Exploring the 2018 Festival Theme II: Weaving Tales From The Dismal Swamp to Moral Monday Marches

Weaving Tales From the Dismal Swamp to Moral Monday Marches

NABS Talking here; once again talking about our theme for the 2018 Festival, Weaving Tales from The Dismal Swamp to Moral Monday Marches.  This time we’ll take a look at the Moral Monday protests and how that story strikes a similar theme to the resistance and endurance expressed in the Dismal Swamp.


Rev. William Barber speaking at a Moral Mondays rally on July 15, 2013 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Mondays

Rev. William Barber was head of the North Carolina state chapter of the NAACP when he saw a need, in 2013, to protest the conservative agenda of the North Carolina legislature by forming a broad-based alliance led by religious leaders.  It was called “Moral Monday.”  The movement spread to Georgia and South Carolina, then to Illinois and New Mexico and on.  Since then Rev. Barber has joined forces with the Kairos Center of the Union Theological Seminary in New York and shares the leadership role of their new project with Rev. Liz Theoharis.


Believing that we are in a kairos moment (a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of  crucial action: the opportune and decisive moment (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kairos)) the Kairos Center works globally to strengthen and expand transformative movements for social change.  The project is now called the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.”  It takes its name from the spring 1968 protest planned by Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which was held on the National Mall in Washington, DC.  It encourages grassroots leadership in the fight for health care, living wage jobs, social justice, voting rights and an end to poverty.

Poor PC_Health.jpg

The original Moral Monday marches involved protestors entering the state legislature building to bring attention to their issues.  The numbers of protestors grew from just under a hundred on that first Monday to thousands on subsequent Mondays.  Some of these protestors were arrested for civil disobedience.

Now, under the banner of the Poor People’s Campaign, a 40 day nationwide coordinated action was planned for the spring of 2018 to end on June 23, the final day of the 1968 campaign.


  The Rev. William J. Barber is confronted by state troopers at the doors of the Kentucky Capitol during a demonstration organized by the Kentucky Poor  People’s Campaign. The group was barred from the Capitol following an outdoor rally that included a denunciation of the nation’s first work requirements for Medicaid.  (Lexington Herald Leader June 5, 2018; Bryan Woolston AP Photo)

During the 40 day period ending June 23rd, protestors in 40 states have participated in the “Poor Peoples Campaign”.  There were arrests in many of those demonstrations.  However, in Frankfort, Kentucky 400 protestors were turned away from the Kentucky state capitol on June 4th. New rules for admission had been put in place after “Poor Peoples Campaign” demonstrations on several Mondays in May.  This set off new concerns and calls for an explanation of a policy of citizen demonstrators being barred from their state capitol.  If not there, where should one seek redress from one’s government.  Protesters returned to the state house on the following Monday and again were not admitted.

This story that began at the local level in North Carolina has become a national movement.  It is the story of citizens taking responsibility for holding government accountable.  Their stories are inspiring and echo the stories of resistance and determination of Maroons in the Great Dismal Swamp.

The story of Moral Monday Marches is not yet complete and still it needs to be told.  We are the National Association of Black Storytellers, we must tell it; that’s what we do!

NABS Talking will be back with another great post next month.

Also, watch for myths and legends from the  Dismal Swamp.   

Join NABS in Cary NC, October 31st through November 4th for the 36th Annual National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference, where inspiring stories are born, live and reign.

Amy Johnson


Why Were Peaceful Protestors Barred from Kentucky Capitol?  By Kent Gilbert, Lexington Herald Leader,  June 5, 2018.   http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article212566619.html

Thirty-four protestors advocating for $15 minimum wage arrested in Raleigh NC, Monday June 11, 2018;  https://www.pressrush.com/author/8351474/anne-blythe

The Southern Strategist, by Jelani Cobb, New Yorker Magazine, May 14, 2018 pgs 68-75.

“Moral Monday” Movement Turns 5 Years Old with Rally, April 30, 2018 https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/north-carolina/articles/2018-04-30/moral-monday-movement-turning-5-years-old-with-rally

Man behind Moral Mondays, by Lisa Rab, Mother Jones April 14, 2014.  https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/william-barber-moral-monday-north-carolina/

Rev. William Barber builds a moral movement; Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., June 29, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/29/woe-unto-those-who-legislate-evil-rev-william-barber-builds-a-moral-movement/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fd5f6c4da7ee

Kentucky Poor Peoples Campaign Shut out of State Capitol Second Week In A Row; Tues. June 12, 2018.  https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2018/06/12/kentucky-poor-peoples-campaign-shut-out-state-capitol-second-week-row