I can’t believe I’m still protesting this …

Photo by Phil Fonville. We gathered on Bicentennial Mall in Raleigh Tuesday to protest the lack of affordable health care for a half million people in this state.


I realized a couple weeks ago that I’ve been protesting war, poverty and misogyny for a half century.

I mentioned it to Rev. William Barber, who will leave the NC NAACP presidency next month to head the resurrection of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign. King started the Poor People’s Campaign 50 years ago, and now I get to work with Rev. Barber to help revive it.

Rev. Barber, who’s 10 years younger than I am, just smiled, put his arm around my shoulders and told me he loves me for my passion.

A half century of trying to make things better and we’re headed right back to where we started, with incarceration as the new slavery, with women being shut out from decisions about their bodies, with voting rights skewed toward the wealthy and white, with children going to bed hungry, elders having to choose between food and vital medications, with wages far too low to cover necessities, with the poor and sick blamed for their plight and with war looming on the horizon.

I am horrified by the state of things, but I cannot give up. I stand with the photo of my late son and explain to anyone who asks that he died from lack of access to care.

So, even in the pouring rain, I went to the rally, and, as so often happens at Moral Monday rallies, the rain let up for the two hours we were there.

But, as so often happens with Moral Monday events, the legislators left early and locked up the building rather than risk having to talk to any of us. So, we had a huge poster with a few facts about what their refusal to expand Medicaid has done to this state, and the 200-plus people who attended the rally each signed it.

We left it tacked to the front door of the building as the chief off the General Assembly police looked on. It’s OK — he’s used to us and seems to bear us no ill will, but he will arrest us if told to do so. He has arrested me twice — so far.

Anyway, because we couldn’t get into the building last night, we will be back next Tuesday, and we will go into the building and sit down and wait to address our legislators, as is our right under the North Carolina State Constitution. They might arrest us again, but we will not back down. Lives are at stake here — a half million of them.

If you want to participate in the sit-in, be at the Bicentennial Mall (across the street from the General Assembly Building) at 10 a.m. next Tuesday. If you can’t participate in the sit-in, you can still attend the health care rally at 6 p.m.




A message to Millennials about disappointment and revolution

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You so wanted Bernie. I know. I did, too.

But I also wanted Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern.

My generation had the Vietnam War, as seemingly never-ending as Afghanistan is today.

We had the draft, and rich kids got out of it because they could afford college and then grad school and medical deferments.

Today, college is even more expensive — much, much more expensive, actually — giving most of your generation the choice of military service or a lifetime of debt.

The system is even more corrupt and you feel powerless. Bernie was our best hope of fixing it, but the system crushed our hopes. The DNC steam-rolled the primaries, I believe, because Hillary was promised the nomination this time for stepping aside last time. The media, which worked hand-in-hand with Wall Street and Big Money, ignored Bernie and focused on the circus that is Trump.

I do get it.

And I’m not going to tell you that you HAVE to vote for Hillary, even though I believe we can’t allow Trump anywhere near the White House, nor can we allow any Republican to appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

But you have thought about that, and your attitude is NOT that of a spoiled child. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.

Perhaps we really do need for the current system to crumble before we can build a better one. I hope for your sake that’s not the case.

You’re scared about what’s happening to this country because you have to live in it for the next 50 or 60 years — that is, if you can survive on starvation wages and without access to quality health care.

So what do you do?

Well, we all work together.

Bernie started a movement, and perhaps, like Moses, he won’t lead us into the Promised Land. Perhaps it’s up to the next generation to finish the work he has started. Maybe we need to build on his work at the local, state and Congressional levels.

There are a number of candidates running for offices down-ticket who share Bernie’s views and passions. Vote for them. Get out and work for them. Do phone banking for an hour or two a week. Knock on doors. Donate to their campaigns if you have a spare few bucks.

Don’t let any right-wing candidate run unopposed. Find a candidate, either in an established party or in a third party. Even now, when it’s too late to get on the printed ballot for November, we can — and must — run write-in campaigns for good candidates. Local and state elections are our best hope right now, and the best way to build a viable third party.

The right built its success over many years, quietly winning local elections, then seats in state legislatures and finally taking Congress.

I’m part of the Moral Monday Movement, which is a fusion movement. Together we work on health care, voting rights, common sense gun laws, education, LGBT rights, the campaign for a living wage, safe housing …

The most frustrating thing about the Movement is that it takes time.

It’s important to not listen to elders who tell you that you don’t know how to make these changes, because the phrase, “that’s not how we did it,” is so dangerous.

We did make change, but we didn’t finish the job, obviously. We changed laws and the right wingers gained power and chipped away at the changes we made.

But we are fighting back. Yesterday, I was in Richmond, Va., in federal court, listening to the NC NAACP’s lawyers challenging North Carolina’s voter suppression law. I think it went well. I think we have a good chance of overturning most or all of the provisions.

In fact, most of the worst of the laws these clowns in North Carolina have passed are working their way through the courts, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

I hate that it takes so much time to do this work, but I will stay in the fight because I’m fighting for your generation more than for my own.

And I want you to know that there are more people of my generation who understand than you think, and we want to work with you.

With our experience and your fresh ideas, this revolution (actually, more of an evolution) can’t fail.

Why I march

Here I am on the day of my second arrest, May 13, 2015. I'll be in Raleigh again on Saturday with tens of thousands of others who want a better life for people here in North Carolina.

Here I am on the day of my second arrest, May 13, 2015. I’ll be in Raleigh again on Saturday with tens of thousands of others who want a better life for people here in North Carolina.

