I heard a long list of reasons why people missed/skipped/ignored the keynote speech at NN14 by The Rev. Dr. William Barber.
It broke my heart to realize that so many people at NN14 were completely unaware of Moral Monday and/or completely uninterested in the powerful and effective activism Rev. Barber has been doing for the past several years.
Who is he? He is organizing a movement that has been a game-changer in North Carolina. He is offering a blueprint for coalition building that, if repeated in other states, has the potential to redraw the electoral map in the South. His work may finally give us the antidote to the White Southern Strategy that has worked so well for Republicons for the last two generations, and let us build a new majority that encourages people to "vote their future not their fears."
You had someplace else to be? Well, we all make choices. I did not look around the room to see the empty chairs. I tried to put it out of my mind that events had been intentionally scheduled against what was supposed to be a keynote speech. I wanted to direct my attention toward Rev. Barber so he would know he had support in the room and feel positive energy coming back at him. He is a stirring speaker who gave me the feeling of what it might have been like to hear Dr. King 50 years ago. No meal or movie or networking meeting could compete with that in my book.
You don't want to listen to anything a religious person has to say? Thanks for pre-judging him and all people of faith; we will still continue to work alongside you to achieve the political goals we have in common. Yes he is a minister, and he has other qualifications as well. In addition to his religious education, Barber has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and a graduate degree in Public Policy. His work as the President of the North Carolina NAACP and as National NAACP Chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee has led to almost half a million people being registered to vote and 1.5 million new names for GOTV contact lists. He has made an authentic effort to set aside religious language that might divide us from each other, in favor of the language of morality that unites people across political parties, across varied cultural backgrounds, across many faith traditions and secular philosophies. He is an activist who walks the walk, builds community and gets results--the kind of person who is otherwise admired around here. But if his religious profession cancels all of that out and makes the rest of his message not worth hearing for some people, that's their prerogative.
I couldn't really afford to go to NN14. For various reasons, I'm supposed to be counting my pennies. For months I went back and forth about whether I should go. But when I heard Rev. Barber was going to give a keynote address, I knew I had to be there to hear him in person. I found a friend who was driving out there and that saved me airfare. I shared a room with someone who booked early and had the least expensive conference rate. I brought breakfast food with me and ate all the free meals that were offered. I made it work so years from now I could tell people that I saw a Rev. Barber speech in person. Denise Oliver Velez suggested we sit at a table right in the front, and that was a good idea. navajo took a great picture of me watching the speech with deo47 and shanikka.
NN14 was expensive and physically demanding and emotionally draining. Thrilling and joyful in many ways and disappointing in others. Some of the panels were truly inspirational. The view from my hotel room was breathtaking. There was a lot of partying and eating and laughing and hugging and dancing. I had a great time meeting kogs and putting faces to screen names.
But overall, Rev. Barber's speech was the highlight of the conference for me. He lit the sky on fire.
I'm glad I didn't miss it.
Here is the video for those who missed it. Big thanks and h/t to Egberto Willies. (If you watched the Netroots Nation version of the speech without being able to hear the full extent of the audience reaction, you missed an important part of the experience.)
Below is my transcript. For those who cannot play video, the printed words do not adequately do it justice, but at least you will know the substance of what he said.
This transcript was a labor of love that took many many hours. It's still in rough shape in some ways (missing some formatting and punctuation and capital letters, and I gave up on indicating the applause lines) but I wanted to get it out there for the people who have been eagerly waiting for it.
The speech was just over an hour long and the length of the transcript reflects that, so if anyone posts TL;DR or snark to that effect I will not take it well.
One happy byproduct of producing a transcript like this: listening to the speech that closely that many times means I now have a really good grasp of his goals, his strategy, and his tactics, and they will inform my future activism.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Opening evening keynote address to Netroots Nation
July 17, 2014
Hello Netroots. So good to be here.
Let me say to all the folk looking by live stream back home in North Carolina we say it like this, say it with me:
Forward together (audience responds: Forward Together)
not one step back. (not one step back)
I'm literally just leaving the AFSCME union convention in Chicago and got on a plane to come straight here, to be with this host of bloggers and social media experts.
Everything I say today blame it on Nolan Treadway. where is he? Blame it on Nolan, there he is in the back. You know I've been wondering why Nolan would extend an invitation to an old country boy like me.
And I thought about this story about an old man who had a mule, and he entered the mule in the Kentucky Derby. Somebody saw him when he was entering it and he said man, why would you enter that swayback mule into the Kentucky Derby. You know he can't win. The man said well I know he can't win that's not why I entered him. He said the reason I've entered him is I thought the exposure might do him good.
So evidently somebody thought the exposure might do us good.
I want to talk today about a moral movement for a moral crisis is the only way to higher ground.
Down in NC we in the Forward Together movement believe that we are in a moral crisis that is trying to take America down the road to political deconstruction.
But there is a path to higher ground. There is a better way.
To grasp why many of us believe we are in a moral crisis, we need to glance into history for a moment to find an interpretive lens.
We need to understand like this conference, the roots and the networkings of immoral deconstruction. And the only way to do that we must find ourselves for a moment all the way back to the movement against slavery, and the movement that was designed to deal with the vestiges of slavery.
Remember if you will, the 1800s, 1868 there arose a movement to build a new South. It was called the fusion movement, the moral fusion movement, and it led what was called the first reconstruction.
In that moment, in NC for instance, forging together, they created a path to higher ground by framing a vision of reconstructing the nation along our deepest moral values.
Back then 146 years ago blacks and whites came together. In the south! And they understood the fusion between lifting up the former slaves, and how it intersected with the preservation of the south and the nation.
