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RALEIGH - The North Carolina NAACP State Conference will hold a press conference on Monday, May 15 at 10:00 a.m. at the Davie Street Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Davie Street, to announce that the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II will transition out of the presidency of the North Carolina Conference of NAACP branches in June. Rev. Dr. Barber will entrust leadership of the NAACP in his home state to others in order to help organize a new Poor People’s Campaign in Washington D.C. and twenty-five states across the nation. He will continue to serve as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
In 2016, Rev. Dr. Barber co-led “The Revival: Time for a Revolution of Moral Values” with Repairers of the Breach, a national organization that trains faith and moral leaders in moral activism, theology, and public policy. His decision responds to a call by moral leaders, activists, and people across the country battered by immoral public policies to help build this movement with the lessons learned from the work in North Carolina. The state’s Forward Together Moral Movement, better known as “Moral Monday,” has become a large, diverse and vibrant “fusion movement” grounded in an ecumenical moral critique of both racism and poverty and founded upon our most deeply held constitutional and moral values.
“This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic poverty and racism, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable,” said Rev. Dr. Barber. “While I am stepping down as president, I will continue working to advance the moral movement here at home as well as support the leadership in our conference to move North Carolina forward together,” he said.
Rev. Dr. Barber will remain on the national board of directors of the NAACP and continue on as a member of the North Carolina NAACP State Conference. Leon Russell, NAACP Board of Directors Chair, and Derrick Johnson, NAACP Board of Directors Vice Chair and president of the Mississippi NAACP State Conference spoke about the transition.
“Rev. Dr. Barber will continue to be a strong voice on the national board and his influence and voice will be felt in our meetings,” said Russell. “What we will miss is his leadership at the state conference level. However, he’s put together a brilliant team that will continue the work that still needs to be done. We understand and believe in his work and calling to the moral movement and to work for poor people. This is a call he must answer. He can provide leadership in this and other areas where consciousness needs to be raised. I’m very supportive of his response to this calling and look forward to continuing our work together at the NAACP,” he said.
“We started as state conference presidents about the same time. I’ve enjoyed working with Rev. Dr. Barber as a counterpart in the South, and I’ve learned a lot about movement building from his work,” said Johnson. “There is so much at stake in this democracy and across the nation. I am excited about this transition because of the work that he’s done in North Carolina and the work that needs to be done across the country. I look forward to continued work with Rev. Dr. Barber as a member of the national board of directors of the NAACP,” he said.
Through his more than a decade of leadership beginning in 2006, Rev. Dr. Barber has embodied the spirit of fusion politics by working with a powerful coalition of moral activists to build the Forward Together Moral Movement. “Moral Mondays,” which started with a few dozen people gathered at the state Capitol to confront political extremism, have now grown to tens of thousands of citizens working for justice; more than 80,000 people attended the Moral March on Raleigh earlier this year. In 2016, this state-focused fusion coalition won powerful victories over extremism in the state including the defeat of Governor Pat McCrory; a shift in the ideology of the North Carolina Supreme Court; and a federal court victory that struck down a voter ID law designed with the sole intent to suppress black and poor voters.
The power of North Carolina’s fusion coalition has inspired activists from Tennessee to Kansas to challenge political extremism and protect the most vulnerable among us. Rev. Dr. Barber will continue in his capacity as president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, which will serve as the training and mobilizing arm of the New Poor People’s Campaign.
NC NAACP leaders, clergy, national leaders, and other moral activist reflected on Rev. Barber’s leadership and the important work that still needs to be done:
"Rev. Dr. Barber has breathed new life into the momentum for civil and social rights in North Carolina,” said Reuben Blackwell, a leader of the Rocky Mount Branch of the North Carolina NAACP. “His brilliance in policy development and coalition building has not been seen in America since Dr. King moved our nation and global society forward in the '60s. We recognize that now is the time for Rev. Dr. Barber to leverage his leadership, networks and policy to a national stage. Our very lives and democracy depend upon him answering the call to expand. His next step is not a loss for North Carolina, but an opportunity for every North Carolinian and American to bring liberty and justice for all," he said.
