Post submitted by Ryan Rowe, HRC Senior Regional Field Organizer for the South

This past Saturday in Raleigh North Carolina, I was proud to represent HRC and take part in a history-making moment for the social justice movement and its inclusion of LGBT equality. The NAACP-led Moral March and rally that ended at the State Capital is reported to have drawn over 80,000 people and has been described as the largest march for social justice in the South since the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama in 1965.
The march was a culmination of eight years of coalition building by the North Carolina NAACP and the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) coalition.  The crowd of people representing over 200 coalition members was as diverse as the issues they care about and the legislation they came to protest. People from all backgrounds marched to the Capital to protest on issues like the roll back on women’s access to health care, cuts in public education, Medicaid and unemployment, restrictions on voting rights and the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that passed in 2012 known as Amendment One.

Rev. Dr. William Barber II, the dynamic and widely-respected President of the North Carolina NAACP and spiritual leader of the Moral Monday movement, gave one of his well-known, soul-stirring speeches from the rally stage and made it clear that we are all in this together.
"We are people, we are natives and immigrants, we are business leaders and workers and unemployed, we are doctors and the uninsured, we are gay, we are straight, we are students, we are parents, we are retirees,” said Rev. Dr. Barber to the sea of multi-colored faces and banners stretching five city blocks, “We are North Carolina. We are America. And we are here, and we ain't going nowhere!”

Having lived in North Carolina for 9 years, working with the NAACP and its partners to grow the coalition and then watching its faith and LGBT partnerships grow as the Faith Outreach Director during the campaign against Amendment One, this was certainly a reunion of sorts and point of personal pride. But that pride also reminded me of a more important beauty of last Saturday’s march. It was not about one issue or one person—even a charismatic leader and organizing genius such as Rev Dr Barber. Everyone in the crowd seemed to be beaming with that same pride in the role they had played in this movement for justice. I imagined that they too had come to appreciate how their refusal to stay silent about the issues that affect them is helping to amplify the numbers, voice and power of people who may have different issues but are being effected by the same tidal wave of regressive legislation.

This year’s march also marked the growth of those numbers and voice throughout the South and the nation. Already there have been Moral Monday marches and coalitions formed in South Carolina and Georgia. And as we took one big step forward for social justice with the DOMA ruling last year, we also saw one giant leap backward with the stripping of the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The next phase of the Moral Monday movement, a mass voter registration and voting rights campaign this summer marking the 50th anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer, will be happening in North Carolina while similar events and actions take place in other states like Mississippi, Georgia and Florida. And as all of these coalitions form, not just LGBT signs, but LGBT issues and LGBT leaders who have been living and working at the intersections of LGBT equality, voting rights and many of these social justice issues, are at the ground floor of the planning and vision for what the movement for social justice in the South and the nation will look like in 2014 and beyond.

As the mantra of Moral Monday says, “Forward Together, Not One Step Back.

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