Moral Mondays with Reverend Dr. William J. Barber
This is event is free and open to the public.
Location: McCosh Hall 50
Date/Time: 11/15/13 at 6:00 pm - 11/15/13 at 7:30 pm
Rev. William J. Barber II
Activism wasn’t exactly a choice for William J. Barber, II. For the renowned minister and civil rights leader, being involved in justice issues was practically a birthright.
Born in Indianapolis in 1963, two days after his parents marched on Washington for jobs and freedom, Barber relocated to Eastern North Carolina at age five. His parents, young but seasoned activists, had been recruited there to help integrate the state’s public schools. As Barber transitioned from a northern city to segregated kindergarten in the rural South, his father served as the first African-American in the department of general science and physics at Washington County’s white high school, while his mother became its first black office manager.
A Grassroots Preacher
Today, as President of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the statewide Forward Together Movement, Barber is very much in the spotlight. In opposition to regressive policies pushed by the governor and state legislature – including draconian cuts to Medicaid, unemployment benefits, and public education funding – he’s mobilized a multiracial, multigenerational movement of thousands for regular protests at the statehouse. Hundreds, including Barber himself, have also engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience, with more lining up each week to be arrested and jailed to expose what politicians are trying to do in the dark.
An hour away from Raleigh, Barber lives in the quiet town of Goldsboro, where for 20 years he has pastored at Greenleaf Christian Church. Far from the news cameras of the state capital, he has been leading another economic justice movement that has transformed the region.
In 1995, Greenleaf’s moderate-sized congregation of roughly 400 members conducted a social demographic analysis of the two-mile circle surrounding the church. They found high levels of poverty, underemployment and people who didn’t own homes. The congregation decided to invest $1.5 million of their own and federal grant money into community development, purchasing the surrounding land and leveraging resources back into the community.
That investment has built more than 60 well-manicured homes for people of low to moderate income, a senior citizens’ home, and a 90-student preschool academy. They’ve also built a community center that houses an academic afterschool program, a computer lab for both youth and adult training, and an HIV/AIDs information and testing center. In the works is a Second Chance program facility for training formerly incarcerated men and women in the culinary arts, landscaping and tech jobs. Nothing like this had existed there before.
Barber – who in addition to holding a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University, earned an undergraduate degree in political science and public administration from North Carolina Central University, and his doctorate from Drew University in public policy and pastoral care – has brought that same perspective to other North Carolina fights. As the convener of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Coalition, a broad alliance of more than 140 progressive organizations, he’s also helped reframe marriage equality as a civil rights issue, mobilizing black churches to support a ballot initiative in 2012; aided in the passage of the Racial Justice Act of 2009, which allowed death row inmates to appeal their sentences on the grounds of racial bias in the court system; and successfully advocated for voting reforms such as same-day registration and early voting.
Those tremendous victories are now being rolled back by the current General Assembly, with the Racial Justice Act already repealed this year and voting rights on the chopping block. Barber believes that as long as the Forward Together Movement keeps focused, they will be successful in steering North Carolina back around.
“Every time you have a new electorate that transforms politics and policies, you are going to have a season of deep reaction,” Barber said of the legislature’s current direction. “You’ve got to understand that as a season, not as an end – because the demography of the South is shifting. Right now we’re in an era of fundamental change.”
Department: Center for African American Studies