Now this reconstruction wasn't perfect, but walk with me for a minute and
hear with me for a minute the kind of language they used to rewrite constitutions to frame this movement and navigate the nation forward.
Listen for a minute if you will at the language—not used in 1960 or 1990 or 2000, but 146 years ago, for instance, in NC. This is how black and whites were talking about coming up out of the vestiges of slavery.
This is what they wrote in our constitution:
We, the people of the United--of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties.
Listen to what they said:
We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among which are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruit of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.
That's 146 years ago. That's language that didn't even make it into our Constitution, federally.
Then they wrote Article 2, all political power is vested in and derived from the people and should be used only for the good of the whole.
146 years ago they wrote Section 10: All elections shall be free. 146 years ago!
Section 11. All political rights and privileges are not dependent upon or modified by property, no property qualification shall affect the right to vote or hold office.
146 years ago they knew how bad it was to let money drive who runs for political office.
I'll back up some. The mike man told me to back up from the mike, i'm an old country preacher you might have to just back off a little bit. We'll work this out. Just stay with me.
Section 12 said the people have a right to assemble, and then they said, but secret political societies are dangerous to the liberties of a free people. 146 years ago they knew the danger of lobbyists that go into back rooms and dictate policy.
Section 15, 146 years ago, they made education a constitutional right in the south. Public... the people have a right to public education. And the state must guard that right.
Section 16 demanded that everybody be provided equal protection excuse me section 19 equal protection under the law.
And then article 11, 146 years ago when blacks and whites built this fusion movement, they wrote this in the constitution listen, article 11 section 4 beneficent provision for the poor, the unfortunate, and the orphan is one of the first duties of a civilized and christian state. [applause]
And we've got to be a little concerned, if people had that much sense 146 years ago when we look at the state of our crisis today. In 1868 we see this moral,
say moral... (moral)
and it formed the framework for reconstruction. here's what they fought for with this fusion movement:
voting rights, public education, labor, health care, equal protection, fair tax policy, good of the whole
and that kind of agenda reshaped the south and it reshaped the country. It reshaped the world.
But it also brought a vicious backlash.
A group came to being and they called themselves the teap... I mean excuse me I'm getting to that... Help me Lord, Help me, I meant 18, I meant 18, I meant 1868, I meant 18, I meant 1868! [applause]
A group arose that called themselves the redemption movement and it was rooted in the extreme philosophy of immoral deconstruction and they fought back. They were moved by fear. Fear that their world was being taken over. Fear of a more just society. Fear of a more perfect union. They were radical racists and they began a process of immoral deconstruction. They began a campaign of fear and divide.
They called themselves heretically the redemption movement. Sounds nice but what they meant by that was it's time for us to redeem America from the problem of black and white people working together for justice.
What did they attack first? Voting rights. Then they attacked public education, then they attacked labor, then they attacked fair tax policies, and then they attacked progressive leaders, and then they engaged in a plan 40 and 100-some years ago to take over the courts, state and federal, so that they could be used in the service of rendering rulings that undermine the hopes of a new America that ended with Plessy v Ferguson in 1896. And then they led riots all over this country and tried to make sure that certain elements had guns so that they could put the country back in its place according to their deconstructive immoral philosophy.
And from this history my friends we must understand the root of what we are seeing. We've learned, we learn that the strategy to stop any effort at reconstruction, the strategy to stop fusion movement has always consisted of these five or six direct attacks: you attack voting rights, you attack tax revenue and government programs and agencies designed to promote social uplift, you attack labor rights, you attack public education policy, you attack, uh, and you attack, or assassinate, or try to undermine white and black progressive leaders.
Then we get to the second reconstruction, I'm passing a lot of history but bear with me, 1954 the Brown v Board of Education decision had an indelible impact on the United States. Declared the case of the century, it established that intentional segregation was unconstitutional, and this ruling served to fuel the civil rights movement. Two things fueled the civil rights movement. The Brown decision, and the acquittal of the people that killed Emmett Till. Because when Rosa Parks saw them be acquitted, it was then that she decided, in response to the acquittal of the murderers of Emmett Till, she had to sit down and challenge the existing system of discrimination. [applause]
So in 1954 we get the Brown decision. Just about a year later, August 28, 1955, you get the death of Emmett Till. Both of these things result in the kind of creation of a second reconstruction. A new fusion, moral fusion politics.
And what do we see with this new fusion of blacks, and now whites, and now women, and now Latinos, and now the LGBT community like Bayard Rustin and others, all coming together. What did we see?
We saw affirmative action, we saw the committee on equal employment, we saw civil rights connected morally to economic justice, we saw the Social Security amendments of 1965, we saw the creation on a moral basis of Medicare and Medicaid, we saw changes in the application of Social Security that allowed the domestic community and the agrarian community that had been left out in 1935 we saw the Civil Rights Act of '64 and the Voting Rights Act of '65 and President Johnson said on August 6, 1965 that the Voting Rights Act was a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that's ever been won on any battlefield.
But the law came months after Martin Luther King launched the Southern Coalition Leadership Conference in Selma. When people of all different faiths came together, all different colors, and demanded from a moral perspective that the nation needed to change. So this moral fusion politics gained tremendous ground in the second reconstruction.
But then, as in the 1800s, the transformative power of moral based fusion politics once again came under attack.
