From North Carolina to Your Home State
Blog Series: From North Carolina to Your Home State
On Feb. 8, 2014, between 1,000 – 1,500 UUs from across the country joined partners in Raleigh, NC, to witness in solidarity at the Mass Moral March, spearheaded by the North Carolina NAACP. Together, we learned about the many interconnected justice issues at stake in their state and how this has led to a Fusion Coalition focused on a 14 Point Agenda to bring North Carolina “Forward Together.” Throughout the coming year, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign will focus on voter suppression—an issue that impacts so many people and is thus at the core of the struggle in North Carolina. In this election year, UUs across the country will be learning more about what we can do ensure all people have voting rights, especially after the Supreme Court gutted key parts of the Voting Rights Act.
This blog post is the first in a series that will build upon our collective energy after our gathering in Raleigh, focusing especially on how we will bring this back to our home states. Several states in the South have similar initiatives, modeled after the movement in North Carolina, including South Carolina and Georgia. Below we hear from Rev. Marti Keller, an Affiliated Community Minister with the UU Women’s Federation, who shares her experiences with the Moral Mondays movement in her state of Georgia.
Leaping from Our Spheres
I first met Monica Simpson a year ago for lunch at a Panera café in Atlanta, over black bean soup and salads. I was excited to be with her as we planned for a Sunday morning sermon she would be delivering at my then congregation. Her sermon would be especially timely following the selection of Reproductive Justice as the UUA’s Congregational Study/Action issue over the next several years and the role her Atlanta-based organization, Sistersong, had played and will play in redefining and expanding our work in this arena. Monica is the executive director of this collective that was formed in 1997 to educate women of color and policymakers on reproductive and sexual health and rights, a catalyst for and partner in the UUA’s work in this arena.
Monica and I found each other again: in Washington, DC, during a national gathering of We Belong Together, a network of women’s groups working for fair and comprehensive immigration reform, shining the light on the plight of undocumented mothers separated from their children and other injustices under the existing system. We walked the long halls of the Senate and House office buildings together.
A few weeks ago we both showed up for the first Moral Monday in Georgia, modelled after weekly demonstrations in North Carolina last year (and the nationally publicized mass Moral March that happened in Raleigh on February 8). The initial Atlanta gathering—and the next one—focused on Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which if adopted in all states could provide coverage for an additional 4.5 million lower-income women. Georgia is one of the states whose governor has refused to participate.
Monica was not only present, she was front and center, one of the lead speakers at the rally, which attracted around 200 people who stood in a freezing hard rain. I caught up with her by phone to talk about the link between the Moral Monday movement and the reproductive justice work that the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation and the UUA share with Sistersong.
The connection is “a huge deal,” she said unhesitatingly. “The communities where this expansion is most important are communities of color.”
Federally subsidized healthcare not only impacts women’s ability to care for our own bodies, it also impacts a woman’s right to parent children in healthy and sustainable ways, Monica noted.
While access to healthcare has been highlighted in Georgia’s Moral Mondays, in North Carolina the current focus has been on voter ID laws, asking for repeal of measures passed there that have discouraged and disenfranchised people of color and young people, the primary constituents of and advocates for the services, rights, and conditions necessary for fully realizing reproductive justice.
The larger stage, the number of groups, and the energy of Moral Mondays will only strengthen and magnify this effort.
Rev. Marti Keller
Affiliated Community Minister