Politics & Government

Remember NC’s ‘Moral Monday’ movement? Now, a ‘Moral Revival’ effort will go national.

A national “Moral Revival” effort that has echoes of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” protests will be launched next spring by the Rev. William Barber II and his co-chair at the Poor People’s Campaign.

“We must transform the moral narrative in this country,” Barber, who led N.C.’s Moral Monday efforts, said in a statement announcing the plan ahead of a Monday news conference. “We went through the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history in 2016 without a single serious discussion of poverty and systemic racism. Now we are witnessing an emboldened attack on the poor and an exacerbation of systemic racism that demands a response.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, then-president of the N.C. NAACP, speaks to an audience on the campus of NCCU in Durham, N.C. Thursday, June 8, 2017. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

“This is not about saving any one party or policy agenda but about saving the soul of America.”

Barber served as leader of the N.C. conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 2005 until he stepped down in October.

The Moral Monday campaign was one of Barber’s most visible efforts in North Carolina. Barber, who pastors the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, launched the campaign in April 2013. He took a handful of people to Raleigh to protest what they saw as the legislature’s harsh anti-abortion laws, tax cuts for corporations and increased taxes on the poor, and a voter ID law they considered a flagrant effort to suppress turnout among minorities.

Seventeen people were arrested during the first event, which occurred at the state General Assembly. But more people came back the next week and the rallies continued to grow.

Through the summer of 2013, more than 1,000 people were arrested for acts of civil disobedience at Moral Monday gatherings.

Barber’s conservative critics have said he was more interested in partisan politics than in preaching.

Barber left the NAACP to join the Rev. Liz Theoharis in restarting the Poor People’s Campaign. Monday’s announcement of the Moral Revival effort came 50 years to the day, the group said, after the original movement was launched by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 1968 movement was led by Civil Rights groups, Native American elders and those active in labor and tenant issues.

The new iteration will focus on racism, poverty, war spending, ecological destruction and “America’s distorted national morality,” according to the release. The group said it will kick off six weeks of direct action and civil disobedience in at least 25 states on Mother’s Day, leading up to what it plans as a mass mobilization at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on June 21.

Each week will focus on a different issue, beginning with child poverty, and will include specific policy goals.

The group said it also will release a report in 2018 conducted by the Institute for Policy Studies looking at how conditions have changed for the poor over the past 50 years.

On Monday night, the Poor People’s Campaign launch will end with a gathering at Howard Theater in Washington, with performances by Sweet Honey in the Rock and others, that will be streamed live on Ben & Jerry’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

Martha Quillin: 919-829-8989, @MarthaQuillin