This time the attacks were defined and developed by Kevin Phillips, a Nixon and Republican strategist, that came to be known as the White Southern Strategy. It was a strategy deliberately designed to play the race card in a way to drive Southern whites to vote for -- vote their fears and not their future. But it was designed to play the race card without seeming racist. You remember when GOP strategist Lee Atwater boldly described the Southern Strategy. You all have seen it out on Google and everywhere, when he said you know we couldn't use the n word any more, not in '64 '65 he said you can't be overtly racist it will backfire. So you say stuff like forced busing and states rights and all that stuff, he said. He said you get abstract you talk about cutting taxes and all these things you're talking about they seem to be totally economic but the byproduct of them is that blacks get hurt worse than whites and we are able to divide the country.
The target of the southern strategy was all of the southern states of the old confederacy. But also some of the suburbs of the north.
It was the goal of developing a solid south to ensure that the majority of Southern whites would resist and repeal any fusion political and moral alliances with African Americans and others.
Programs that were once popular became the focus of great dislike and were castigated as negative entitlements helping "those" undeserving people.
Voting rights and civil rights laws were seen as further intrusion on the sovereignty of the state, especially in Southern states. And the process to no longer allow issues such as addressing poverty and civil rights to be defined in the public square as moral issues were begun in earnest, with the goal of limiting the moral discourse in the public square to abortion, prayer in the school and your stance on homosexuality. Even though those things do not even make up the primary or the preeminent ethical or moral concerns of any moral religion. Not one. [applause]
Let's get to the root of this thing.
Leaders of the progressive moral vision were attacked. Some were killed. Medgar killed. Martin killed. Kennedy killed. Bobby killed. The movement was depressed. It worked. Solidified. And according to a recent article in the Times, Charles Koch in 1974 delivered a speech on how to build a massive infrastructure, not to promote particular candidates, but to recreate the social consciousness, and to promote his brand of immoral deconstruction.
How it would work, and Ronald Reagan used it to the T, in 1980 when he began part of his presidential campaign in Philaldephia, Mississippi. Didn't have to be overtly racist, but he, by being there, and by using all the code words of the white southern strategy, he locked up the south.
So when we look at the ebbs and the flows and the lessons and the vision of these two periods, the first reconstruction and the second reconstruction some of us believe that the current struggle before us now is a sign of the time that we are in the middle of the struggle for a third reconstruction in this nation. [applause]
That is why we see the same attacks we saw in the first reconstruction and the second reconstruction:
the attack on voting rights
the attack on fair tax policy
the attack on public education
the attack on labor rights
the attack on women
the attack on LGBT rights
the attack on immigrants' rights
the attacks are a sign that we have the possibility of a third reconstruction if we don't give up and understand what is at stake. [cheering and applause]
We are in the middle. And how do I know? Again it is because the movement in some ways was signaled by the 2008 election of President Obama. Now it wasn't so much the president, as powerful and as hopeful as we've been about that. But what signaled that we were in the possibility of a third reconstruction was the emergence of a new majority electorate, especially in southern states.
NC is now 23% African American, 3-4 percent Latino. That's 27%. That means you only need about 24 percent of whites to vote their future not their fears.
Mississippi is 33% African American that means... then you add Latinos that means you only need about 15 to 16% of whites in the south, in Mississippi, to vote their future not their fears. Similarly in Georgia.
The campaign of President Obama, not to be partisan but to be historical, used some of the elements of fusion politics that were used in the 1800s and in the 1960s.
In NC before he ever ran we had a movement, the Forward Together movement, that had already changed voting laws before he was on the ballot. That had won same day registration and early voting and Sunday voting. We challenged even Democrats, and we won.
And because of that we opened up the possibility for a broad new electorate. And when president Obama won the state and won some southern states, that new electorate revealed the potential of a new fusion majority, one that directly challenges the white southern strategy and that scares the daylights of those who want to stay stuck in the past.
But watch what happened. In both the first and the second reconstruction it took the extremists more than a decade to mount an effective reaction. With Obama's election and the electorate, the extremists said no! Not just to him but even before the man was inaugurated they were saying no to the possibility of this new fusion politics.
So now we have a political extremist immoral deconstruction effort called by whatever name you want to call it: tea party, Koch money puppets, whatever you want to call it, it's an immoral agenda of deconstruction. [cheering and applause]
And every now and then we need a few bloggers to tell them y'all ain't fooling nobody! We know American history too well.
And every now and then we need to not, as my grandmother would say, be so deep. But just explain what their agenda is, and clearly.
Here's their agenda Here's their agenda. This is their agenda. They are saying, these extremists, if you want a great America, here is the path to a great America:
Deny public education and attack teachers,
Undermine public funding of public education give it to private schools,
You want a great America, here is the extremist view
Deny health care and Medicaid expansion, leave millions of poor people uninsured, deny earned income tax credit, deny unemployment, deny labor rights, deny LGBT rights, deny women's rights, deny immigrants' rights and hold vicious rally against immigrant children when most of you come from immigrants yourself.
Cut more taxes for the wealthy and then declare you don't have money for critical investments in America's infrastructure and in programs that uplift America, and then
here's their agenda, say... tell your neighbor this is their whole agenda,
and whenever you know your agenda cant survive, if America really wants to be great, then engage in the worst form of voter suppression since Jim Crow
and then if you really want to have a great nation, tell every lie you can about the president, call him everything but an American and a Child of God, refuse to pass anything just because you don't like little black girls having pajama parties in the White House. [loud cheering and applause] Come on here. Let's expose it! Let's expose what's going on!
Fight... help me a little bit mike man my voice is a little weak. Fight even his wife when she just wants children to eat healthy vegetables.
And then if you really want a great America, after you have flamed and blown on the fires of racial and class and national hatred you want a really good America, make sure everybody can get a gun and make it easier to get a gun than to vote.
That's their whole immoral deconstructionist agenda! [extended applause]
But hear me. Now hear me on this.
