CHAPEL HILL – Hundreds gathered in front of the court house on Franklin Street Wednesday as part of the “Taking The Dream Home” Rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Speakers at the event echoed many of the same sentiments which President Barack Obama conveyed to the nation earlier in the day. Each message reflected on the civil rights work which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began decades ago and on the progress still to be made.
Former state senator Ellie Kinnaird was one of the many speakers at the rally.
“It’s history, and it is where we are now because of that history. And if it weren’t for that history, we wouldn’t have had this crowd here and all of these people who are joining in and raising their voices,” Kinnaird said.
Minister Robert Campbell, President of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, helped to organize the event, which police estimated was attended by 500 people.
“It’s a good day! It’s a great day to just see the diversity coming together and saying let’s keep hope alive. Let’s keep humanity at the top! Let’s keep humanity to a point that changes occur and that we can make sure that they are ever-going and ever-moving,” Campbell said.
Across the state Wednesday, similar gatherings happened simultaneously in North Carolina’s 12 other congressional districts.
“We have to energize locally. That is the key for success,” Campbell said. “If we energize, mobilize and keep it moving, we will overcome.”
In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the March on Washington, the rallies were a continuation of the N.C. NAACP’s Moral Monday Movement. The weekly demonstrations, which happened over the summer in protest of policies put forth by the Republican-led General Assembly, resulted in more than 900 arrests.
For 17 years, Kinnaird represented Orange County in the state senate. Along with thousand of protesters, she shared disapproval over the current state of North Carolina’s government and also supported the Moral Monday Movement. She recently announced her resignation from the District 23 seat for reasons which she attributed to the Republican super majority in the State Legislature. She said she was tired of watching the reversal of “many progressive measures” which she and others had pushed through.
“What we have to do is make it very clear in the next election that we are going to take it back,” Kinnaird said.
Jenn Frye, of Democracy North Carolina, joined Kinnaird as one of the speakers Wednesday. Other speakers included lawyer Tye Hunter; Page Johnson of Planned Parenthood; Gene Nichol, UNC Professor of Law; and Chuck Hennessee of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
Frye said that the voter ID legislation, signed into law earlier this month, targets the African American vote and goes against the values for which Dr. King fought.
“A future of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed, voting and participating in our democracy is how we get there,” Frye said.
Bishop Larry Reid of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP said though he believes there is much work still to be done in the state, he was touched by crowd’s diversity at the rally.
“When you look out, you couldn’t take a paint brush and make these colors,” Reid said. “That is the beauty of saying it’s not just about a people of color, or a people— brown, white, black—it’s a people.”
Local elected officials from the three municipalities were among those in the crowd, including Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.
A moment was taken to recognize the arrestees from the Moral Monday protests. The large group took to the steps of the Courthouse as onlookers shouted, “Thank you.”