CHAPEL HILL – The message of the Moral Monday protests echoed throughout the celebrations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day as the community gathered to remember the fight for equality that the civil rights leader began decades ago.
Orange County Commissioner and civil rights attorney Mark Dorosin was the keynote speaker for the Chapel Hill Carrboro NAACP’s annual event Monday to remember Dr. King, this year with the theme, “A Day of Redemption.”
“What Dr. King showed us of so powerfully and what the Moral Monday Movement reminded us of is that we fight back by standing together against the politics of injustice,” Dorosin said.
The day kicked off with a rally in the Peace and Justice Plaza. Activists then marched down Franklin Street to the First Baptist Church of Chapel Hill for music, prayer and special messages to honor the pastor, activist, and humanitarian.
Dr. King would have been 85 years old on January 15.
Many of the day’s speeches compared the Moral Monday peaceful demonstrations of 2013 against the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly to the efforts of Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Dorosin talked about the significance of keeping the movement alive.
“We must insist that our public officials and our policymakers consider the impact of exclusion in every decision that they make in our name,” Dorosin said. “We must hold ourselves accountable in all our actions that that ensure equal treatment for everyone in our community. I think that is what Dr. King meant when he said we must strive for the ‘understanding, creative, redemptive good will of all people.’”
Senator Valerie Foushee (Dem.), who represents Orange and Chatham Counties, spoke at the rally on Franklin Street and marched alongside her constituents and local elected officials from the three municipalities
“It is so good to see so many of you here this morning. It says to me, and I hope it says to everyone here, that we are serious about realizing the dream,” Foushee said.
Former State Senator Ellie Kinnaird retired last August after nine terms of service due to frustration over what was happening in the State legislature. She said she was tired of watching the reversal of “many progressive measures” which she and others had pushed through.
Kinnaird spoke about the importance of not forgetting Dr. King’s teachings and remembering the people who she said were most impacted by the State’s law changes.
“I am a survivor of a vicious legislative attack on me, on Valerie, on women, the elderly, the middle class, the disabled, and most of all on the poor,” Kinnaird said.
Sa’a Mohammed, a student at UNC, said she was touched by the diverse crowd that gathered to rally and march down Franklin Street together.
“The fact that we are able to unite this way is such a significant thing and it makes me really hopeful and optimistic for the future and the fact that we will be able to overcome some of the challenges that are still facing our society,” Mohammed shared.
Minister Michelle Laws, former president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, gave one of the most passionate speeches of the day and received a standing ovation for her call to action.
“We are here today to send a message to Governor George Wallace—I’m sorry—I mean, to let Governor Pat McCrory and the likes of Art Pope know that you cannot block the doors of opportunity for the masses and expect to sit comfortably in your seats of power,” Laws said.
Each year, activists in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community also join in the annual State NAACP’s Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) march on Raleigh. This year it is happening on February 8 and will be combined with a Moral Monday rally.
MLK Day rally marshal Minister Robert Campbell, current president of our local NAACP chapter, was one of the many who encouraged people to attend the Moral March on Raleigh and rekindle the movement.
“We have to work together in order for political, social, economic and education change to take place and to be sustained. We cannot think that for a moment that the movement is for a minute. It is forever,” Campbell said.
Other Moments of the Day
During Monday’s service, those arrested during Moral Monday were also recognized. Some shared their experience of being arrested and why they felt moved to do so.
Civil rights attorney Al McSurley introduced Dorosin and recounted the time when the two first met. Dorosin joined McSurley’s law firm when the practice was on Franklin Street above the Rathskeller. Dorosin is now Managing Attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. Both are representing Moral Monday arrestees in court.
Diane Robertson was presented with the Rebecca Clark Award for her work in voter registration efforts.
Francis and Marguerite Coyle were awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award.