This kind of agenda can't just be challenged however with a mere left right debate or a conservative vs liberal debate. That's, that language is too puny. And I would humbly submit, not even just calling for a populist movement, because populist movements especially in the south have not always been on the side of progressivism.
George Wallace was a populist movement.
And populist movements have not always dealt adequately with race and class. Because populist movements tend to get caught up "is it race or class". When somebody ask me is it race or class I say, "It is."
You really can't separate the two if you are going to have transformational politics in America.
And populist movements in the south have not always been willing to deal with labor rights.
And so for those of us who are rooted in the history of understanding America's struggle with reconstruction, we who are moved by the cries of our brothers and sisters, we know that issues like justice and caring for the vulnerable and embracing the stranger and healing the sick and protecting workers and welcoming and being fair to all members of the human family and educating our children should never be relegated to the moral margins of our social consciousness.
These are not just policy issues. These are not issues from... for some left right debate. These are the centerpieces of our deepest tradition of our faith, our values, and our sense of morality and righteousness.
And in this moment how do we think about building a moral movement? We must first start with a vision. What Walter Brueggemann calls a prophetic moral vision that seeks to penetrate the despair. So that we can believe in and embrace new futures.
This kind of vision does not ask at first if the vision can be implemented. Because questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can first be imagined.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
You see my brothers and sisters, another lesson for, from history. The slaves didn't get out of slavery by first figuring out how to get out. They got out by first knowing they needed to get out.
And then they were driven by a vision that said O Freedom, O Freedom, and before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free.
Their vision captivated them and penetrated the despair and when the despair was penetrated then they were able to implement ways to get out.
And it's time for progressives, and liberals if you call that yourself, whatever you call yourself, to stop walking around in despair. It's time to fight back, and stand up! [extended applause and cheering]
If we're going, if we're going to have a real moral movement that can challenge the efforts at deconstruction in this country we have to reinstate imagination that is not driven not by pundits but by a larger vision.
I get so tired of folks sitting on TV talking about what's possible in the South and they don't even live in the South
I'm so tired of people talking about what can't happen. You don't know what can happen, until you get together and start organizing and start fighting back! [applause]
Dr. King said that most of the time your greatest vision comes in the midst of your darkest night. And moral fusion movements don't build when everything is fine. Moral fusion movements are, is a form of dissent that always rises up when things are bad and dares to say there is a better way.
That we're all connected, that there is a moral way. And we must remind those who make decisions regarding public policy that there are some moral values that can guide us and can capture the imagination of people all over this nation.
One of them is the values of the prophets like my Jewish friends will tell you in Isaiah 10 where it says simply this: woe unto those who legislate evil, and rob the poor of their rights and make children and women their prey.
That's why I tell my progressive friends yall stop throwing away the bible there's too much good stuff in there.
There's another great question that we ought to be using when we shape public policy: when I was hungry did you feed me, when I was naked did you clothe me, when I was sick did you give me health insurance? That's in the book! [applause]
Whether you believe in Jesus eternally you oughta at least believe in him historically because Jesus's first sermon said to preach good news to the poor and the word there is PTOCHOS (πτωχός) it's a greek word, which means preach good news to those who have been made poor by the social structures that create their poverty in the first place and give them the courage to stand up against it.
Our deepest, our deepest moral traditions declare that the true challenge to society is not private charity but public policy that impacts how people exist every day of their lives [applause]
We need a recovery of moral dissent.
The kind of moral dissent that Henry David Thoreau said... had. When someone asked him one day during slavery would he repent of his actions of going to jail and challenging the thing and Henry David Thoreau said the only thing I am going to repent of is my good behavior in the face of such injustice. And then I am going to ask myself what demons possessed me to be so quiet when so much wrong was going on.
We need a recovery of the kind of moral dissent like Martin Luther King 46 years ago in one of his last sermons he said if you ignore the poor then one day the whole system will collapse and implode.
We need the kind of moral dissent that says every time we deny living wages and hurt teachers and undermine public education and suppress the right to vote it costs us too much, it damages our... the soul of our democracy. we must step back into history and bring to the forefront again the kind of moral call, let's see, Teddy Roosevelt had. Good Republican. When he said the four moral issues of public policy ought to be labor, education, environmental justice and voting.
Yeah, we ought to lift up what Eisenhower said when he said that a public education was a matter of national security.
We ought to lift up what President Johnson said about the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and the war on poverty that these were the great moral issues.
We need the kind of moral thinking that caused my parents in 1965-66 to leave Indiana, go back to the South, give up a middle class lifestyle. Went down to... didn't have protected voting rights, they they understood what they were going back to, but because of this vision they left to go back in the South to help integrate public schools. My father is dead now my mother is alive. She's 81 years old she goes to work every day at the school she desegregated, when she went there they called her the n word now they call her Miss Barber. [applause and cheering]
We need a recovery of the kind of moral vision that says we'll walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, young and old and black and white and Catholic and Jew and Christian. Even in the face of all kinds of odds. We don't have the money, we don't have the votes but if we walk possibly we can change the consciousness of the country.
We need the kind of, we need to recover the first moral principle of our Constitution. It's not freedom. It's not freedom. I get so bothered every time politicians run for office some of them you ask them
what are you going to do—freedom
why are you against medicaid expansion—freedom
why are you against tax... why are you for tax cuts for the wealthy—freedom
Just freedom freedom freedom freedom they haven't even read their own Constitution.
the first moral principle of our Constitution is the establishment of justice! [applause]
We need to reclaim the moral concern of that great prayer, one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
We need the kind of clear moral perspective that Otto Scharmer often speaks of, when he said, the economist at MIT that I had a moment to study with, he said we have a blind spot in our economic theory today it's called conscience.
