‘Moral Mondays’ movement taking shape in Western Pennsylvania

‘Moral Mondays’ movement taking shape in Western Pennsylvania
August 06
00:00 2015

In above photo: Social protesters join ranks during a ‘Moral Mondays’ rally on the Beaver County Courthouse steps in Beaver. (Photo by Fred Mannerino)

By Timothy Cox

For The Chronicle

BEAVER, Pa. —  Taking a page from the civil rights playbook of well-known North Carolina minister Rev. Dr. William Barber II, members of a Beaver County and Lawrence County coalition comprised of pro-labor enthusiasts, the NAACP and peaceful social activists are participating in monthly protests known nationally as ‘Moral Mondays.’

The most recent rally occurred Monday, July 27, at the Beaver County Courthouse steps in Beaver, the county seat.

Several participants listened to a series of speakers who discussed growing concerns related to the escalating impact of conservative issues primarily endorsed by Republican electoral candidates nationwide.

Linwood Alford, a lifelong resident of Beaver Falls and an executive member of the Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), spoke at the rally.

Willie Sallis, president of the Beaver County NAACP, discussed ways to maintain voting rights and find methods to make it easier to vote in the United States.

Erin McClelland, a 12th District Democratic candidate for Congress, also talked about maintaining workers’ benefits.

McClelland has strong labor union roots and is a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama.

Alford said he specifically addressed the inequitable rates of incarceration facing blacks and other minorities, not only in Beaver and Lawrence counties, but also in Pittsburgh and nationally. New Castle is the county seat of Lawrence County.

“What the system is doing to us is unbelievable,” said Alford.

He noted that nationally, one in 35 Blacks are incarcerated and one in 88 Latinos, compared with just one in every 214 whites.

He continued, “Seventy-seven percent of people locked-up in America are Black and Latino. It’s obvious we’re being treated differently.”

Alford said he generated his statistics from research and speeches given by President Obama and the former President Clinton.

Alford said, the newly-organized ‘Moral Mondays’ in Beaver County are directly inspired by Barber, the president of the N.C. NAACP, which is based in Durham, a social activist who leads weekly protests at the Statehouse grounds in Raleigh, the state capitol of North Carolina.

The protests in the Tar Heel have launched a grassroots social justice movement not only in Western Pennsylvania, but in neighboring Southern states such as South Carolina and Georgia.

The movement was initiated in reaction to several conservative legislative acts by North Carolina lawmakers in 2013, according to published reports.

One such act was to pass a law that gutted voting rights for North Carolinians.

A trial in the lawsuit the N.C. NAACP and others brought against the law ended on July 31 in a federal court in Winston-Salem.

The peaceful protests are typified by North Carolina residents entering the state legislature building each Monday, and being peacefully arrested by authorities.

The protesters generally support such issues as immigrant rights, improving criminal justice inequities, regaining workers’ rights, LGBT issues and environmental gains.

Alford, 71, said his coalition was apprised of Moral Mondays after the Rev. Barber revealed the mission while attending an annual Beaver County NAACP banquet.

Pittsburgh NAACP members are also on-board with the movement, Alford said.

Alford is a longtime member of the Beaver County NAACP chapter, and is credited with organizing the annual Beaver County NAACP Human Rights Banquet, which includes participation from the Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council.

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