By Cash Michaels
Saying that,” We live in a time now…” where the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Act, “…are under attack," NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber challenged this year’s state NAACP Convention in High Point to “fight back” against injustice and disenfranchisement.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER
“The strategy to stop any effort at Reconstruction has always consisted of four direct actions: Attacking voting rights, attacking tax revenue and government programs and agencies designed to promote social uplift, attacking public educational policy, and attacking or assassinating white and black progressive leaders,” Rev. Barber told those gathered Saturday morning in his “The State of Civil Rights” address, after recalling how the historic period of black political and economic achievement after the Civil War in North Carolina was systematically decimated by white supremacists.
Rev. Barber recalled how the NAACP was born in 1909 by both black and white abolitionists to fight racial injustice in the South, and promote civil rights in the face of increasing intolerance.
He said that spirit and commitment must be reclaimed, in the face of a conservative rollback of civil rights, and takeover of government nationally, and here in North Carolina.
Barber was especially concerned about concerted effort in at least 30 states across the nation to suppress the voting power of blacks, Hispanics and young people with voter ID laws.
“Because of the power, necessity, and potential of the black, brown, and progressive vote, we must fight any attempts to suppress, segregate, isolate, or steal this right,” said Rev. Barber. “Everything we fight for, equal protection under the law, educational equality, economic justice, access to healthcare, are all directly impacted by voting, we must fight any attempt to suppress, segregate, isolate, or steal the power, necessity, and potential of our vote!”
“We must fight the forces trying to suppress our vote, and cut to the quick of the consciousness of our people who refuse to vote,” the civil rights leader later said.
Barber warned about the efforts of right-wing entities like the Tea Party and the wealthy industrialists, the Koch brothers.
“What we see happening today is not just about us, but also about the hope and the future of our children. We must take it personally and fight back against any attempt to suppress, segregate, isolate, and steal the power and potential of our vote,” Rev. Barber said.
“Because we understand this so-called debt crisis created by the ultraconservative extreme right-wing is not just an effort to stop President Obama but an attempt to finalize a forty-year strategy to undermine, underfund, and destroy every program, like Social Security implemented in 1935 or Medicaid in 1960’s, that furthers the cause of justice for all and has sought to uplift the forces of oppression from the backs of black, brown, and poor people, we must fight back against any attempt to suppress, segregate, isolate, and steal our vote,” the NCNAACP president continued.
“One percent of Americans own forty prevent of [this nation’s] wealth, and the wealth gap between the rich and poor is wider and deeper than the Great Depression. Because there are those who want corporations to control the political process rather than we the people,” Rev. Barber said. “We must fight back against any attempt to suppress, segregate, isolate, and steal the power and potential of our vote.”
Rev. Barber also noted how the poverty rate in North Carolina is at its highest since 1981, with more than one in four African-Americans in the state in poverty, and black unemployment up nationally to over 16 percent.
Barber also blasted steep budget cuts to social programs by the Republican-led NC General Assembly, including almost thirty percent from public education and Health and Human Services; twenty percent from state universities and community colleges; and ten percent from the courts and public safety.
Rev. Barber also addressed efforts across the state to resegregate black students in high poverty public schools.
“Because public education is under attack -- bold and brazen ultra conservative school broad members across the state and country advance policies of resegregation that create high poverty racially identifiable schools that undermine quality education for all, in the name of neighborhood schools and with premeditative goals to dismantle public education as we know it,” he said.
The NCNAACP leader took time to also blast the state Republican redistricting maps which allegedly “stack and pack” black voters to minority-majority districts so that the GOP could retain power and control on Jones Street.
Rev. Barber wasn’t happy that only one African-American federal judge sits in North Carolina’s federal courts, though blacks make up 22 percent of the state’s population.
“There are thirteen seats on North Carolina’s federal district courts; four in the Eastern District; four in the Middle District and five in the Western District,” Barber said. “Only one African American sits on a North Carolina federal district court: When James Beaty, Jr. is eligible to retire in 2014, there will be no African American representation.”
Rev. Barber concluded his remarks with a call to social justice arms.
“Now is the time for us to come out, fight back, and show this nation that we, the sons and daughters of freedom fighters, make one promise to America, from which we will never retreat,” The NCNAACP leader said.
“When it comes to our rights, ordained by God and guaranteed by our constitution, we will turn back we will never, never, never turn back from the battle.”