How Rev. William J. Barber II Uses His Faith to Fight for the Poor

For 27 years, the Rev. William J. Barber II has been the pastor at a church in the small city of Goldsboro, N.C. But on a recent afternoon, he could be found at a hotel in Raleigh, about an hour away from home. His work as an activist takes him to the state capital often enough that he’s well known there. Not long after, he’d move on to an event in Charleston, S.C., and then to Iowa, where he’d lead a march demanding a presidential debate on poverty.

Barber is ever in motion, and he’s still picking up momentum. He’s hardly stopped since he attracted national attention as the leader of the Moral Mondays protests held at the North Carolina capitol in Raleigh beginning in 2013. His newsmaking actions were founded on the idea that being a person of faith means fighting for justice—whether by working beside a conservative mayor to protest the closing of rural hospitals or by calling for an NAACP boycott of the state in response to the legislature’s actions, like its infamous “bathroom bill.”

Celebrating Civil Rights Progress in Charlotte


 

 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the Civil Rights Movement continues to resonate in Charlotte. Contributions of local legends like Franklin McCain, one of the original Greensboro Four who sat at Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960, are still being celebrated along with King. Mary C. Curtis talks about how this history remains rich throughout the years and what it means for Charlotte today.

North Carolina activists draw inspiration from 1963 March on Washington

CHARLOTTE – A Moral Monday gathering in Charlotte this week channeled sights and sounds of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago.

As the sun broke through the clouds in the late afternoon, more than 2,000 stood and sat, sang and waved signs, listened to speakers, and wondered if some gains of the civil rights movement are slipping away in North Carolina.

It was a dress rehearsal for those planning to make the trip to Washington for Saturday’s commemoration of the historic march.

Linda Bain, listening on Monday, said she planned to travel from Charlotte to Washington by bus for Saturday’s events, meeting friends from New York City, where the retired educator lived before her move south this year. She missed the first march.

“I was a little too young,” she said. “I’m feeling more and more compelled to be there,” Bain said, “because of what’s going on here in North Carolina and around the country.”

‘You knew things would be different’: How the March changed one family

My sister remembers the day – and one particular moment. To get to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963, Joan Curtis did not have far to travel. But as part of the contingent from the Civic Interest Group (CIG), a Baltimore-based civil rights group affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), she realized how big a step it was and how important that day could be.

“It was a bright, sunny summer day and I was happy to be there, and I was 18 and I was smiling and everything,” Joan recently recalled. Her assignment was to stand in front of a tent, handing out signs as fast as they were being made for travelers who wanted to carry slogans such as “We Shall Overcome” as they filled every spot on the National Mall.

There was a woman from the Midwest – a white woman – with her son, a little boy about 10 years old. She had a camera to make home movies, and after Joan handed her a sign, the woman had a request. “Look at you, with that smile on your face,” my sister remembered her saying. “I want to get that on my movie camera. Could you do that again, walk back and hand me that sign?”

When I spoke with my sister, prodding her memories of the day, she said that the mother and son from the Midwest were indicative of the diversity of the day’s crowd and wondered if the Joan of 1963, a smiling freshman from Morgan State, lives on in a 50-year-old movie clip. Does that boy, who would be around 60 now, watch it to bring back memories of his own?