On February 8, 2014, I had an opportunity to march in the 8th annual historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly (HKonJ) – also known as the Moral March on Raleigh – along with over 20,000 other protestors. Marchers came from all over, from fellow UNC Chapel Hill students to people who had traveled all the way from New York City. There were protestors of all different ages and all different races. We marched from Shaw University, the oldest historically black university in the South, to the state capital building on Jones Street.
The march, while inspiring, was also a sign of how much further North Carolina must progress. It highlighted many of the issues that led activists to gather during the Moral Monday protests at the state capital during the summer of 2013. As HKonJ’s 14 Point Agenda outlines, many of the issues that brought me, as well as thousands of others, to the march earlier this month include the need to establish livable wages, diversify public schools, provide affordable healthcare and housing for all, and expand same day voter registration.
From undermining women’s reproductive rights to rolling back early voting and implementing a controversial voter ID law, North Carolina has been pushing some of the most regressive policies in the United States. These new policies disproportionately and negatively impact low income people and people of color. And by hindering the ability of many North Carolinians to vote, the issues highlighted in the HKonJ agenda have taken a backseat compared to the interests of big business and the wealthy.
But the people of North Carolina are not standing for this. HKonJ’s work does not end after the march – the fight continues every day. The chants heard during this HKonJ march reflect the dissatisfaction felt by thousands that stem from my state’s turn for the worse. The chant I heard most often, “Forward Together, Not on Step Back,” truly encapsulates the desire of the marchers: to move our state forward toward a more progressive North Carolina.
Omar Kashef is a 2013 YP4 Fellow from North Carolina. He attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is pursuing a dual degree in Economics and Public Policy.