(pictured above: Local Moral Monday attendees (front row, from left): Oriana McConnell, Rev. C. Anthony Jones, Marina Skinner, Peggy Weir, Cornelia Barr (back row, from left): Rev. Willard Bass, Michael Hauser, Benjamin Brunson, Hobart Jones and Matthew Barr.)
Locals travel to Raleigh for latest protest
Winston-Salem residents Matthew and Cornelia Barr live comfortably.
The two are educated, have health insurance and are gainfully employed, but that hasn’t stopped them from making their voices heard at the North Carolina Legislature this year, joining thousands of other participants in the Moral Mondays movement.
“We just saw so many changes that seemed to be detrimental to the good of North Carolina,” noted Cornelia Barr, who cited public education funding cuts, the rollback of environmental protections and legislators’ refusal to expand Medicaid and unemployment benefits programs among her chief concerns. “…It just seemed like such an onslaught on all the good, common sense that North Carolina has always seemed to represent.”
The Barrs have traveled to Raleigh several times this year to participate in Moral Mondays protests at the General Assembly. They are among the protestors who took their commitment to the cause one step further, allowing themselves to be arrested for civil disobedience in July, said Matthew Barr, an assistant professor at UNC Greensboro.
The Barrs were back in action on Monday, when they joined a handful of local residents who set their holiday planning and preparation aside to travel to Raleigh, where residents from across the state gathered on the south side of the State Capitol Grounds (where Gov. Pat McCrory’s office is located) for the latest Moral Mondays protest. The protest was led by the Forward Together Moral Movement – a consortium of agencies and individuals who have banded together through the Historic Thousands on Jones Street and Moral Mondays demonstrations to create a united voice against the passage of what many are calling “regressive legislation” by members the General Assembly. The Dec. 23 event was staged to call attention to the fallout of the state’s decision to reject Medicaid and federal unemployment benefits, becoming the only state in the union to do so and denying throngs of NC citizens valuable benefits in the process.
The Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity organized the local contingent, along with Democracy NC. Rev. Willard Bass, president of the Ministers Conference, attended all but two of the Moral Monday protests, which were held weekly over the summer, and kept fellow Conference members and the community abreast of the movement’s progress. Bass, the assistant pastor of Outreach at Green Street Church, said he felt it was important that Winston-Salem be represented at the protest Monday.
“My motivation is addressing the concerns that we have that the legislature, the direction that they’re taking, is one that is against the poor, against the ones who are needy,” he commented. “…We continue to educate our community through the Conference, so this (protest) was really one I felt was a continuation of the work that we have been doing, and that we continue to do.”
Rev. C. Anthony Jones, pastor of United Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, said he was looking forward to participating in Moral Mondays for the first time.
“I’m a political science major, number one, so I have an affinity for politics, not to mention that I consider myself a strong advocate for the poor and the oppressed, so this is up my alley,” said the South Carolina State University alumnus. “If anything, I should have been involved much sooner.”
Although the Advent season is always a busy and challenging time for clergy members, Jones said being a part of the movement was well worth the sacrifice.
“I’m excited,” he declared. “If anything, I just want to be more informed, so that way I can be more inspired to act.”
Illness, travel plans and other setbacks contributed to a lower turnout than the local contingent had hoped for, but The Ministers Conference’s Marina Skinner said organizers were still glad for the support that they received from area residents.
“All of us – not just a few people, not just one or two, all of us – have family, friends and coworkers who are negatively affected, or will be, by these new, oppressive legislations put forth from Raleigh,” she declared. “…Numbers are good, but I think it’s just the continued commitment that sends a message that, no matter how few we are, we are going to stand up and speak out.”
The Ministers Conference will continue the conversation at its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance on Jan. 20. For more information, contact Bass at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-722-8379.