William J. Barber II

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William J. Barber II


William J. Barber II is a North Carolina activist.

Background

Barber's activism is rooted in his family's history. In the 1960s, his parents moved back to eastern North Carolina from Indianapolis to help desegregate the local schools. His father, also a preacher, taught science at a formerly all-white high school. His mother became the school's first black office manager. Students called her "nigger" before they finally learned to call her "Mother Barber."

In 1993, a flare-up of his medical condition left him hospitalized, and he spent the next dozen years relying on a walker to get around. Exercise, faith, and "a little miracle and medicine" fueled his recovery—along with a good health plan. "I never want to have health insurance and see other members of the human family denied," he says. "It's immoral." He shakes his head at lawmakers who receive generous benefits only to try to deny their constituents access to Obamacare or expanded Medicaid. "The logic doesn't compute."

"This is no mere hyperventilation or partisan pouting. This is a fight for the future and soul of our state." Barber says his emphasis on morality is inspired by his predecessors in the civil rights movement. "They first had to win the moral high ground, and they had to capture the attention and consciousness of the nation," he explains. "When those two things came together, it gave space for people like Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was a segregationist, to step out of his normal pattern of politics into a new way." Barber says that Moral Mondays' broad appeal is reflected in state Republicans' sagging popularity: A February poll found that just 36 percent of North Carolina voters approved of Gov. Pat McCrory's job performance; 28 percent approved of the General Assembly's.

With North Carolina Democrats still in disarray following their drubbing in 2012, some progressives are looking to Barber to lead them out of the wilderness. "It's our job to take this energy and turn it into reality at the polls," says Democratic Party chairman Randy Voller.

But to Barber, the movement's success is not tied to the ballot box. Rather, it's in moments like the cold Saturday morning in February when tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital. Black, white, gay, and straight, they came from churches and synagogues wearing rainbow flags for marriage equality, pink caps for Planned Parenthood, and stickers reading "North Carolina: First in Teacher Flight." When it was Barber's turn to speak, the crowd fell silent.

"Make no mistake—this is no mere hyperventilation or partisan pouting," he intoned, his voice rising and breaking. "This is a fight for the future and soul of our state. It doesn't matter what the critics call us…They can deride us, they can try to deflect from the issue. And we understand that, because they can't debate us on the issue. They can't make their case on moral and constitutional grounds."[1]

Background

Barber, 50, has served as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in Goldsboro since 1993. Elected head of the state’s NAACP in 2005, he led a voter registration effort that added more than 442,000 new voters to the rolls. As the public face of the Moral Monday movement, Barber, a brilliant orator, has ignited a broad coalition that will have a lasting impact.

“We have a new demographic emerging that is changing the South,” explains Barber, who received his bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina Central University, a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University and a doctorate from Drew University with a concentration in public policy and pastoral care. “The one thing they don’t want to see is us crossing over racial lines and class lines and gender lines and labor lines. When this coalition comes together, you’re going to see a New South.”[2]

Kentucky Alliance speech

Barbarino.JPG

Rev. Dr. William Barber II’s keynote speech at the 10th annual Unity Dinner at Louisville Gardens Sept. 29 2007, bore the title, “Mobilizing Action to Challenge the Current Wave of Racism & Political Repression.”

Barber is "a prominent mobilizer/organizer of mass action, especially in his adopted home state of North Carolina".

The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression organized the dinner, which was catered by Expressions of You, an African-American caterer, and included various musical selections by area artists.

Based in Durham, Barber is a renowned scholar, speaker, and activist who leads the North Carolina state NAACP and participated in the National Reconciliation Task Force.

He is one of the leaders of a 70-group Peoples Agenda coalition that operates and advocates statewide, and which in February 2007, coordinated what members called “H K on J:” Historic Thousands on Jones Street (Jones Street is the location of the state capitol in Raleigh), in which the marching “K” (thousands) — numbering at least 2,000 — presented a 14-point Peoples Agenda to their state government.[3]

Working with McSurely

From his first days as a lawyer, Al McSurely worked closely with the Chapel Hill branch of the NAACP, which he helped found in 1986, often bringing discrimination cases against UNC-Chapel Hill and the town of Chapel Hill. He has long been a white man among blacks, and that's how he likes it: He often uses the word "we" when talking about African Americans.

"Since I joined the movement, I've always felt much more comfortable in a black setting than in a white setting," he says. "I feel very uncomfortable when I'm in a room with all white people."

McSurely took his talents from Chapel Hill to the state level when William J. Barber II was elected president of the N.C. NAACP in 2005. "What Al brings to the table is a historical perspective with an almost youthful idealism," Barber says. "He has not lost his idealism and yet he has the historical perspective of having lived through the '60s, '70s and '80s. That means he is able to give very wise counsel."[4]

The Brittany Willis murder case

Brittany Willis was a 17-year-old high-school soccer player who, according to investigators, was a victim of robbery and had been raped and shot to death on June 28, 2004. Her body was found in a field near the Brentwood Shopping Center in Wilson, North Carolina.