We need a recovery of the kind of clear and moral response that the Pope used the other day when Rush Limbaugh suggested he was a communist.
And he didn't stutter, the Pope said right back to Mr. Rush you don't know what communism is: declaring and for the poor, helping the poor, uplifting the poor is not communism, it's the heart of the gospel. [applause]
We need the kind of language that's not left or right or conservative or liberal, but moral, fusion language that says look: it's extreme and immoral to suppress the right to vote. it's extreme and immoral to deny medicaid for millions of poor people especially people who have been elected to office and then get insurance because simply they've been elected.
it's extreme and immoral to raise taxes on the working poor by cutting earned income taxes and to raise taxes on the poor and middle class in order to cut taxes for the wealthy.
it's extreme and immoral to use power to cut off poor people's water in Detroit [applause and cheering]
that's immoral! what we need to cut off is that kind of abusive power!
it's extreme and immoral to end unemployment for those who have lost jobs of no fault of their own
it's extreme and immoral to resegregate our schools and underfund our public schools
it's extreme and immoral for people who came from immigrants to now have a mean amnesia and cry out against immigrants and the rights of children
it's mean, its immoral, it's extreme to kick hardworking people when they are down. that's not just bad policy, it's against the common good and a disregard for human rights. it's a refusal to lean toward the angels of our better selves.
In fact, this kind of philosophy, rooted in the premises of immoral deconstruction, if you look at them carefully, they are historically inaccurate, they are constitutionally inconsistent, they are morally indefensible, and they are economically insane. [applause]
So our job, we must reclaim the moral center and shift the center of political gravity. Because in policy and politics in America, we face two choices. One is the low road to political destruction, and the other is the pathway to higher ground.
And so my friends in this kairos moment in history, right now right here, we've been called together to fight against the dangerous agenda of extremism.
I didn't know any of you all before today but the spirit of the times has called us together to stand against the dangerous agenda of extremism, the ultraconservative right wing that is choosing the low road.
That's what those who gave America its two greatest periods in the reconstruction did.
And I believe deep within my being there is a longing for a moral compass. I know it to be so. Because in North Carolina we found out that in this moment we need a transformative moral fusion movement that's indigenously led, state-based, deeply moral, deeply constitutional, anti-racist, anti-poverty, pro-justice pro-labor movement that brings people together, that doesn't wait for somebody to rescue you out of Washington DC but you mobilize from the bottom up. [extended applause]
Movements never came from DC down! Movements always come from Montgomery up! From Birmingham up! [as applause continues]
And we need to build for the long term. Not just around one issue or one campaign.
We need to stop looking for a messiah candidate and build a movement, we need a deeper language that gets into people's souls and pulls them into a new place.
Labor rights are not left or right issue. Women's rights are not left or right issues. Education is not a left or right issue. Helping people when they are unemployed is not left or right. Those issues are the moral center of who we are and it's high time that we recover the moral dialogue in this nation. [applause]
Not only that, we progressives need a movement where our relationship with our coalition partners are transformative not transactional.
You know we sometimes like those movements where everybody signs that I'm with the movement but they are really with those... their issue. But what we've got to have is a movement, and we've learned this in North Carolina, that understands the connectivity between the issues, where each partner yes embraces your issue, but you also embrace the other issues because you understand the intersectionality.
Let me make it plain for you.
The reality is, the greatest myth of our time is that extremist policies only hurt a small subset of people such as people of color, or women, or poor, or the LGBT community, when in fact they hurt us all.
So we need the kind of coalition where educational advocates stand for education, but they also stand up for LGBT rights.
Where health care advocates stand up for health care, but they also stand up for labor rights.
Where labor rights people yes stand for labor rights, but they also stand up for civil rights.
Why? Because we understand that these tea party type extremists, they are against us all.
The same people that fight labor rights, they fight women's rights.
And the same people that fight women's rights fight LGBT rights.
And the same people that fight LGBT rights fight working rights.
And the same people that fight workers' rights they fight healthcare rights.
And the same people that fight healthcare rights they fight immigrants' rights.
if they are together and we're not together who's the fool? [applause]
And then we need a language that believes that people can be redeemed.
So in North Carolina we're black, we're white, we're Latino, we're Native American, we're Democrat[s], we're Republican, we're Independent, we're people of all faith, people not of faith who believe in a moral universe, we're natives, we're immigrants, we're business leaders and workers and unemployed, we're doctors and the uninsured, we're gay we're straight, we're students and we're parents and we're retirees, and we all stand together to lift up and defend the most sacred moral principles of our faith, our constitutional values, and who we are. that's what a fusion coalition does. [applause]
but not only that, we must challenge the position, and the hypocrisy, especially in the South, of the religious right.
And we don't do it by castigating religion. When you want to challenge the religious right, you need to find a good conserv-- religious conservative like me.
Oh, I know that language messed y'all up.
But let me tell you why I am a religious conservative. You see in the bible I read I read this book I carry with me called the poverty and justice bible and it has all the scriptures marked in it that deal with justice and uplift of the poor and helping women and children.
And in that Bible it's 2000 scriptures that are marked.
Now I have looked at the religious right's agenda about being against people who are homosexual, and being against--being for prayer in the school and being against abortion, and I can find about five scriptures that may speak to those issues, and four of them they misinterpret.
And none of them ever trump this ethical demand: that you love your neighbor as yourself. [applause]
And that you do justice and you love mercy!
