Local and state officials charged an amped-up, sign-waving crowd to continue registering their discontent with the current North Carolina leadership, regarding the state’s failure to accept Medicaid expansion money, the rejection of federal unemployment insurance funds, cuts to teachers and educators, and legislation NAACP leaders say suppresses voting rights.
Barrett Brown, education chair for the Alamance County branch of the NAACP, asked the crowd which members were veterans. Several raised their hands. He asked who were teachers. Half of the crowd stood. He asked who’d participated in Moral Monday events across the state. The crowd erupted.
“People of Alamance County are paying attention,” Brown said.
Madison Kimrey, Burlington resident and founder of NC Youth Rocks, said Gov. Pat McCrory’s voting rights laws sought to reduce voting participation in the younger generation and dismissed the youth’s voices.
Ellie Kinnaird, retired state senator from Orange County and founder of the NC Voter ID Project, asked everyone in attendance to make sure their neighbors were registered to vote, and knew which precinct in which to vote come November.
Carolyn Smith, state director of Working America, said 1,200 people in Alamance County are unemployed and 2,600 will lose their emergency unemployment benefits by the end of the year due to the state’s rejection of federal unemployment insurance funds.
Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said, “We are witnessing a mass exodus of quality educators,” due to cuts to education and the phasing out of tenure.
“Public school educators aren’t failing North Carolina’s children,” Ellis said. “Politicians are.”
Matthew Antonio Bosch, director of Elon University’s Gender & LGBTQIA Center, encouraged those at the rally to seek out people who are different from themselves and become their ally, because “allies matter.”
He said women’s rights issues aren’t handled by women alone, and a law about who is and who isn’t allowed to get married affects everyone in a community. Bosch said despite differences in gender, sexuality, nationality and background, people continue to cohabit the same places and live together.
“You don’t get growth because of sameness,” but because of diversity, he said. “Think of someone who’s different from you today, and have their back.”
The Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood, the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Coalition (HKonJ) coalition coordinator for the state’s NAACP, led the crowd in chants demanding justice, health care and women’s rights.
He read a Bible passage from Jeremiah 17:7-8, stating, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.”
To the Moral Monday protestors, Gatewood said, “We will stand like a tree for health care. We will stand like a tree for education. We will stand like a tree against voter oppression. We will stand like a tree for justice.
“We will not walk blindly by what we see in the Legislature,” he said.