and in other state offices and properties. The groups he led often used civil disobedience to protest against actions that he said resulted in unfair treatment, discrimination, voting suppression, damage to the environment, unfair taxes, and cuts to public education.

Next year, as he explained in a lecture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last week, he plans a series of Moral Monday-type protests and civil disobedience that will occur in public buildings and facilities across the country.

Barber’s Chapel Hill speech was this year’s Weil Lecture on American Citizenship, part of a series that began in 1915 when former President William Howard Taft gave the first lecture. The prominent Goldsboro Weil family founded the series and continues to support it and other public causes. Gertrude Weil (1879-1971) is the subject of a biography, “Gertrude Weil: Jewish Progressive in the New South,” written by Leonard Rogoff and published this year by UNC Press.

In his stirring speech, Barber shared his plans for 40 days of protests, beginning on Mothers’ Day next year and continuing until the beginning of summer. The name of the organizing entity is “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.”

According to the campaign’s web site, “By engaging in highly publicized civil disobedience and direct action over a six-week period in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia during the spring of 2018, the campaign will force a serious national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and environmental devastation during a key election year while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state, increasing their power to continue this fight long after June 2018.”

As Barber concluded his speech, he itemized wrongs against poor people that the campaign will address. After each wrong, the mainly white audience shouted back, “And we won’t be silent any more.”

It was a call and response that is standard in many black churches, but not in many white ones. How did these white people know what to do? At the beginning of the program, musical assistant Yara Allen came on stage. She trained the audience in call and response, and had them practice before Barber began his lecture.

I have always wondered about Barber’s lumbering style of walking. He explained. When he was 30 years old, a medical condition almost paralyzed him. Afterwards, he was confined to a wheelchair for 12 years, and then only gradually learned to walk again.

“But I am a fighter,” he said, as he promised to keep getting better and better.

People ask if Barber is trying to be the new Martin Luther King. Barber only acknowledges that the new campaign is inspired by King, but it is not the same thing.

Barber views the upcoming season of protest as part of a third Reconstruction. The first Reconstruction came after the Civil War and ended with the establishment of Jim Crow white control. The second Reconstruction came as a result of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s led by King and others. It has been brought to an end, Barber says, by the current times of backlash and retrenchment.

Barber hopes next year’s campaign will bring about a third Reconstruction, with its leaders inspired by King, but using modern tactics and strategies that were not available in King’s time.

Barber may not be another Martin Luther King, but if the new Poor People’s Campaign mounts a successful 40-day effort next year, he will become North Carolina’s best-known national figure.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Today’s guest is Michele Tracy Berger, author of “Reenu-You.”


Ask Us

Ask Us: When will front entrance to courthouse reopen?


As COVID-19 cases wane, vaccine-lagging areas still at risk


Blotter: Man faces litany of charges for fleeing sheriff’s deputies

Granite Quarry

‘Race to the Dan’ brings Revolutionary War back to Rowan


‘Unity in the Community’ event brings together Salisbury Police, NAACP


One killed, two others shot on South Jackson Street in Salisbury


State examining Davidson County emergency alert received in Rowan, other counties


Cleveland Rodeo packs house for 10th year


Salisbury’s Jacques Belliveau talks mental health, filming during premiere of ‘Reggie: A Millennial Depression Comedy’


Sen. Ford backs new set of election-related bills


Downtown Salisbury bullish on potential for more residential space


Biz Roundup: Wine about Winter set for June 18


Local artists draw in adventurous travelers with eclectic Airbnb rental downtown


Commissioners discussing reviving joint capital project committee with school board


Beech-Nut Stage One cereal recalled


‘All Critters Big and Small’ program coming to library


Area Sports Briefs: Former A.L. Brown standout Cambrea Sturgis wins two sprint events


RSS administration to recommend return to five-day school week


Baseball notebook: Wingate wins national championship; high schools set sights on playoffs


Gene Seaford gets fifth career ace at age 90


Livingstone seeking nominees for inaugural ‘Forty Under 40’ Society


‘Stopping that cycle’: Edman named director of Prevent Child Abuse Rowan


Biden urges G-7 leaders to call out and compete with China


Rash of mass shootings stirs US fears heading into summer