So what you need to challenge the religious right is not somebody to go on MSNBC or CNN and say I don't have anything to do with that and I just don't like... but that you need somebody who is a person of faith to challenge the hypocrisy of faith and say to the religious right: you really want a moral debate? Bring it on, baby. Bring it on. Bring it here! [applause]
Because I want to know how you claim to be a conservative when conserve...ative means "to hold onto the essence of", so how are you a conservative if you talk the least about what God talks about the most and the most about what God talks about the least?
But not only that, as I move toward my conclusion, we must have a movement that brings together a diverse coalition that is rooted in hope and not fear.
You know I'm getting tired of going to all these conferences. I told Roz Pelles this the other day. We gotta get in the room with those blue green and red dots. Y'all know. And everybody wants to sit in and figure out what the agenda is. While the other folk are taking action. We ought to know what the agenda is to a great America by now.
Let me tell you the agenda that has pulled us together in NC.
One. Securing prolabor antipoverty policies that ensure economic sustainability.
Two. Educational equality by ensuring every child receives a high quality well-funded constitutionally diverse public education and access to colleges and community colleges.
Number three. Health care for all, by insuring access to the affordable care act, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and providing environmental protection for all communities
Number four: fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system, and providing equal protection under the law for black, brown and poor white people
Number five: protecting and expanding voting rights, women's rights, LGBT rights, immigrants' rights, and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.
if we can't organize around that agenda then I'm wondering what's wrong with us.
But that agenda, intersectionally, morally, has pulled us together.
But then we got to mobilize in the streets.
Somebody say in the streets (in the streets)
say at the polls (at the polls)
and in the courtrooms (in the courtrooms)
and in the legislative halls. (in the legislative halls)
so we've come up with 12 steps that we believe we need to have embraced in every state.
number one, build an indigenously led grassroots organizing across the state
number two, use moral language to frame and critique public policy through our deepest moral and constitutional values regardless of who's in power, Democrat or Republican
number three, demonstrate a commitment to civil disobedience that follows the steps of the movement that is designed to change the public conversation and consciousness
number four, build a stage from which to lift the voices not of politicians but of everyday people impacted by immoral extremist policy
number six [sic] build a coalition of moral and religious leaders of all faiths.
number seven: [sic] Intentionally diversify the movement with the goal of winning unlikely allies
number seven: build a transformative long term coalition relationship rooted in a clear agenda that doesn't measure success just by electoral outcomes, and destroys the myths of extremism. then make a serious commitment to academic and empirical analysis of policy, for the worst thing you can do as an activist is to be loud and wrong.
and then finally next use social media coordination in all forms—video, text, twitter, facebook—then engage in voter registration and voter education and voter participation, and then pursue a strong legal strategy so that you have lawyers that take what the movement bubbles up into the courtrooms and fight based on our constitution.
and then the last one resist the one moment mentality and say we not here to have a moment we are trying to build a movement.
And so my friends. That's what we started building seven years ago and I wanted to say that at Netroots.
Don't ever think the Forward Together moral movement just happened overnight. Seven years ago, when Democrats were in office—and by the way you can't have a moral movement if you aren't willing to criticize both parties—seven years ago we began what is now known as the Forward Together moral movement.
And when Tom Tillis, Berger and McCrory, the leaders of extremism in NC, the speaker of the house, the senate leader and the governor, after gerrymandering and jerryrigging the redistricting process in 2010, aided by NC's own Koch brother Art Pope. They stole the election and gained a super majority.
They thought they had smooth sailing. They thought that their deconstruction divide and conquer immoral agenda would just run by a course, and we would just be depressed and go home to the next election.
but they had to meet us who know our history. who care about the soul of our democracy and who know how to fight back and move forward.
And I'm here to tell you that when you call people together to fight on issues of moral principle rather than party, it works. Listen to me.
We started Moral Mondays. They said we were morons. Gov. McCrory used the same language George Wallace used in 1963 to describe us. He said we were outsiders. But we said to the extremists who ignore the common good: the more you try to push us down the more we are going to push forward. the more you try to depress us the more you will inspire us.
Maybe—we asked them a question—maybe you don't know what the great psalmist said in psalm 118.
the stone that the builders rejected has now become the chief cornerstone.
and a new movement is happening right here in your face.
we said to them make no mistake. this is no mere hyperventiliation or partisan pouting. no, this is a fight for the future and the soul of our state, and it doesn't matter what you call us, what matters is what we answer to.
But we also learned another power of moral fusion progressive movement in the 21st century.
And that is they can deride us, they can deflect from the issue, but they can't debate us. They can't debate us when we make our case on moral and constitutional grounds. They call us whiners, Tillis called us, who's running for the Senate, he called us whiners and losers and leftists and some of them called us Socialists.
But we say to them if we are leftists in fighting for justice and fairness and all people, then the bible and constitution are the Magna Carta of leftist documents.
Oh they're mad with us. Cause how do you cut 500,000 people's Medicaid for instance and then declare it's the moral thing to do. It doesn't work! So all you can do is deride us.
And that's why we also refuse to call them Republicans. Touch your neighbor and say we gotta be disciplined now.
See we don't call them republicans, not in the moral movement. My gr... First of all I can't call them good republicans because my granddaddy was one of them. As were most black people in the early 1900s. But he wasn't this kind of extremist.
Abraham Lincoln who stood for equality and justice was a Republican but he wasn't at this kind of extreme.
Black and white republicans in the 1800s expanded voting rights in the first reconstruction but they weren't this kind of extremist.
Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican but he called health care and for minimum wage and environmental protection as moral issues.
Dwight Eisenhower you heard me tell you, believed in a public education.
We know good republicans. Black republicans like Edward Brooke and Ralph Bunche and Benjamin Hooks the past president of the NAACP championed the cause of freedom and justice and stood up against the extremists of their time.
