North Carolina Moral Mondays: Standing in Solidarity and Love
As a Unitarian Universalist, I consider social justice and community activism important parts of my faith tradition. This colors the lens through which I look at the world, the actions I take, and the circles I move in. As a person paying attention, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the intersecting systems of oppression that operate around and through me each day.
That’s partly why I relate so strongly to a broad-ranging movement like the Moral Mondays campaign in North Carolina, which has primarily involved a series of issue-themed demonstrations at the state house in Raleigh for the last 12 weeks in a row. The Moral Mondays (and occasional Witness Wednesdays) have been led by the North Carolina chapter of the NAACPand supported by a myriad of other civic groups, faith communities, and otherwise engaged citizens. My friend Noelle Lane, who is a student and Bonner scholar at Guilford College in Greensboro, has attended four demonstrations and plans to participate in civil disobedience at the rally today. She reflected on the wide range of issues addressed by the movement, saying, “I love the fact that [the movement] encompasses every issue and is not afraid to tackle different topics… These are people who refuse to say, ‘That’s not my problem,’ and are standing in solidarity to hold elected officials accountable.”
The demonstrations began this past April in response to extreme policies being pursued by the North Carolina state legislature, which is fully controlled by Republicans after last year’s elections. Just a few of these include placing burdensome regulations on voting and eliminating early voting, various economic policies that hurt poor and working class people, and repealing of the state’s Racial Justice Act. The list of policies that will work to undermine living conditions for the general public is staggering, and for a good explanation I recommend this article from the New York Times.
With a body of elected officials that seems so intent on pursuing extremist policies, one can see how easy it is to get overwhelmed. Anna Fesmire, Vice President of the NC Chapter of the League of Women Voters, cited this frustration as one of the reasons people continue to come out. She emphasized that “Things are being done in a very undemocratic fashion… [Policies] are being rammed through with very little notice or only notice to one side in particular… It’s created a tremendous frustration and people feel that demonstrating is the only way to get our voices across.”
At the heart of the Moral Monday movement is the belief that every person is endowed inherent worth and dignity, which is well known to Unitarian Universalists as the First Principle of our faith. This has brought together folks from many different issue areas to stand in solidarity and love, even committing civil disobedience by demonstrating inside of the capitol building. Community activist Tiffany Holland noted, “I think there are a myriad of reasons why people are choosing to get arrested because there are a myriad of ways in which this legislative body has chosen to beat people down.”
Despite the growing numbers of demonstrators and arrestees, policymakers have responded with disregard and even derision towards the demonstrations. Some even labeled them as “Moron Mondays.” Tiffany suggests that this attitude is pervasive in the North Carolina General Assembly and with Governor Pat McCrory, observing, “Their actions and their speech indicate a complete disregard for the people they are supposedly representing.” People will continue to protest, she predicts, because “the general assembly continues to put out more and more ridiculous and oppressive bills.”
The Moral Mondays movement is one that resonates strongly with the mission of Standing on the Side of Love, which is “To harness Love’s power to end bigotry and oppression against people because of their identity.” I urge all people of conscience to recognize the far-reaching nature of this movement, and the critical moment in history during which we exist. Start a Moral Monday tradition in your area. It is our moral and civic duty to stand our ground on the side of love and press back against hateful and bigoted ideologies that cause more suffering in the world.
North Carolina is not an isolated case – regressive and extreme political decisions are being made all over the country. It is truly the time for us to join together in what Dorothy Day called “A revolution of the heart, one that has to start with each one of us.” Let us refuse to allow oppression and bigotry to happen in our names by those who would represent us in positions of power.
This post was written by Tim Leisman. Tim is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, a recent graduate of Guilford College, and currently resides in Greensboro, North Carolina. Looking for more information on the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina? Check out these resources:
- LA Times article profiling Rev. Deborah Cayer of the Eno River UU Fellowship in Durham, NC
- Rev. John L. Saxon, lead minister of the UU Fellowship of Raleigh, speaks at an NAACP press conference
- “A New Day in North Carolina” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
- “Why I’m Being Arrested” by UU Fellowship of Raleigh member Carol Teal