James Johnson, 18 at the time, and Kenneth Meeks were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and other charges in the case. Meeks later pleaded guilty to the crime.

Johnson, who has maintained his innocence in the crime, spent three years in jail under a $1 million bond awaiting trial. He was released from jail under a reduced bond in September amid a high-profile campaign by the North Carolina conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to have the case dismissed.

The NAACP has claimed racial discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional rights violations against Johnson. It has said that Johnson should be seen as a hero who helped solve the case.

Race is not an issue, the family said, adding "nothing could be further from the truth."

The Willises said North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William J. Barber II and U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. — who on the NAACP's behalf, requested a federal investigation into whether Johnson's constitutional rights were violated —"have injected that belief" into the case to sway public opinion.

"The NAACP's actions and the news media's bias(ed) coverage of everything they have done have resulted in this case being forced to be disposed of as quickly as possible by our elected officials," the Willis family said.

The North Carolina NAACP's attorney, Al McSurely, said he hopes the Willis family can look at the evidence and see the original charges against Johnson were a "miscarriage of justice."

"The family has suffered a tremendous loss," he said. "Everyone was led to believe by the Wilson County authorities for three years that James Johnson was involved, and I can understand their disappointment."

Butterfield's communications director, Ken Willis, denied any political influence from the congressman.

"Mr Butterfield was contacted by the NAACP to help resolve the murder charge against James Johnson," he said. "Three years is a long time to be in jail for a crime that he didn’t commit."[5]

SNCC reunion

The SNCC 50TH Anniversary Conference was convened April 15-18, 2010 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina — where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was born on Easter weekend in 1960 — celebrating SNCC’s legacy and of course the historic sit-ins. About 300 people had pre-registered.

The opening plenary at 8:30am Thursday, April 15 was a packed auditorium floor and balcony as people scrambled to find seats. Greetings from the Mayor of Raleigh, Charles Meeker, and then the thoughtful analysis by Julian Bond of the significance of the early SNCC years and the fiery speech by William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP Conference of Branches, set a high bar.[6]

Arrested

Timothy Tyson was arrested on June 15, 2010 on second-degree trespassing charges for disrupting a Wake County school board meeting on March 23, 2010.[7] Tyson and three other individuals refused to give up the podium and proceeded to occupy the seats of school board members. The four were banned from school property after the arrest.[8] The three other individuals arrested along with Tyson were: Rev. William J. Barber II, Nancy Ellen Petty and Mary Dobbin Williams. They were opposing the school board's decision to assign students to schools based on where they live, placing students at schools closer to home. This moved away from a prior policy of busing students to balance socio-economic diversity. Tyson and the other protestors believe the new policy will lead to re-segregation.[9]

"Wilmington Ten" pardon

In May 2012, By unanimous vote, the national NAACP Board passed a resolution during its Florida retreat last weekend supporting the petition of pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten.

Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the NCNAACP and a national NAACP Board member, and veteran civil rights attorney Al McSurely, crafted the resolution language. Barber, who is also chair of the national NAACP’s Political Action Committee, then asked NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn Brock to have the meeting agenda amended to allow for the proposed resolution to be heard, which it was without objection.

Guilford County, NC Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, another member of the national NAACP Board and Executive Committee member, introduced the motion, and after strong lobbying by both Ms. Coleman and Rev. Barber, it passed unanimously.

“What this means is not only do we have a public endorsement of the [national] NAACP,” says Rev. Barber, “but passage of a board resolution makes this an NAACP policy throughout the entire association, and the full weight and structure [of the NAACP] is available to support and promote the call for a pardon [of innocence],”

“This is why Ms. Coleman and I felt it necessary to insist and ensure that this resolution passed.”

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, leader of the Wilmington Ten, and past president of the national NAACP, upon hearing the news of the resolution, thankedd Rev. Barber, adding, “May God continue to bless the NAACP.”[10]

Celebrating 20 Years as Pastor and 30 Years in Activism

Five Days of Celebration for 20 years as Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church and 30 years in Activism, started July 27, 2013, for Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, Pastor Greenleaf Christian Church Disciples Of Christ, Chairperson, Rebuilding Broken Places CDC, President, NC NAACP Conference Of Branches NAACP National Board Member & Legislative Political Action Committee Chair Convener Of the Historic Thousands On Jones Street, People’s Assembly Coalition, Co-Convener, STOP the Funeral Initiative

You are Invited to Join in this Celebration

Keynote message Hilary 0. Shelton, Director to the NAACP's Washington Bureau, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy

With remarks by G.K. Butterfield U.S. Congressional Representative North Carolina 1st Congressional District.[11]

Micah and Repairers of the Breach

Micah and Repairers of the Breach:Spirituality and Social Justice Conference, was convened July 26, 2013, at Rebuilding Broken Places CDC 2105 North William Street, Goldsboro, North Carolina.[12]

Leaders in the social justice movement explore key justice issues & the responsibility of the church[13]

Speakers

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, The Holy Spirit, Faith and Social Justice.