Even Ronald Reagan had some moments...
Ronald Reagan supported the earned income tax credit, so we say to Governor McCrory, Tillis and Berger when you cut earned income tax credit you make Ronald Reagan look like a liberal—you must be extreme.
It was Republicans and Democrats who called trickle down tax policy voodoo economics.
And so we say to them you're not being good republicans.
As one lady stood up in Iredell County recently, in her... 80 years old, and took the mic from me in a service at a speech and said Rev. Barber let me say something, I had never been interrupted during a sermon.
She said i'm a nine generation republican and I'm sick and tired of these extremists hijacking our party. And then after she said that, I said you know the truth is, this place we're in right now in America is not about republicans vs democrats it's not about liberals vs conservatives, it's about right vs wrong.
It's about extremism vs the more noble vision of our constitution.
and I'm here to tell you my God have we seen the power of building a fusion movement. The power of picking up the plow of justice one more time.
We started with 17 of us, Roz, last year after seven years of building, we've been gathering thousands of people after every year, but after this extreme takeover, and after they decided to gut voting rights on Maundy Thursday during Easter week, 17 of us during the season of Pentecost went in, to the general assembly. they brought out all these cops they arrested us they even arrested a woman who had cerebral palsy. When they did it I said it's on now.
We've now been at this 64 straight weeks. Over 120 actions. If you count the seven years before we've been at it eight years. In February, the dead of winter, we saw 80,000 plus people show up, the largest gathering for justice in the South since Selma.
We now have seen young people engaged like never before.
We now have a moral "freedom summer" program where 40 young people are organizing in 50 counties, to register and inspire 50,000 new registered voters by August.
We've seen 1,004 people arrested, the most people arrested at a state house ever in the history of the south for civil disobedience. Representing the full fabric of NC's population. We have over 1000 clergy engaged of every faith and every denomination. Labor unions and civil rights and women and LGBTQ and immigrants and environmentalists are working together like never before.
We have made a state issue a national issue. We've inspired similar movements in almost nine other states and growing because we built a movement and not a moment.
When we started, the governor was at 50 percent in the polls and called us outsiders. But now he's at 30 percent in the polls and falling after 64 weeks.
When we started, the legislature was at 40 percent in the polls, and now they're at 17 percent and falling.
When we started, most of the issues we supported were not above 50 percent, but now after shifting the consciousness and engaging a moral narrative with a faith, 55% of North Carolinians oppose refusing US aid for the long term jobless and the unemployed.
55% of North Carolinians now support raising the minimum wage.
58% of North Carolinians now say we should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid
61% of North Carolinians now oppose using public funds for vouchers to support private schools
54% of North Carolinians now would rather raise taxes and give teachers a pay raise than to cut taxes
55% of voters in North Carolina oppose the general assembly's plan to cut personal and corporate taxes
66% of North Carolinians now don't agree with the NC legislators' strict limits on women's reproductive rights
only now only 33% agree with cutting pre-K and child care aid
77 not 23% not even 1 in 4 agree with repealing the Racial Justice Act.
73 percent now favor outlawing discrimination against gays in hiring and firing
and 68% of voters now oppose cutting early voting and ending straight ticket voting and 68% favor an alternative to voter ID.
i'm telling you a moral vision works!
My friends, that's not even—the numbers don't even tell the story.
Rght now there's a Republican mayor, named Adam O'Neal that's joined the movement of fighting for Medicaid expansion. He's walking 273 miles to Washington DC. He's taking on Pat McCrory and Tillis, and saying that Republicans should be ashamed of themselves, for de---oh I mean excuse me extremists should be ashamed of themselves for denying medicaid expansion. You don't see that kind of coming together until you have a moral movement.
A few weeks ago, a few weeks ago we were invited to Mitchell County. Mitchell County is 99% percent white, 89% Republican. They said years ago we could never organize in Mitchell County. But a few months ago we went up and we were invited to Mitchell County.
And I'm here to tell you we went up there with this moral agenda, we found out that Mitchell County and up in the mountains, there's not a lot of difference between mountain populism and civil rights activism.
We found out that people in the mountains need labor rights and need unemployment and need health care and need public education.
And now the Republican chair of the party renounced the party and resigned because he said it's been taken over by extremism.
Now in Mitchell County we have a branch of the NAACP and we've never had one there in the history of the country, and it's the most diverse branch of the NAACP anywhere.
I'm telling you it works!
And I tell this story everywhere I go the only problem I have about those folk up in Mitchell County and those mountain people—they are some radical people—when I was up there it was night time and after I finished speaking they asked me they said Rev. Barber would you lead us on a march. I said march where? They said we want to march on the tea party extremist legislator's house to tell him how much we disagree with him. I said wait a minute white people. I said I'm all about marching but y'all started that marching at night. black folk don't march at night. But you call a march in the daytime and we'll be there. So we called a march in Asheville and 10,000 people showed up in the mountains.
I wish I had time Roz.
I wish I had time to tell y'all the story when 93 year old Rosanell Eaton joined this moral movement. Came out one day and said I'm leading the crowd today to civil disobedience. 93 years old. She was forced to read the preamble of the Constitution, recite it, when the person asking her to recite it couldn't read it himself. She came to Moral Monday, grabbed the hand of another 93 year old white woman, threw down their walker, led 150 people in the General Assembly to get arrested for civil disobedience. Stood up to the powers that be. Now she is the lead plaintiff in our case against voter suppression in NC. I'm telling you it works!
A few weeks ago some people led a sit in part of the movement in Tom Tillis' office. And what happened was amazing. The sit in was there, there was a young lady named Crystal. She has cervical cancer. She needs Medicaid expansion. She can't get it because they denied it in NC.
