FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2012
For More Information: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137
Mrs. Amina Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700
Why We Must Keep Our Eyes on Jones Street:
The General Assembly, The People’s House
Presented by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, NC NAACP
HKonJ Press Conference
Saturday, January 28, 2012 9:00 AM
North Carolina Mutual Building – Durham, NC
(DURHAM) – We are pleased to welcome the President and CEO of the National NAACP, Benjamin Todd Jealous, back to North Carolina to stand with us as we mobilize for our March on Raleigh on February 11, 2012.
The North Carolina Constitution in the Declaration of Rights says, "All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole."
Based on this constitutional right we continue to demand our General Assembly to do right. The Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition Movement continues to grow and now stands united with the North Carolina NAACP State Conference, more than 120 NAACP local units and over 125 partners speaking with one voice to our lawmakers, pushing them to work for the good of the whole. Because we must defend this constitutional right, the HKonJ Coalition will March on Raleigh on Saturday, February 11.
Beginning in January 2011, a new ultra conservative leadership took over the General Assembly. Their policies and legislation give a whole new meaning to legislative racism, legislative regression, legislative classism, ‘trickle down’ economics and turning back the clock. Their policies reveal they believe in ‘holding down the poor’ economics, undermining civil and voting rights and rooting their decisions in the politics of yesterday rather than going forward and working towards a more just society. African Americans, progressive whites, Latinos, other minorities, the unrepresented, the disenfranchised, the poor and the working people of North Carolina need to know: The people now running the General Assembly in Raleigh are not working for the common good.
We have serious issues to address on the state and national level. Poverty here has grown 22 percent during the recession; over 40% of Black and Latino children live in poverty, while only 14% of white children live in poverty. The median household income in North Carolina has dropped 12.3% since 2007, while the state lost 300,000 jobs. Roughly ten percent of our workforce is officially unemployed, though the real rate is much higher. Only six states have higher unemployment; in the South, only Mississippi suffers more joblessness. Black unemployment is double that of the whole population. The gap between rich and poor is wider and deeper than during the Great Depression; one percent of Americans own forty percent of the wealth.
This is not time for the General Assembly to cut hundreds of millions from Medicaid, mental health, and critical services to poor communities. But that is exactly what they have done.
Over 1.5 million North Carolinians live in poverty. Children suffer most; 48 of our 100 counties have more than 20 percent of families going without food at times; almost half the children in Vance, Scotland and Robeson sometimes have no food at home.
The number of children in poverty (2010) in North Carolina is shameful:
- Latino Children-130,743
- White Children-214,487
- African American Children-207,421
- American Indian Children-11,239
These children are not just white, black, brown or red children; they are God’s children and our children, and we have to do right by them.
This General Assembly passed the worst budget in decades containing a series of debilitating cuts to education, health care and other vital services. This budget was so severe that Judge Howard Manning ruled it unconstitutional as it applies to pre-Kindergarten funding, denying our most vulnerable 4-year olds educational opportunities.
Nearly $2 billion is being cut from education (K-12, Community Colleges and universities) over the two-year biennium – (over $800 million from K-12 education, $250 million from Community Colleges, and $700 million from universities).
We have almost 5,000 fewer K-12 school personnel in the current budget compared to last year. More will have to be cut next year.
They attacked democracy itself. In 2011 we saw redistricting used as an attempt to segregate the black vote. The same forces that use purported compliance with the Voting Rights Act as an excuse to obtain partisan advantage filed a lawsuit to overturn the Voting Rights Act altogether. They also pushed Voter Photo ID bills that would disfranchise poor, young, minority and elderly voters. Their race-based maps pack 48% of black voters into just three U.S. House Districts, 52% into just 27 of the 120 State House Districts, and 47% into just ten State Senate Districts. Many of these districts were already electing African Americans; by removing black voters from majority white districts, they marginalize minority influence. And they are attempting to write discrimination based on sexuality into the state constitution.
They also unveiled another, even more ambitious elections law rewrite in the closing hours of the 2011 session. This measure would, among other things, repeal same-day voter registration, ban straight-ticket voting, shorten the early-voting period by a week, ban early voting on Sundays, repeal publicly-financed elections for three statewide offices, and create a new type of account for political parties to accept corporate money. GOP leaders are also holding back millions of dollars in federal Help America Vote Act funds that would help local boards of election expand access to the ballot in 2012.
They undercut justice in our courts. Our General Assembly tried to kill the Racial Justice Act, which gives the courts a chance to ensure that racism does not drive anyone’s death sentence. They also slashed funding to Indigent Defense Services, often the only hope for young black men and women to escape an often unequal justice system.
In the People’s House, where we are supposed to serve the good of the whole, a new majority has chosen to serve the whims of the few.
The situation is clear: This Coalition must continue to vigorously advocate our 14-point HKonJ Legislative Agenda until all the points, so fundamental to justice and human rights in North Carolina, are addressed.
This is why we must March on Jones Street on February 11. And this is why we must stay eternally vigilant.
In this moment, we must redouble our efforts and declare in both words and deeds:
Forward Together, Not One Step Back: We will not be divided or defeated
Forward Together Not One Step Back: WE DEMAND Liberty and Justice for All
Forward Together Not One Step Back: WE DEMAND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
Forward Together Not One Step Back: We the People Shall Not be Moved
This is why we must have mass mobilization for February 11, mass organization after February 11 and then mass civic and voter participation.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
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