A crowd of nearly 100,000—including Duke students—protested recent policy changes in North Carolina in downtown Raleigh Saturday, a culmination of last year's popular Moral Monday protests.
North Carolina's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People spearheaded the Moral March. Marches of this nature have been organized every year since 2006 on the second Saturday of February by the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition Assembly which includes the N.C. NAACP as well as more than 150 partner organizations. This year's event was titled Moral March to build off of the momentum of the Moral Monday protests, at which more than 900 civilians were arrested for refusing to vacate the capital square last summer.
In his keynote address, Rev. William Barber, Divinity ‘89 and president of N.C. NAACP outlined the organization’s demands. He called for secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability; well-funded, quality public education and health care for all; a fair criminal justice system; and the expansion of voting rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights and LGBT rights.
The Duke chapter of the NAACP organized a group of students to attend the march and helped coordinate transportation. Approximately 80 students from the Duke NAACP, Duke Students for Humane Borders and Students for a Democratic Society attended the march through the transportation organized by Duke NAACP.
“We felt that it was vital to provide all students with the chance to attend the march so that everyone would have the chance to stand in solidarity with the rest of the state on key issues affecting people of all colors in North Carolina,” said Duke NAACP President Brittany Thompson, a senior. “It was truly empowering to stand with such a diverse crowd fighting for issues that affect us all. I am confident our voices were heard.”
Some professors, such as visiting history professor Steven Milder who teaches about social movements, took their students to the march. Milder said the average Duke student is very politically aware.
“Given the talents of Duke students and all the resources available at Duke, students here have the opportunity to make a big difference in helping us to solve some of these problems,” he said.
First Vice President of the Youth and College Division of N.C. NAACP, Demonte Alford said the march gave him hope for a brighter future.
“It was a really great feeling because of the history that was being made,” the East Carolina University senior said.
Still, Amina Bility, a Duke freshman who helped organize Duke NAACP’s Moral March participation, said that there is more work to do.
“It’s not like we show up to a march and things get better,” she said. “One thing to keep in mind is it’s our decision whether or not that march becomes a movement.”