Nothing is more fundamental in our democracy than our right to vote. We are witnesses today to attacks on that hard-won right—by Republicans across the nation—and nowhere is it more apparent than in North Carolina, home to the spreading Moral Monday Movement, which is fighting back against voter suppression.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, and architect of the Moral Monday's Forward Together Movement, spoke eloquently last Monday about the price we have paid to earn that right. His speech was given at a rally in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to launch Moral Freedom Summer 2014 and the Moral March to the Polls campaign.
He reminded us that our votes were paid for with blood.
The blood of field workers, the blood of the lynched and beaten, the blood of the martyrs of generations fighting for civil rights and that "the hands that once picked cotton now pick a president, a governor and the legislature."
He quoted scripture and Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McCay: "If we must die—oh, let us nobly die, so that our precious blood may not be shed in vain."
He said, "We are fighting for rights that came through the blood and they can’t be given up now."
Follow me below the fold for more on the movement.
In the Rev. Barber's speech about the power of the blood, he spoke of "the midwives of liberation...the women who have fought" and I thought about earlier years before I was born, when my grandmothers fought for suffrage.
Just like Freedom Summer of 1964 and the signing of the Voting Rights Act by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1965 were landmarks for civil rights, the summers of 1919 and 1920 were the moments marked in time for the ratification and passage of the 19th Amendment.
My right to vote is key for me to control my body. To never again see women die in a bloody back alley abortion, like I did in 1965 when we found our college roommate dead in a pool of blood. My right to vote will affect future appointments to the Supreme Court. A woman's monthly reproductive cycle is her right to regulate, and that too is being threatened by the current court majority.
Last Tuesday I wrote about the importance of "Keeping Our Eyes on the Movement", and last Sunday about "Pre-registering young people to vote".
Listen to one of those young people.
Madison Kimrey Alamance on Moral Freedom Summer:
Twelve-year-old Madison may not be old enough to vote, but she is old enough to make a difference. She is a regular participant in North Carolina’s Moral Monday protests, described by The Nation as "An inspiring grassroots movement [that] is fighting back against the GOP’s outrageous budget cuts and attacks on democracy."
She is the founder of a youth organization called North Carolina Youth Rock that advocates the reintroduction of voter pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds.
Members of this General Assembly have attacked our health care, our environment, our education, our jobs, our economic security, and our voting rights. They don’t want young voters turning out in November. They know that young voters, regardless of party affiliation, don’t agree with their values, their motives, or their actions. Their answer in addressing the issues of young voters has been to diss us and dismiss our concerns. We have had enough. We will not stand silent and we will not stand still.
We’re tired of the party games. We want solutions. We’re tired of our future being sold to the highest bidder. We want public servants who work in our best interest, not the best interest of ALEC and Art Pope. We want policies that work in our best interest, not only in the best interest of corporations and the wealthiest North Carolinians. We’re tired of leaders who refuse to meet with us and who call us names. We want leadership who considers the youth of this state one of our greatest resources and treats us with the respect we deserve.
Our Governor and some of our elected representatives have shown that they aren’t taking us seriously. Well, here is my message to them.
We are not props;
We are not burdens;
We are not confused;
The light of truth is behind us;
The blood of those who came before us in this fight for justice is behind us;
We are fed up;
We are fired up;
We are ready to go;
We will stand for this no more;
We’re ready to shake things up;
We’re ready to get out there and work;
The revolution is here;
The future is now;
At the other end of the age spectrum is Rosanell Eaton
, lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new voting law, who testified in voter suppression hearings
The most personal and emotionally compelling testimony came from Ms. Rosanell Eaton. “I’m 93 years old.” she declared upon taking the stand. Born in Louisburg, North Carolina located in Franklin County, Ms. Eaton is a 65 year member in good standing of the NCNAACP and has been volunteering as a poll observer, worker, and judge since the 1960’s.
In a strong voice that only occasionally wavered, Ms. Eaton told an attentive and obviously moved Judge Thomas D. Schroeder that at the age of 19 (1939) she had her mother go with her the two hours it took to walk to the Franklin County courthouse to register to vote. Once she was there she testified that at first she was greeted with amusement and skepticism… then the man who would register her to vote tried to completely strip her of her dignity and make her perform parlor tricks and jump through hoops in an obvious effort to get her to decide that exercising her voting rights as a citizen was too onerous for an African American in the Jim Crow South. He made Ms. Eaton stand facing a wall with her hands down by her sides as if she were standing at attention. Then, not taking her eyes off of the wall, she was forced to recite the preamble to the United States Constitution. The pain was still clear, as is her pride. Not only did she pass that test, she has voted ever since.
Rosanell Eaton’s testimony may have been the most important of the day, putting into sharp relief exactly how petty and juvenile people will get in their efforts to suppress the vote of a human being who might not cast their ballot for the status quo.
The defense chose not to cross examine Ms. Eaton.
Mrs. Eaton and young Ms. Kimrey are only two examples of people affected by voter suppression who are fighting back. They represent hundreds of thousands more activists of all colors and ages and backgrounds who have joined the struggle.
I'm headed to Detroit in three days to participate in Netroots Nation 2014, where the Rev. Barber will be the keynote speaker at Thursday night’s opening plenary session.
I'm hoping that he will inspire more bloggers to pay closer attention to the growing movement. This in turn will hopefully pressure the Traditional MediaTM to take note. And hat tips go to MSNBC's Chris Hayes who recently explored the Moral Mondays fusion movement and discussed voting rights suppression in North Carolina with the Rev. Barber, and to Melissa Harris-Perry who has been doing in-depth coverage since the movement's inception.
My blood is boiling over the outrages being perpetrated against us. But anger is not enough to stem the reactionary undertow. We must not only get angry, we must organize, continue to protest and register people to vote.
Fired up, and ready to GOTV!