Activists to Watch: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

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Rev. Dr. William Barber leads protestors into the North Carolina General Assembly to bear moral witness against policies passed by Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger and signed by Gov. Patrick McCrory. (Photo Credit: Phil Fonville)

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, catalyzed a new progressive movement through “Moral Monday” protests against the conservative takeover of state politics. The first protest, at the state Capitol building in Raleigh, in April attracted a modest crowd of supporters.

Seventeen people engaged in civil disobedience and were arrested. But the Moral Monday movement grew quickly, each week attracting larger and larger crowds — sometimes topping 10,000 protesters — and branching out to other cities and towns across North Carolina. Over an 18-week period, about 1,000 people were arrested, drawing attention to politicians who have slashed unemployment compensation for 170,000 people, increased taxes on the poor and middle class while cutting them for wealthy individuals and large corporations, turned down federal Medicaid funds for half a million residents, enacted harsh anti-abortion legislation, severely cut education funds and adopted the nation’s strictest voter suppression law.

Barber, 50, has served as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Goldsboro since 1993. Elected head of the state’s NAACP in 2005, he led a voter registration effort that added more than 442,000 new voters to the rolls. As the public face of the Moral Monday movement, Barber, a brilliant orator, has ignited a broad coalition that will have a lasting impact.

“We have a new demographic emerging that is changing the South,” explains Barber, who received his bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina Central University, a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University and a doctorate from Drew University with a concentration in public policy and pastoral care. “The one thing they don’t want to see is us crossing over racial lines and class lines and gender lines and labor lines. When this coalition comes together, you’re going to see a New South.”

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  • Richard Bradley Wilks

    although I am not a fan of secular religion I am a fan of change nicely done….!

  • Ruby S.

    We in North Carolina are deeply grateful for the leadership of Rev. Barber, who has been building a broad coalition here for many years, culminating in this summer’s protests. I feel fortunate to have been able to participate in Moral Mondays.

    Per Richard’s comment, I’m no Christian either. Moral Monday often included voices from other Abrahamic faiths, and attempted to be more inclusive even of those of us with different beliefs. As a Buddhist, I think that “moral” belongs to all of us that believe in ethics and community. A group of us started meditating at the weekly protests and call it Mindful Monday.

  • Buck
  • Sandy Friend

    Thank God; the people we need are showing up in the world today…change isn’t easy; but with the right people speaking their truth; we will evolve.

  • Anonymous

    America needs Rev. William Barber now more than ever. This man is awesome.

  • Norman Ella Mae Hooker

    Lou Holtz nails it!

    The Democrats are right,
    there are two Americas. The America that works, and the America
    that doesn’t. The America that contributes, and the America that
    doesn’t. It’s not the haves and the Havehad nots, it’s the dos and the don’ts.
    Some people do their duty as Americans, obey the law, support themselves,
    contribute to society, and others don’t. That’s the divide in America .

    It’s not about income inequality,
    it’s about civic irresponsibility. It’s about a political party
    that preaches hatred, greed and victimization in order to win elective office.
    It’s about a political party that loves power more than it loves its country.

    That’s not invective, that’s
    truth, and it’s about time someone said it.

    The politics of envy was on proud
    display a couple weeks ago when President Obama pledged the rest of his term to
    fighting “income inequality.” He noted that some people make more
    than other people, that some people have higher incomes than others, and
    he says that’s not just. That is the rationale of thievery.

    The other guy has it, you want
    it, Obama will take it for you. Vote Democrat. That is the philosophy
    that produced Detroit.

    It is the electoral philosophy
    that is destroying America. It conceals a fundamental deviation from
    American values and common sense because it ends up not benefiting the people
    who support it, but a betrayal.

    The Democrats have not empowered
    their followers, they have enslaved them in a culture of dependence and
    entitlement, of victim-hood and anger instead of ability and hope. The
    president’s premise – that you reduce income inequality by debasing the
    successful–seeks to deny the successful the consequences of their choices and
    spare the unsuccessful the consequences of their choices. Because, by and large, income variations in society
    are a result of different choices leading to different consequences.

    Those who choose wisely and
    responsibly have a far greater likelihood of success, while those who choose
    foolishly and irresponsibly have a far greater likelihood of failure.

    Success and failure usually
    manifest themselves in personal and family income. You choose to drop out
    of high school or to skip college – and you are apt to have a different
    outcome than someone who gets a diploma and pushes on with purposeful education.

    You have your children out of
    wedlock and life is apt to take one course; you have them within a marriage and
    life is apt to take another course. Most
    often in life our destination is determined by the course we take.

    My doctor, for example, makes far
    more than I do. There is significant income inequality between
    us. Our lives have had an inequality of outcome, but our lives also have
    had an in equality of effort. While my doctor went to college and
    then devoted his young adulthood to medical school and residency, I got a job
    in a restaurant. He made a choice, I made a choice, and our choices led us to
    different outcomes. His outcome pays a lot better than mine. Does that
    mean he cheated and Barack Obama needs to take away his wealth? No,
    it means we are both free men in a free society
    where free choices lead to different outcomes.

    It is not inequality Barack Obama
    intends to take away, it is freedom. The freedom to succeed, and the
    freedom to fail. There is no true option for success if there is no true
    option for failure. The pursuit of happiness means a whole lot less when you
    face the punitive hand of government if your pursuit brings you more happiness
    than the other guy. Even if the other guy sat on his arse and did
    nothing. Even if the other guy made a lifetime’s worth of asinine and short
    sighted decisions.

    Barack Obama and the Democrats
    preach equality of outcome as a right, while completely ignoring inequality of

    The simple Law of the Harvest –
    as ye sow, so shall ye reap – is sometimes applied as, “The harder you work,
    the more you get.”

    Obama would turn that upside
    down. Those who achieve are to be punished as enemies of society
    and those who fail are to be rewarded as wards of society. Entitlement will replace effort as the key to
    upward mobility in American society if Barack Obama gets his way. He seeks a
    lowest common denominator society in which the government besieges the
    successful and productive to foster equality through mediocrity. He and
    his party speak of two Americas, and their grip on power is based on using the
    votes of one to sap the productivity of the other. America is not divided by the differences in our
    outcomes, it is divided by the differences in our efforts.

    It is a false philosophy to say
    one man’s success comes about unavoidably as the result of another man’s

    What Obama offered was not a
    solution, but a separatism. He fomented division and strife, pitted
    one set of Americans against another for his own political benefit. That’s
    what socialists offer. Marxist class warfare wrapped up with a bow.
    Two Americas, coming closer each day to proving the truth to Lincoln’s maxim
    that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

    “Life is ten percent what
    happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”

    Lou Holtz

    Leo “Lou” Holtz (born
    January 6, 1937) is a retired American football coach, and active
    sportscaster, author, and motivational speaker.