“If everybody votes, they can’t win!”
— Rev. Dr. William Barber II
I’ve attended 24 annual conferences of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition [NCRC] starting with my first in 1992. There have been numerous conference highlights including last year’s keynote by Rev. Barber. But none surpassed his remarks Friday morning March 27, 2015 when he shared his analysis of “What’s Going On” in our country.
Rev. Barber is the architect of North Carolina’s “Forward Together-Moral Mondays” movement and president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Over 13 consecutive weeks, the 2013 protests against legislative extremism in North Carolina resulted in the arrests of nearly 1,000 people, making it one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. Rev. Barber’s Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation was published last fall by Chalice Press.
In his keynote to NCRC, Rev. Barber warned that 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was won with blood, it is in great peril. The Supreme Court’s June 2013 five to four ruling gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requiring federal approval of state voting laws. As a result, states such as North Carolina are passing laws to suppress voting directly violating the 15th Amendment of our Constitution that prohibits the US or any state from denying or abridging the right to vote.
As Rev. Barber so passionately argued, it is no accident that members of the US Senate are delaying the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next Attorney General. They don’t want Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act enforced. Rev. Barber asserts that recently elected US Senator Thom Tillis [R, NC] won because 100,000 votes were suppressed. He won’t vote for Lynch’s nomination because she will pursue suing the state of North Carolina over the law that he passed as Speaker of the NC House which then helped his election to the US Senate. “You only cheat,” Rev. Barber admonished, “when you can’t win.”
NCRC’s President & CEO John Taylor noted in his conference closing remarks that the Tillman Act signed by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1907 prohibited corporations and national banks from donating to federal elections. Yet, the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 ruling has allowed the high-jacking of our democracy by corporations. Taylor encouraged conference attendees to become “citizens united” by building bridges across all cultures to assure voting rights are not abridged and that community reinvestment is championed by our elected officials.
Rev. Barber closed his keynote by updating Dr. King’s March 25, 1965 speech from the Capitol steps in Montgomery AL. Asking now How Long Will It Take? Rev. Barber proclaimed with the audience: Not Long –If we can come together once again to move forward.
Thanks to Rev. Barber for this week’s U2Cando playlist selection:
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today – Ya
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye