who helped make our 25th anniversary with Jeremy Scahill a success!
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"How Do We Build A Mass Movement to Reverse Runaway Inequality?" with Les Leopold, author of "Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic Justice,"May 22, 2016, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York, 860 11th Ave. (Between 58th and 59th), New York City. Between The Lines' Scott Harris and Richard Hill moderated this workshop. Listen to the audio/slideshows and more from this workshop.
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"For Natives, a "Day of Mourning"by Reginald Johnson, November 23, 2016
"A Bitter Harvest" by Reginald Johnson, Nov. 15, 2016
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Posted Feb. 19, 2014
Feb. 8 witnessed the largest civil rights gathering in the South since the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama. The march and rally of 80,000 people at North Carolina’s state Capitol in Raleigh was organized to respond to the extremist policies of North Carolina’s Republican party, which since 2010 controls the governor’s seat and the state legislature for the first time since 1896.
Among the issues that brought a broad coalition of groups and tens of thousands of activists together from North Carolina and 42 other states: the passage of one of the nation’s harshest voter suppression laws; new anti-abortion regulations; the cut-off of unemployment benefits to 170,000 state residents; rejection of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage to half a million working poor families under the Affordable Care Act and an increase in taxes on North Carolina’s low-income residents while lowering the tax burden on the state’s wealthiest citizens.
The primary organizer of the march was the Rev. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, who has built a growing grassroots movement by staging “Moral Monday” protests and engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience actions at the state capital since April 2013. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Isaiah Poole, Campaign for America’s Future blog editor and director of the group’s online communications. Here, he talks about his recent article, “A March in North Carolina For The Soul of America," describing the significance of the Feb. 8 march and the broader issues relating to the agenda of today's progressive movement.
ISAIAH POOLE: It of course starts with the takeover of the state by the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, the arch-conservative wing. They won total control of the state legislature, and began to immediately to enact a series of very draconian laws, that restricted voting rights, cut funding to public education, limited women's right to access to abortion services. They rejected Medicaid funding that they would have received under Obamacare, which meant that hundreds of thousands of low-income citizens of the state would not get access to health care.
It was very sweeping, and the result of that, the reaction to that, was a series of demonstrations that were organized by Rev. William Barber, who’s the head of the North Carolina NAACP, that were done at the state Capitol at Raleigh, on Monday when the legislature was in session. And these rallies began to build over time, and women’s trade groups, lesbian and gay rights groups, labor, environmental organizations — all of these groups came together, every Monday, and marched. Rev. William Barber insisted that the march not be partisan, but a march, a series of demonstrations, based on the morality or immorality of what the state was doing to its citizens. And the culmination of that was the event on Feb. 8, that as you said, according to the organizers, attracted about 80,000 people, demonstrating together with the hope that it would not only add momentum to what has been happening in North Carolina (sort of the pushback against this extremist right-wing agenda) but would also energize movements in Georgia and South Carolina and in other states around the country.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Isaiah, I wanted to ask you this question. What are the lessons that you see in this vibrant, exciting, new civil rights and social rights economic justice movement in North Carolina for the rest of the country?
ISAIAH POOLE: One of the things, first of all, Rev. Barber is right to say that this is not about which political machine wins. This is much bigger than that; it is about what kind of America do we want for our children. Do we want an America where only a handful of people succeed, or do we want an America in which everyone succeeds, and has a possibility of succeeding, and has a stake and is awarded for the work they put in to America?
Right now, we have millions of people who are working harder than ever, and yet they are earning less. The middle class has been decimated even though they’re putting in more hours. We have people who, if you could get a job, some of us are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. We have to ask ourselves, is this the America we want, or do we want the America in which work is rewarded, people are treated with dignity, that we respect the value of each and every human being, and that the systems that we create embody those principles?
BETWEEN THE LINES: Isaiah, tell us a little about Rev. William Barber. What’s his profile? How has he been so successful in organizing such a powerful coalition inside North Carolina, and attracting people from all over the country to his movement? There have been comparisons made to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I’m not sure that is something that you hold to, but tell us about Rev. Barber, the head of the North Carolina NAACP.
ISAIAH POOLE: He is incredibly dynamic, he is very smart. I think the comparison to Martin Luther King, although it sounds kind of outlandish, I think actually in terms of the rhetorical gift that he has — his ability to frame social issues in religious terms, I think, is very similar — I mean, he comes out of that tradition, of theology that connects the progressive social imperative to gospel. I think that what he has done is, I think, given up the picture of a person of faith who is very deeply connected to the plight of ordinary people, and he’s very committed to the idea that all people are children of God regardless of their race, or their gender or their sexual orientation, or the faith that they adhere to — that we all have value. And he’s very committed to respecting that in everything he does. And I think that is a very important key to his success.
For more information on Campaign for America’s Future visit OurFuture.org.