Panelists

"Moral Mondays"

It began a few days before Easter 2013, recalled Barber, pastor at the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). "On Maundy Thursday, they chose to crucify voting rights," he said.

"They" are North Carolina Republicans, who in November 2012 took control of the state Legislature and the governor's mansion for the first time in more than a century. Among their top priorities—along with blocking Medicaid expansion and cutting unemployment benefits and higher-education spending—was pushing through a raft of changes to election laws, including reducing the number of early voting days, ending same-day voter registration, and requiring ID at the polls. "That's when a group of us said, 'Wait a minute, this has just gone too far,'" Barber said.

Barber "believed we needed to kind of burst this bubble of 'There's nothing we can do for two years until the next election.'" On the last Monday of April 2013, Barber led a modest group of clergy and activists into the state legislative building in Raleigh. They sang "We Shall Overcome," quoted the Bible, and blocked the doors to the Senate chambers. Barber leaned on his cane as capitol police led him away in handcuffs.

The following Monday, more than 100 protesters showed up at the capitol. Over the next few months, the weekly crowds at the "Moral Mondays" protests grew to include hundreds, and then thousands, not just in Raleigh but also in towns around the state. The largest gathering, in February, drew tens of thousands of people. More than 900 protesters have been arrested for civil disobedience over the past year. Copycat movements have started in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama in response to GOP legislation regarding Medicaid and gun control.

With Moral Mondays, Barber has channeled the pent-up frustration of North Carolinians who were shocked by how quickly their state had been transformed into a laboratory for conservative policies. "He believed we needed to kind of burst this bubble of 'There's nothing we can do for two years until the next election,'" explains Al McSurely, a longtime NAACP organizer. But what may be most notable about Barber's new brand of civil rights activism is how he's taken a partisan fight and presented it as an issue that transcends party or race—creating a more sustained pushback against Republican overreach than anywhere else in the country.[15]

Highlander connection

The Rev. William Barber, the head of the state NAACP that organizes the “Moral Monday” events, was not at the demonstration of June 10, 2013. Barber was at Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee with faith, labor and legal organizers strategizing on how to resist what they described as the “extreme agenda” being pushed by Republicans.[16]

The Nation Forum

Circa June 2014, The Nation invited leading activists from across the progressive movement to talk about how we can build power to effect real change, not simply fend off reactionary assaults.

Participants in PROGRESSIVE STRATEGIES IN A POPULIST MOMENT included;[17]

USW convention

Rev. Dr. William Barber II "delivers a down right, electrifying, knockout and empowering" speech to the delegates of the 2014 United Steelworkers Constitutional Convention - invited by Leo Gerard Said Roz Pelles was good friend of the Moral Monday movent.[18]

Pelles working on Moral Mondays

Roz Pelles and Don Pelles (he of the DC Labor Chorus, she recently retired from being the Director of the Office of Human Rights for the AFL-CIO) have been working with Moral Mondays for many months, and Reverend Barber is a powerful inspiring organizer and speaker. [19]

Lennon Lacey case

Al McSurely, Rev. William J. Barber II

The black teenager was found in a North Carolina trailer park, hanging from a swing set by a dog leash and a belt that were not his own. His mother said he showed no sign of suicidal thoughts, yet authorities quickly ruled that he had taken his own life.

Now the FBI is reviewing the investigation after Lennon Lacy's relatives and the NAACP raised doubts about the official findings, which the county coroner also questions.

"We don't know what happened that terrible night," said the Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the state NAACP chapter, on De. 12, 2014. "It is possible that a 17-year-old excited about life could commit suicide. The family is prepared to accept the truth. They're not prepared to accept this theory that's been posited with a rush to a conclusion of suicide so quickly. We have said there are far too many unanswered questions."

Bladen County District Attorney Jon David said Friday that he also asked the FBI to review the case because the family and the NAACP said they had information that they would provide only to federal authorities. He said he had seen no evidence of foul play.

"Not only is the case open, but our minds are open," David said.

In the 911 call, the dispatcher advises the caller to try to get the person down in case he was still alive. When investigators arrived at the trailer park that the NAACP has described as predominantly white, the body was on the ground. Investigators told NAACP attorneys that one shoe was on the body and one was on the ground, said Al McSurely, a lawyer working for the NAACP.[20]

NAACP calls for Lennon Lacy investigation

December 11 2014, the North Carolina NAACP has called on top lawmakers in the state to join in calling for a new investigation into the death of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy, a black teenager who was found hanging from a swing set in August. An independent autopsy on the teen's body calls into question the police department's decision to record the death as a suicide.

