On Feb. 10, dark skies and off and on rain created a stark contrast to the bright rainbow of signs being held by exuberant marchers. The signs range from handmade poster boards with more heart than sophistication behind them to professionally designed graphics on vinyl banners. Like the signs, the crowd of marchers reflects a diverse collection of backgrounds, beliefs and reasons to be participating in this year’s HK on J Moral March in Raleigh.
The march was founded by Dr. Rev. William J. Barber in 2006 after a coalition of organizations led by the NAACP rallied around a set agenda called the 14-Point People’s Agenda, a document that has shaped the activism of HK on J (Historic Thousands on Jones Street).
The Moral March is not a march for just one issue or political agenda. While obviously left leaning, the march is meant to serve as a platform for anyone in search of social, economic or political justice. The movements range from Fight For 15, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ Rights, Medicare For All, Boycott Divestment and immigrants’ rights among many other issues.
The organizations that rallied in support of the march also reflect the mixed bag of agendas that were able to stand in solidarity and march at the Capitol building. The NAACP had a leading role in the organizing the march, yet overall 200 organizations were represented including Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, Indivisible and the Carolina Peace Center.
The event began at 9 a.m. with a rally beforehand to encourage and organize the line of marchers. Finally, at 10 a. m. the march began, going down Fayetteville Street as the different organizations led chants and songs down the wet route. The march itself only lasted thirty minutes before the long winding line of marchers finally stopped at a temporary stage set up in front of the Capitol building.
At the stage is where the organizers began the program of guest speakers that spoke more specifically on the many issues the march represented. Included in these speakers was Greensboro’s own Joyce Johnson of the Beloved Community Center who spoke on behalf of Workers Rights. Joyce Johnson has been a leading figure in Greensboro’s activism leading all the way back to the Greensboro Massacre in 1979. The speakers alternated from veteran organizers to firsthand accounts of the injustices suffered by Americans today. The slogan for this year’s march, “Forward Together, Not One Step Back!” being shoehorned into the guest’s speeches with limited success.
Despite the depressing weather, the crowd was enthused to be among like minded individuals who were working to make a change happen in our country. Loud cheering and enthusiastic call and response chants were abundant throughout the more than hour long lineup of guest speakers.
However, not everyone in attendance was participating as an ally to the march. A photo explicitly showing a dead and bloody child that was aborted in the very late stages of pregnancy was plastered to a blood red sign and held on the fringes of the crowd. The people who took turns holding the sign shouted out pro-life slogans. The problem with the extremely graphic image is that it was of a late stage pregnancy, not a depiction of a legally aborted fetus, which at the nine week mark does not resemble a human.
The marchers did not rise to the baiting of the counter-protest but instead moved their own signs to hide the graphic image from the other marchers, some of whom were children as young as 5 and 6 marching with their parents.
A truck with similar images and anti-homosexual phrases plastered to the sides was also seen circling the streets of the march with most marchers ignoring the baiting imagery.
Despite those two actions of counter-protest, the march was widely a success. The HKonJ Moral March and the other direct actions are one of the crucial ways to draw attention to the fact that for many Americans, the Trump administration is not one that will be allowed to go unchecked by the public. Since Trump’s inauguration last year, the country has seen a renewed wave of activism as veterans of social justice movements are being reinforced by younger generations who feel they cannot stand by and do nothing.