But they sat in with Crystal. Who sat in with her? A black young Muslim. Who sat in with her? A white preacher that head pastors an openly welcoming community. And an African American mother who's a leader and organizer. And also some African American males, and a 78 year old woman from Iredell County which is one of the most extreme regressive counties in our state.
They came together and sat in that office for 12 hours and demanded that they be heard. That's what can happen! That's the kind of community that can happen when you build a moral movement.
So my friends, those of us who believe in freedom, we're being called now. Rise, raise up a fresh moral movement. I know I've taken a little time but these are not easy issues.
The day is over for quick political platitudes. The day is over for little campaign slogans. We've got to build a movement. We've got to think deeper. It's going to take more than a few texts, and a few emails. We must engage in action that shifts the center of political gravity in this nation. And we've got to do it state by state. And we've got to say no matter who's in Congress or who's in the general assemblies of our state or who's in the governor's mansion, or who's in the White House, we are demanding higher ground. And we've got to say you don't have enough political power to vote us away, you don't have enough insults to talk us away, and to the Koch brothers, you don't have enough damn money to buy us away. [applause and cheering]
That's why, that's why we've taken Moral Monday on the road now. And now in NC it's the moral march to the polls. And every Monday we're joining and we invite you to come on down. That's why on August 21 through the 28, in NC we're calling for seven days of activism at the state capitol. There will be combined with voter registration and yes civil disobedience where we will continue to expose the extreme immoral agenda. And we hope that our seven days will inspire other states. Because you know Dr. King never told us to go back to DC. Go back and read the speech! He said go back to Mississippi. Go back to Alabama. Go back to Georgia. In other words go back to the states and build up a state movement.
What if we could get all of the Southern states to join together for seven days?
What if we could get environmentalists and health care advocates and civil rights advocates, and labor and voting rights advocates, and women and LGBT to walk together for seven days?
seven days of unity
seven days of protest
seven days of changing the dialogue
seven days of tweeting
seven days of googling
seven days of emailing
what would happen in this country?
And on the seventh day, we marched around seven times, and then sat down in the state capitol and said we will be heard! [applause]
Oh, let me go to my seat, but I stopped by to tell you we can't give up on this vision now. Not now, not ever.
Martin is not gonna get up out of the grave
Medgar is not gonna get up out of the grave
Rosa is not gonna get up out of the grave
Cesar Chavez is not gonna get up out of the grave
Viola Liuzzo from Detroit is not gonna get out of the grave
Anne Braden is not gonna get out of the grave
Ella Baker is not gonna get out of the grave
But we are their children and we are here right now and it's our time! [applause and cheering]
It's our time!
It's our time!
Tell your neighbor--look at your neighbor and say
we will never (we will never)
our birthright (our birthright)
and sell it (and sell it)
to the highest bidder (to the highest bidder)
it's our time (it's our time)
it's our time (it's our time)
it's our time (it's our time)
and we're on our way (we're on our way)
to higher ground (to higher ground)
Oh God... let me... can I be a preacher for three minutes?
My son is an environmental physicist, and every now and then he tells me things about nature. And he told me one day, he said Daddy, if you ever get lost in mountainous territory and you have to walk out, don't walk out through the valley, but climb up the mountain, to higher ground.
I said why must I climb up the mountain to higher ground.
He said daddy snakes live in the lowland. But if you go up the mountain there's something in biology and environmental studies called a snake line. Snakes can't live above it. Because they asphyxiate. They suffocate. They're cold blooded animals and they die.
Well, in America we've got to get our politics above the snake line.
Have mercy Jesus. Yeah, there are some snakes out here.
There's some low down policies out here
There's some poison out here
Going backwards on voting rights that's below the snake line
Going backwards on civil rights that's below the snake line
Hurting people just because they have a different sexuality that's below the snake line
Stomping on poor people just because you got power that's below the snake line
Denying health care to the sick and keeping children from opportunity, that's above--below the snake line
But I stopped by to tell you there's got to be somebody that's willing to go to higher ground
higher ground where every child is educated
higher ground where the sick receive health care
higher ground where the poor are lifted
higher ground where voting rights are secure
touch your neighbor and say
we gotta take America (we gotta take America)
the snake line (the snake line)
yes we are (yes we are)
yes we can (yes we can)
yes we will (yes we will)
is better than this (is better than this)
it's time (it's time)
to go above the snake line (to go above the snake line)
Now I must confess I'm not a good tweeter.
I can't build a blog.
But would y'all join me in my form of communication
Stand on your feet like we say in church
give your neighbor a high five and say
we're on our way (we're on our way)
to higher ground (to higher ground)
higher ground (to higher ground)
higher ground (to higher ground)
it's our time! (it's our time)
and when I go up in the spirit and I listen to the Lord sometimes, I'm reminded that the moral arc of the universe, it might be long but it bends toward justice.
every now and then when I'm up there on the higher ground, I hear the Lord say if God be for you it doesn't matter who's against you.
every now and then when I'm up there in the stratosphere, up there in the spirit, up there in the higher place I hear the Lord say
weeping may endure for a night, tea parties may endure for a night, Koch brother may endure for a night, oppression may endure for a night
but hang in there, make your way to higher ground, because joy still comes in the morning.
I hear the prophet Isaiah say: they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings as eagles. they shall run and not get weary, they shall walk and not faint.
and for those of you that haven't been to church lately, there's an Amen goes right there.
we're on our way (we're on our way)
we're on our way (we're on our way)
we're on our way (we're on our way)
to higher ground (to higher ground)
forward together (forward together)
forward together (forward together)
forward together (forward together)