March, Rally to Push 14-Point Progressive Agenda
Posted February 9, 2008 11:15 a.m. EST
Updated February 9, 2008 7:08 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Members of the state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and 80 other groups marched Saturday morning in downtown Raleigh. The rally was intended to pressure legislators to support a 14-point "People's Agenda" that focuses on education, health care, the economy and reform of the justice and electoral systems.
The second annual HKonJ – Historic Thousands on Jones Street – kicked off with a rally in Chavis Park. Organizers said roughly 7,000 people marched to the state Legislature building.
"Last year, the NAACP began a process of organizing with more than 81 other partners, thousands of people to march on our Legislature to remind them that that building on Jones Street belongs to us, and they're expected to do the people's business," Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina's NAACP chapter, said on WRAL's Saturday morning newscast.
"But it is not just a march on Saturday; it is a movement that is happening across the state of North Carolina," Barber continued.
The North Carolina Center for Justice, civic groups, college organizations, churches and unions were among the organizations bringing participants to HKonJ, Barber said.
“Let's fix these 44 failing high schools that are mostly poor and mostly black,” Barber said. “Let us get everybody health care. Let us make sure that folk who can't afford housing are able to get housing.”
“Let us say we will do our best,” said Carnell Robinson of the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus.
“We need to be together as one, and this is really inspiring. I love it,” participant Wanda Blue said.
The NAACP planned to put out a report card, scoring legislators on how they supported items presented at the 2007 HKonJ event. Participants were also encouraged to register to vote.
Legislators introduced 83 items related to the HKonJ agenda during the 2007 session, but 56 percent of those bills did not get out of committees, Barber said.
Ultimately, the agenda supported by the first HKonJ event affected the distribution of $206 million in the state budget passed in 2007, Barber said. He faulted legislators, however, for giving smaller amounts to a disadvantaged-student fund and affordable housing programs than HKonJ and the NAACP had requested.
"That's why we march, that's why we organize, that's why we agitate, that's why we legislate, that's why we litigate," Barber said. "Because we are intent on making a difference in this state, and we believe North Carolina can be better than it is right now."
The 14-point "People's Agenda" for which HKonJ advocates urges legislators to support:
- Funding for failing high schools and diversity in schools
- Increasing the minimum wage
- Expanded insurance coverage and more funding for public health programs
- Restitution for the 1891 Wilmington race riots and sterilization of poor, black women in the first half of the 20th century
- Same-day voter registration and public financing of elections
- Increased financial support for historically black colleges
- Redress for discrimination in state hiring and contracting
- Funding for affordable housing and action against predatory lending
- Erasing racial bias in the death penalty, mandatory sentencing and prisons
- Encouraging youth in environmental activism
- Unionization of state employees and workers at the Smithfield hog slaughterhouse
- Protection of immigrant rights
- Strengthening enforcement of civil-rights laws
- An immediate end to the war in Iraq