The news conference marked exactly 60 years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.
The conference announced the new “It’s Our Time, It’s Our Vote” campaign, with one of its goals to push voter registration for 80 days until registration cutoff for the spring primary elections.
“Rosa sat down that we might stand up,” said the Rev. William Barber II, president of the N.C. NAACP, at the conference. “Too many sacrifices have gone on for us not to fight for and exercise the right to vote.”
The conference, held at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, brought together Democracy North Carolina, the state’s NAACP and various faith leaders to discuss the launch of the voting movement.
Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said there are four components to the campaign — voter education, voter registration, voter protection and voter mobilization.
“We will deploy hundreds of volunteers to the polls in March to help voters, to protect the vote, to document how fairly this new law is being implemented,” Hall said.
More than 3,000 churches and faith centers will be engaged in the campaign, and Hall said it won’t stop there. Voter education will also be provided in locations such as salons, social clubs and schools.
Barber said the state has more than 600,000 unregistered white, 280,000 unregistered black and 100,000 unregistered Latino voters — all of whom could make a difference with their votes.
“Let it be clear, and let it be known: we’ve gone to court with them, we’ve gone to jail with them, we’ve gone in the street with them,” he said. “And we will go to the ballot box together.”
The Rev. Paul Anderson, pastor of The Fountain of Raleigh Fellowship, said all clergy throughout Wake County should join the campaign together.
“We will look back at this day and see that this was one of the days that was just as powerful as the moment, the day and the time in which our sister sat down for all of us so we could stand up here today,” Anderson said.
Virginia Wall, an administrative assistant for Martin Street Baptist, said she knew she had to come when she heard the conference marked the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ bus trip.
Wall said she plans to take the movement back to her church, Juniper Level Missionary Baptist Church in Raleigh, and register people to vote.
“I did some of the (civil rights) marches years ago where we would try to get the rights that we have today,” she said. “So it’s important that we don’t go back, that we stay where we are and that we try to improve society as we go.”
Barber said the message of the campaign is for everybody, no matter their religion, race, gender or sexuality because this is about a democracy. And, hand in hand, those on stage repeated after Barber in one voice.
“We will not be divided. Rosa Parks, our mother, sat down that we might stand up,” they shouted. “It’s our vote. It’s our time.”