“Rev. Dr. Barber has been considered a prophetic voice across this nation. It appears that he is now a force that the Biblical tradition calls an Apostolic voice, when an individual is sent on a particular mission,” said the Rev. Dr. James Forbes Jr., pastor emeritus of the historic Riverside Church in New York City. "A concern of high heaven is the issue of poverty, which is being brought once again to the center of attention of this nation. This is because God has a preference for the poor and we have tended to completely marginalize or ignore the poor. Rev. Barber therefore is on this Apostolic mission that requires full attention to an issue that is at the heart of concern of God and our deepest moral values,” he said.
“The New Poor People’s Campaign is a most fitting next destination for Rev. Barber,” said Derrick Smith, political action chair of the NC NAACP.“We in the NC NAACP are looking forward to working with Rev. Barber in this new role. The nation is in desperate need of moral clarity. The question that we all face centers squarely on whether public policy is a tool for justice, peace and humanity. The moral message articulated by Rev. Barber that resounds so clearly in North Carolina’s justice movement, now belongs to the nation. We are saddened with Rev. Barber’s departure, but also excited to move the message of hope toward the greater society,” he said.
“As one who understands the general call of God on one's life, I am excited with how God is leading Rev. Dr. Barber,” said the Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Senior Pastor of St. Phillip African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Greensboro, NC and a Vice President of the NC NAACP. “I know that Rev. Barber’s spirit is especially influenced by the formation of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly, the Forward Together Moral Movement and even Repairers of the Breach. His inextricable link to the movement is opening paths for him beyond what many are able to see. He truly lives, moves and has his being in God and must move forward together with God,” he said.
“In times such as these, every justice seeking individual and organization in our country has a role to play in raising the moral voice and consciousness of our nation. There are those, however, like Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who are set apart to lead our nation in reviving its soul--in calling us as a people to rise above the injustices of a corrupt empire to a moral high ground,” said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Petty, Pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. “In a movement of many, he has been called out as our leader. His voice represents a moral imperative that our nation must protect--an imperative that speaks to the values of individual freedom along with caring for the common good; and a renewed commitment to being a true democracy where the welfare of all citizens is protected. As movement people we offer our blessings upon him and stand with him in the work he has been anointed to do. We pledge our prayers for him and we pledge our bodies to stand with him as we move forward, together,” she said.
“A child living in poverty does not have an ‘R’, ‘D’ or ‘I’ after their name. They have an ‘H’ for Hunger” said Linda Willey, a community leader in Nags Head, NC who was arrested during her participation in a Moral Monday’s protest. “Twenty-one percent of children and their families living in this country go day to day unsure of where their next meal will come from. I stand in peace and love and ask God's blessing on Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II as he shines a light on the injustice of poverty among us. May his purpose be fulfilled.”
“Rev. Dr. Barber's national moral leadership in these difficult days is more important than ever,” said the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-director of the Kairos Center for Rights, Religions, and Social Justice. “He is answering a call to carry on the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr. by building a new Poor People's Campaign to address rampant militarism, racism and poverty in our day and to build a movement of millions,” she said.
Rev. Barber will focus attention on The New Poor People’s Campaign co-led by the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary, where Rev. Barber is a distinguished professor of public theology. Throughout 2017 and early 2018 he will lead trainings and organize alongside moral leaders, including poor black, brown and white communities. The forthcoming report, “The Souls of Poor Folk,” co-developed by the Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Rev. Dr. Barber, and noted economists, historians and public policy experts, will explore why issues of poverty have changed or remained the same since the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68. In early 2018, moral activists will lead 40 days of simultaneous direct action and civil disobedience in state capitols, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Congress.
“Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King called for a radical ‘revolution of values’ inviting a divided nation to stand against the evils of militarism, racism, and economic injustice. In the spirit of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1967/68, we are calling for a national moral revival and for fusion coalitions in every state to come together and advance a moral agenda,” said the Rev. Dr. Barber. “There is a need for moral analysis, articulation of a moral agenda, and moral activism that fuses the critique of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and national morality in a way that enables organizing among black, brown, and white people, especially in regions where great efforts have been made to keep them from forming alliances and standing together to change the political and social calculus ,” he said.