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Moral Monday activists hopeful for a growing future

Thousands of people flocked to Raleigh on Saturday for the first Moral Monday March of 2014. See some of the highlights from the march and hear what people had to say about their causes.

RALEIGH — As the crowd joined voices in “We Shall Overcome,” the sun emerged from the gloomy skies, warming the swaying marchers.

Organizers said it signaled a bright future for the movement, which is advocating for funding to public education, the expansion of Medicaid in the state and protecting the rights of immigrants, women and the LGBT community.

“Even the universe shines on this day,” said the Rev. William Barber II, president of the N.C. NAACP and main organizer of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street march in Raleigh on Saturday. He urged attendees to commit to helping to register voters, regardless of party affiliation, before Election Day.

He said the N.C. NAACP would continue to pursue legal options against the state’s new voting laws.

The Rev. Jemonde Taylor, a priest at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Raleigh, said Sunday voting, often called “souls to the polls,” was widely used by people in his congregation — but Sunday voting was eliminated by the changes to the state’s voting law.

Taylor said he and 20 other ministers drafted a letter to send to more than 100 churches to encourage them to facilitate voter registration.

“(Voting) has been a mark of civil rights in this country for the past half century,” he said.

For protestors from other states, taking a step forward after the march means staging similar events back home.

“We’ve been super excited by the North Carolina Moral Monday movement,” said Roger Sikes, organizer with Atlanta Jobs with Justice, which advocates for fast food workers in Atlanta. “North Carolina has certainly built a model and a coalition that has obviously worked.”

Michael Wood, research director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said it is important to join with other states to fight for equality in the days to come.

“If this can be successful here, it’s something that can be replicated in other states also as a way of pushing back,” Wood said, adding that Pennsylvania’s legislature had passed policies similar to those in North Carolina.

Debbie Goldstein, who marched with Carolina Jews for Justice, said the organization will continue to register and inform voters.

“We’re also doing events to raise awareness of education policies and voting rights issues,” she said. “We’re going to get organized and make a difference after the march is done.”

Ronda Gordon, a school social worker in Forsyth County, said she and other educators marching will continue to discourage teachers to trade their tenure for a potential pay raise for the top 25 percent of teachers in each district.

“There are a lot of educators who are standing against this,” she said. “We keep fighting until they hear us, until some changes are made.”

Chris Telesca, president of the Wake County Progressive Democrats, said his organization is working to channel voters’ frustrations into election results.

“All of these problems everybody’s complaining about out here are going to be resolved for political action,” he said.

And Barbara Lau, director of the Pauli Murray Project of the Duke Human Rights Center, said building coalitions and starting conversations are crucial to moving forward.

“I don’t think of this as the end, this is really the beginning,” she said.

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