Local News

Jobs, education focus of annual civil rights march

Posted February 27, 2010 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated March 2, 2010 7:50 p.m. EST

— Hundreds of people on Saturday joined the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the fourth annual "Historic Thousands on Jones Street" march in downtown Raleigh. Jones Street refers to the location of the Legislative Building, where the march ended.

The rally to demand civil rights and economic improvements from the state General Assembly was organized by about 90 advocacy groups, along with the NAACP.

Speakers and marchers stressed a connection between jobs, education and state's incarceration rate.

"We cannot in good moral conscience separate the struggle for diverse and superior education from the struggle for jobs and economic solutions," Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the national NAACP, said.

State NAACP leaders also expressed worry that some school districts could become re-segregated.

On Tuesday, the Wake County Board of Education will vote on a resolution to base student assignment on community modules, rather than on socioeconomic diversity.

State NAACP President Rev. William Barber says research shows schools with large majorities of poor children fail because they are underfunded, have a high teacher turnover and low student performance.

“If they (Wake County school board members) wanted a fight, then they've got one. But we're going to fight with the truth, we're going to fight with justice, we're going to fight with the principles of the constitution,” Barber said Saturday.

March organizers outlined some educational goals: equal, adequate funding for all schools; high-quality teachers in smaller classes; a consistent focus on math and science; and systems that promote parental involvement and fair student discipline policies.

The NAACP also called for North Carolina to do more to create jobs. While the state's official unemployment rate is 11.2 percent, unemployment among blacks is approaching 22 percent, and under-employment rates are even higher, it said.

The state NAACP said that it is working with Gov. Bev Perdue's staff to plan a jobs summit to respond to the recession and joblessness among the poor and minority communities.

Immigration reform was also stressed during the march as members of the Hispanic community asked for change.

"The issues that affect one, affects us all. It’s not just about one issue, but it's about all the issues that affect us, education, health care, immigration. That is why we need to continue to build this partnership with all of the community,” said Rubin Campillo, with Reform Immigration for America.

Among other actions, the civil rights coalition would like state government to enact more job and work force development programs; invest in green energy, community infrastructure and public transportation; provide more small business loans; direct stimulus to minority-owned businesses; and guarantee collective bargaining rights, health care coverage and living wages.