1:24 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Thousands Rally During Moral Wednesday Marches

Across North Carolina, thousands turned out for Moral Wednesday rallies.

13 congressional districts in North Carolina held Moral Wednesday rallies on August 28, the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. In the Triad, about 1,000 supporters turned out at Winston-Salem's event in Corpening Plaza. About 2,000 attended Greensboro's in a grassy area at the intersection of South Elm and Lee Streets.

The Greensboro Chapter of the NAACP and the Beloved Community Center organized this event. Rabbi Harry Sky was almost 40 years old when he participated in the 1963 March on Washington with about 250 million other Americans. At that time, he was very active in the Civil Rights battle in Portland, Oregon. Now he lives in Greensboro and is almost 90. Wednesday night's crowd enthusiastically welcomed him to the stage as he reminded them that achieving social justice for one group of people ensures it for everyone. "If someone tells you it can't be done, say it can be. Also, behind every failure are the seeds of success."

A mix of African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics and Asians filled the vacant lot, and they ranged in ages, professional backgrounds and social experiences. Greensboro singer, composer Laurelyn Dossett performed, My Beloved Enemy, a song expressing the frustration many feel over new laws passed by the Republican-led state government-- adversely affecting education, health care, voting rights, unemployment benefits and the environment. Philip Keller teaches 8th grade at Jamestown Middle School. He says he's very disappointed with the recent state budget cuts to public school education. "Many of my colleagues have 37 students in their class, making it harder for them to be effective and reach everyone," explains Keller. "Also, there's no incentive to earn a master's degree because the pay won't be any better. I really like teaching and I'm out here to lend my support to getting a better school system."

Others says they are fighting to ensure voting rights are not further eroded. Similar to how their predecessors marched from North Carolina A&T State University (NC A&T) to downtown Greensboro during the 1960 Civil Rights Movement, about 250 NC A&T students proudly marched into the lot carrying signs reading 'Going Forward, Not One Step Back'. The crowd responded like a parting sea while cheering them on. Canisha Cierra Turner is a senior studying Agriculture Business at North Carolina A&T State University. She's also the 2013-2014 Student Government Association President. According to Turner, students are speaking out to keep open two polling precincts on their campus. "We have one at the Student Union and one at the Dudley Building. They have not been threatened yet, but at our peer institutions of Winston-Salem State University and Elizabeth City State University, their precincts have been closed so we're trying to protect ours," explains Turner. "Not only do students use these voting locations, we get overflow from the community." Also, volunteers busily helped people register to vote at a large tent in the middle of the grounds. They say they're are mobilizing now for upcoming elections.

The crowd also thanked dozens of area residents who have been arrested during the recent Moral Monday demonstrations at the General Assembly building in Raleigh. Since May, state chapters of the NAACP have hosted rallies and almost 1,000 concerned citizens have volunteered to be arrested. Derrick Smith is a political science professor at NC A&T, and he was arrested May 13th for Civil Disobedience. He says his students inspired him take a stand. "I woke up one morning and realized I had no other choice but to get involved because the legislative changes are hurting thousands in our state." Many at the Greensboro rally say they look forward to more events like this one to keep people motivated and engaged with needed social changes in our communities and statewide.