The Twin City will host leaders from the NC NAACP and their partners next week as part of the Forward Together Movement Local Organizing Tour. Forsyth County will be 20th in the 25-stop tour, which was launched in Raleigh on Tuesday.
“We want to try to get a lot of people from Winston-Salem to participate in the Forward Together movement,” said S. Wayne Patterson, president of the local NAACP chapter. “Even though the presidential election is over, there are still issues in the General Assembly that we must address. We just want everybody to know that. We’re trying to make sure that they’re very aware of what’s going on in the North Carolina General Assembly.” State Conference President Dr. William Barber II said the tour will build upon the foundations that have been created through the organization’s annual HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) Rally and the organization’s Moral Monday event, a weekly civil disobedience effort where NAACP leaders and partners gather at the General Assembly to pray for legislators and raise awareness about the laws they are passing, which the NAACP has called “regressive.” One hundred fifty eight North Carolinians have been arrested in connection with the effort since Moral Mondays was launched in April.
“In February, we brought thousands of people to Raleigh to promote a positive vision for the uplift of all of North Carolina and challenge the regressive agenda of the leadership in the NC General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion,” Barber said in a statement denoting the start of the Forward Tour. “In April, we brought 500 grassroots volunteer lobbyists to the People’s House to ask that the legislators govern for the good of the whole. Since November, we have reached out to meet with legislative leadership to try and work together for the benefit of all.” The tour, which includes stops in Charlotte, Hickory and Wilson, is part of a “nuts and bolts” organizing effort the state conference is spearheading to spread awareness about legislation being passed in the NC General Assembly and to galvanize constituents and empower them to hold their legislators accountable, said NC NAACP Field Secretary Rob Stephens.
“We looked at where we had strong grassroots organization already in place, but we also looked at areas where people needed to know what their legislators were doing,” he said. Legislators are cutting funds for public education, denying Medicaid benefits to thousands of eligible individuals, repealing the Racial Justice Act, which allowed death row defendants to have their cases amended to life in prison if they could prove that race played a role in their sentencing; and completely defunding the NC Prisoners’ Legal Services, which requires prison administrators to provide inmates with “adequate assistance from persons trained in the law,” NAACP leaders say. Barber said legislators’ disregard for their demands and dismissal of their attempts to meet and discuss pertinent issues further has prompted the NAACP to take their message directly to the people through the Forward Tour. “Once they refused to meet and refused to stop their destructive campaign against the poor and most vulnerable in our state, we had no choice but to commit our constitutional responsibility to instruct our legislators by engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience,” he stated. “Even if they pretend not to hear us in Raleigh, legislators’ constituents in the four corners of the state will hear the bad news of their decisions to govern for the good of the few and wealthy at the expense of the majority of North Carolinians.” The tour is the result of a collaborative movement that has been gaining momentum for some time, Stephens said.
“We’ve been building this movement for seven years with the HKonJ Coalition and developing the grassroots network,” he explained. “We started in 2006 with 16 organizations partnering with us and now it’s grown to 147. It’s been building for a long time.” Stephens said that the mood at the tour’s kickoff event on Tuesday was hopeful. “People are excited to have something to do,” he related. “They’re taking notes and discussing how they’re going to engage their own organizations or churches for the road ahead.” Rev. Paul Lowe and his church, Shiloh Baptist Church, 916 E 12th St., are serving as hosts for the local event, which will be held on Thursday, June 6 at 6 p.m. “Shiloh has always supported the NAACP. Nothing has changed in that regard,” commented Lowe. “There’s a group within our state legislature and within our state, period, that wants to send North Carolina back to the Dark Ages, and whatever can be done to get folks’ attention as it relates to the progress that we’ve made and are continuing to try to make, it needs to be done.” Lowe said he is highly concerned about the legislation that has been passed or proposed in the state in recent months, particularly calls for “education vouchers,” which he says would divert funds from public schools and hurt the students who rely on them to get an education. “North Carolina has been at the forefront of public education, certainly as it relates to the South, and it’s my hope that we can continue to be at the forefront,” he commented. “The masses of our people, certainly the poor and people of color, are going to use public education, so things that take away from that are certainly not in our best interest.” The local NAACP chapter is partnering with Democracy Winston-Salem: The Voting Rights Coalition to send a delegation from the local community to participate in the “Mega Moral Monday” effort on June 3. “So many times, people are not aware of what’s going on. We just take things for granted, and we can’t allow that,” Patterson said of the chapter’s motivation to support the protests. “I don’t think that’s a position we need to take as citizens of Forsyth County.” The NC NAACP released a report card grading each senator and House representative based upon their votes on 10 bills that the organization considers particularly concerning. State Reps. Ed Hanes Jr. and Evelyn Terry both earned perfect scores for their performance, and Sen. Earline Parmon followed with a score of 90. State Reps. Debra Conrad, Julia Howard and Donny Lambeth received 10 points each, followed by Sen. Pete Brunstetter, who earned zero points out of a possible 100. The NC NAACP released a report card grading each senator and House representative based upon their votes on 10 bills that the organization considers particularly concerning. State Reps. Ed Hanes Jr. and Evelyn Terry both earned perfect scores for their performance, and Sen. Earline Parmon followed with a score of 90. State Reps. Debra Conrad, Julia Howard and Donny Lambeth received 10 points each, followed by Sen. Pete Brunstetter, who earned zero points out of a possible 100. The local delegation for the Mega Moral Monday event will assemble at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, June 3 at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1075 Shalimar Drive. The group is looking for people to participate in civil disobedience by singing, praying, learning about the issues, cheering and being a moral witness to what it calls “ the attack on the poor, elderly, students, unemployed and the attacks on all of our voting rights.” For more information, contact Patterson at 336-995-3072 or Linda Sutton at 336-870-2168.