This Saturday is the 10th annual Moral March in Raleigh, sponsored by the HKonJ Coalition.

HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street and originated as a march to remind elected officials that we stand together for sound public policies.

The Moral March and HKonJ are part of the Forward Together Moral Movement, a beautifully diverse effort to get our government to listen to reason and stop harming the people they were elected to represent.

We are young and old, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and atheist and agnostic; we are gay and straight, black, white, brown and mixed-race; we are immigrants and citizens liberal and conservative, men and women, students, professionals, laborers, executives and unemployed, we are people with and without disabilities, and out unity makes us strong.

When the Democrats led the General Assembly, they were’t perfect, but they would sit down and talk to us — and they would listen. They didn’t always do what we wanted, but they were open to discussion.

Then the Republicans took control and everything changed. Discussion wasn’t an option anymore. They came in and immediately began making bad policies — cutting funds for education, gutting unemployment insurance, denying access to health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, limiting women’s access to reproductive care, allowing our waterways to be polluted by Big Energy, increasing access to guns, cutting access to the vote, gerrymandering district lines and more.

I know first-hand what it is to lose someone I loved to bad public policy. My son died from lack of access to health care because our system cares more about profit than about human lives. I want to tell my son’s story to some of the people who are voting to deny a half million people access to health care. Others in the movement were or are unemployed, or affected by coal ash spills or are teachers who can’t make ends meet on their low salaries. Still others are fast-food workers who work two and three jobs and still can’t feed their families.

When we tried to make appointments to talk to them, most of our legislators ignored us. Those who did agree to meet with us individually were not open to listening.

We tried writing letters, but that didn’t do any good.

Meanwhile teachers began leaving the state in record numbers. People who lost jobs through no fault of their own — and who lost their access to health care in the process — had to take low-wage jobs, Many lost their homes. Worst of all, people died — and continue to die every day — because they can’t get access to health care.

So, we started going into the General Assembly Building to try and talk to legislators, as is our right under the North Carolina Constitution. We found the doors to the observation galleries locked. We stood in the rotunda and sang and prayed, and our legislators had us all arrested.

By the end of 2013, about 1,000 people had been arrested. In 2014, nearly all of us had all our charges dropped because we had been arrested for trespassing in a public building that was open. The charges of carrying signs (I only had this photo of my son) and chanting and loud singing were thrown out almost immediately as violations of our First Amendment rights.

Still, we had to go to Raleigh every month for court dates and we often were forced to sit in court all day, waiting for a call that didn’t come. I went seven times before my charges were dismissed on appeal. I was found guilty by a judge on my sixth trip.

In 2015, they waited for us to go into the building, then closed it and told us we had to leave. We stayed because we knew legislative leaders were in their offices and we wanted to speak to them. We were arrested again.

The Moral Movement has made a difference. Our voting rights lawsuits are making their way through the courts, and just last week, two Congressional districts were found to be illegal because they were drawn based on race.

We aren’t just protesting, though — we are educating people, and we are registering people to vote. Many of us have signed a pledge to register 50 new voters before Election Day.

This Moral March won’t involve any arrests; it is an opportunity for all of us to come together to ask out government to do what’s best for the people, not the bidding of corporate overlords.

We will march, we will sing, we will chant and we will hear the stories of people whose lives have been torn apart by the bad policies of this government.

Our theme is Our Time, Our Vote, and we’ll be talking about how to get a government that’s more in tune with the needs of the governed.

This is an important event for anyone who hopes for a better North Carolina.



Media are fudging the numbers

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The second Mountain Moral Monday was exhausting and energizing. We estimate a crowd of about 8,000, although the newspaper here estimated less than half that amount.

I see it as an effort to minimize the effect the Moral Movement is having across the state. Police estimated 5,000. Last year we had 10,000; the police estimated 8,000; the paper kept saying “more than 6,000.”

For a year they used that low-ball estimate of “more than 6,000” — until yesterday, when they gave last year’s estimate as 10,000 and said the crowd was only 3,500 this year.

I wrote a letter to the editor to complain about the coverage:

To the editor:

“I find it interesting that the paper used the “police estimate” of 3,500 for this year’s crowd, and then used others’ estimates of last year’s crowds of 10,000 for this year’s story. 

“For the past year, the paper has used its estimate of 6,000. Apparently, when you can make the movement look smaller and less important, it’s OK to use everyone else’s estimate.

“The crowd was slightly smaller than last year, but well over 6,000, and no less enthusiastic.  As Rev. Barber said, it isn’t about the numbers, but about the Movement.

Also offensive was the word ‘feisty’ when referring to Lindsay Kosmala Furst’s speech. You would never never have used that word to describe a man’s speech. The word to describe her speech is ‘impassioned.'”

I would only ask the paper to make sure its coverage is accurate and that someone read the copy looking for words that might be sexist, racist or otherwise offensive.

Had I been assigned the story, I would have made a call to the police at the end of the rally and asked for a crowd estimate. Then I would have called the organizers for their estimate and printed both.

In my nearly three decades as a reporter, I found police usually under-estimated the size of the crowd and organizers generally over-estimated. Rarely did they agree. I printed both numbers or I printed a number halfway between the two if the estimates were close.

Also, if you get an estimate at the beginning of the event, it will be low, since people continue to stream in for at least a half hour.

These are very simple reporting rules if you believe accuracy is your main goal. However, if your goal is to discredit a movement, you go ahead and use tricks like those used in this morning’s paper.

So, let’s giver the paper the benefit of the doubt and say this us unintentional. That would make it something less than competent journalism, and that is most disappointing.




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