Says Moral Monday movement example could serve Fort Wayne
Frost Illustrated Staff Report
RALEIGH, N.C.—Progress requires progressive people involved in progressive action. That’s the message acclaimed Fort Wayne photographer and community activist James Redmond wants to bring back from the south.
On July 15, while visiting his daughter Nikki Redmond in Raleigh, N.C., James Redmond said he got a firsthand look at the Moral Monday movement that is growing in that state’s capitol. Each week, on Monday, concerned clergy, activists and everyday citizens gather downtown to protest what they see as a regressive pattern by state legislatures to turn back the clock on civil and human rights. For example, Moral Monday participants have been protesting the state legislature’s moves to enact voter ID requirements that they say will make it harder for citizens to vote yet loosen restrictions on gun ownership. Protesters say such moves-indicate that the Republican led state government in North Carolina is trying to take away rights that formerly disenfranchised groups fought hard to get acknowledged.
Redmond said he agrees not only with the Moral Monday’s group’s assessment of what is happening in that state and across the country, but also with the group’s strategy for fighting against the state legislature’s positions. He said it’s -once again time for action—including people marching on the capitol—to let lawmakers know the people mean business.
“Nikki had been telling me about it. I wanted to go down there to see what people in North Carolina were doing,” said Redmond. “I was really surprised what they were doing compared to what we’re doing here.”
Redmond said participants, including various and diverse groups such as the NC NAACP, Jews for Justice and scores of private citizens, expressed their concern and said they would fight measures such as North Carolina’s plans to strip people of their unemployment benefits and pass voter ID laws but reduce requirements for background checks to buy weapons.
“In other words, it’s easy to get a gun but you can’t vote,” said Redmond.
He said lots of people—especially those involved in the Moral Monday movement–in that area aren’t taking that lying down.
“People are very adamant in their position,” he said. “They’re going to meet every Monday until something happens.”
Redmond said protestors expressed their dismay at the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict and vowed to fight any measures the state put forth to promote “stand your ground laws.” Critics say such laws could accelerate vigilantism and spur more people like Zimmerman to confront people and take the law into their own hands.
Redmond also pointed out that, contrary to what mainstream media often would have folks believe, those protesting those regressive laws aren’t just black folks.
And, he said, what he saw also explodes the rumor of the south being more racially divisive than the north.
“Believe it or not, there’s more black and whites mixing and working together for cause down there,” said Redmond.
On the Monday he was at the gathering, he said there appeared to be more white people protesting than black people and he said there was meaningful dialogue across the races at the rally.
“There weren’t just there in the crowd. They were communicating,” explained Redmond.
“A lot of Trayvon Martin supporters were there too—not just black folks,” he said.
“I met some Jewish brothers who were very adamant about civil rights position. It was very gratifying because you don’t see that in the Fort Wayne area, he said.
There were black, white, Jewish, Hispanic, Asians united all for one cause,” said Redmond.
Racial background wasn’t the only measure of diversity Redmond saw at the Moral Monday gathering. Different age groups also were represented.
“One thing really impressive was a 92-year-old senior citizen there for the cause of voting rights. She took the podium for a while. The crowd gave her a standing ovation when she went up there—out there in this heat,” he said.
While acknowledging the Moral Monday group has a difficult fight on their hand, Redmond said he believes they will get the job done because they are determined—and united. That’s a lesson he said people in Fort Wayne need to learn.
“Fort Wayne should take note from that,” he said, explaining that he sees too much “infighting” among organizations that should be uniting people for the cause of justice.
Redmond said Fort Wayne has a number of critical issues facing it: “Racism, number one and exclusion of people in the workforce, the criminal justice system which is biased, slanted towards blacks. I don’t see anyone addressing those issues.”
He said North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement should serve as a blueprint for those wanting change locally.
“This is what Fort Wayne should latch on to rather than going to meetings with no issues on the table,” he said, adding that too many people, including proclaimed leadership, seem afraid to confront the powers that be over local wrongs. “They sort of go along to get along.”
He contrasted that with the “new south.”
“That’s one nice thing about southerners. They take action—they don’t just talk,” said Redmond.
This article originally appeared in the July 31 print edition.