By Alan Bean
I write this from my motel room in Raleigh, North Carolina after spending the day with the most energized group of movement activists I have ever encountered. You may have heard of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina. These are the people that made it happen.
Dozens of gifted people have devoted their energies to the Moral Monday (or, more accurately, the Forward Together Moral Movement), but the undisputed leader is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a man of gentle power who may be the most gifted civil rights leader to emerge in the United States since Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m serious. Since Dr. King was murdered in 1968, I haven’t witnessed such an impressive combination of eloquence, strategic savvy, intellectual gravitas, and analytic sophistication in a single American individual.
But Barber is no demagogue. A genuinely humble man, he provides leadership because someone must, He knows when to step back and let others take charge. “At our events, we don’t stick somebody up on stage by themselves,” he tells us. “That sends the wrong message. Instead, you will see speakers surrounded by a diverse group of supporters.” This sends two messages: one, we have the back of the person at the microphone; and two, this isn’t about any single person.
Barber is president of the North Carolina NAACP and pastor of a Disciples of Christ congregation. Professionally and educationally, he has deep experience with inter-racial coalitions and knows how to challenge white moderates without traumatizing them–an exceedingly difficult balancing act. The trick is to create a genuinely inter-racial movement without resorting to pleasant lies about our nation’s toxic racial history. “In the South,” Barber insists, “anti-racism must be at the center of any positive movement; otherwise, it’s going to implode.” (more…)