Ahead of a rally scheduled for Saturday, the group’s president, Rev. William J. Barber II, announced Thursday the release of a letter to Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, and Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, as well as incoming Senator-elect Tom Tillis, a Republican, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCoury.

Barber announced the appeal to lawmakers in a conference call with reporters as the chapter prepared to lead a march through the streets of Blandenboro, N.C., Lacy’s hometown.

"We have deep questions," Barber said during the call. "We have said this may be, and it could be, suicide, but what this family cannot accept is this being told to them without there being a full investigation."

The organization wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker in November requesting that his office join the investigation of the “suspicious hanging death” of Lacy. Barber said that neither the group nor Lacy's family has yet been told whether or not Walker's office will open an investigation.

Al McSurely, a lawyer working with Lacy’s family on behalf of the NAACP, said that the district attorney in Bladen County has "been open with us from the beginning" and has "welcomed" possible intervention from the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice.

"What we have here is a suspicious death and we assume, and the family assumes, that the law enforcement will do everything it can to find out what happened to Lennon Lacy that night," he said.[21]

Indiana Moral Mondays

In 2014 Harry Targ reported on the newly launched Indiana Moral Mondays and the success of a mass meeting in Indianapolis with Rev. William J. Barber II, President of the NC NAACP and leader of the North Carolina Moral Monday movement. Targ represented CCDS in the coalition that organized the events.[22]

Poor People’s Campaign

In 2018 the Poor People’s Campaign is being organized by Rev. William Barber and Rev. Liz Theoharis of Kairos Center. They are reviving Martin Luther King, Jr.’s unfinished Poor People’s Campaign of 1968. They plan to draw organized poor people into direct action targeting state and federal authorities to demand that poverty and inequality be addressed. It grows out of the Moral Mondays movement, which helped slow North Carolina’s race to the far right after the state government fell under total Republican control in 2012.[23]

References

  1. Mother Jones, Meet the Preacher Behind Moral Mondays By Lisa Rab | Mon Apr. 14, 2014
  2. [http://billmoyers.com/content/rev-william-j-barber/, MOYERS & COMPANY, Activists to Watch: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber October 24, 2013 by Peter Dreier]
  3. Forsooth November 2007, p 1,2
  4. INDY Week, November 21, 2007 Special Issues » Citizen Awards, Al McSurely Fighting racism—and winning—with real-life consequences By Mosi Secret
  5. Willis' Family Disappointed at Murder Case's Turn Posted December 31, 2007
  6. [http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/2933m SOLIDARITY, SNCC's 50-Year Legacy — Theresa El-Amin]
  7. Raleigh News and Observer "NAACP leader banned from Wake school property" July 15, 2010
  8. Raleigh News and Observer "Hundreds rally against Wake schools plan" July 20, 2010
  9. WRAL "'Non-violent protest' halts Wake school board meeting," June 15, 2010
  10. Monday, May 21, 2012 The Cash Stuff for May 24, 2012 EXCLUSIVE NATIONAL NAACP BOARD PASSES RESOLUTION SUPPORTING WILMINGTON TEN PARDONS
  11. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II 20th Anniversary Community Celebration Service
  12. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II 20th Anniversary Community Celebration Service
  13. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II 20th Anniversary Community Celebration Service
  14. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II 20th Anniversary Community Celebration Service
  15. Mother Jones, Meet the Preacher Behind Moral Mondays By Lisa Rab | Mon Apr. 14, 2014
  16. news observer.com.Clergy lead Monday protests at General Assembly BY ANNE BLYTHE AND CAITLIN OWENS ablythe@newsobserver.comJune 11, 2013
  17. Time to Stand Up and Fight for a More Perfect Union, Robert L. Borosage June 18, 2014
  18. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6km9-_jXvG0 What A Day: Rev. Dr. William Barber II addresses the USW (FULL)
  19. Fwd: Moral Monday In DC --------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Donald Pelles <don.p...@comcast.net> Date: Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 10:43 PM Subject: Moral Monday In DC
  20. msn news FBI investigates hanging death of black teen, By MARTHA WAGGONER, Associated Press
  21. [http://www.ibtimes.com/lennon-lacy-north-carolina-lawmakers-urged-join-call-investigation-teen-found-hanged-1749865 International Business Times, Lennon Lacy: North Carolina Lawmakers Urged To Join Call For Investigation Into Teen Found Hanged From Swing Set By Dion Rabouin@DionRabouin on December 11 2014 ]
  22. CCDS National Coordinating Committee MeetsPosted by admin on October 13, 2014
  23. [1]