This reflection was written in response to the Winter 2015 immersion course during which we traveled to North Carolina to join the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Moral March and learn from the North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Movement.
When leaders of the Moral Movement spoke to our class on Jan 30, they highlighted their guiding principles: framing the movement in moral language, constructing a sustainable coalition, avoiding coalescence to either Democratic or Republican parties, building a regional movement, etc. This last principle, building a regional movement, particularly grabbed my attention. Why regional when so many of the political and economic challenges in North Carolina are not exclusive to the Tar Heel state? Couldn’t a more effective movement be built by refusing to create a regional coalition and aligning with national and international networks instead?
What is clear from the Moral Movement, however, is that the regional focus creates space for a reimagination of North Carolina’s political landscape. Here are a few of these re-imaginings:
[aesop_image imgwidth=”40%” img=”” align=”left” lightbox=”on” captionposition=”left”]
1. Bigger than the single issue. Building regionally means building a composite movement based on concerns that emerge from sharing a common place. This means that the movement is not built on a singular vision that, while it may raise its own boat, may also fail to raise the collective tide. To think regionally is to (literally and metaphorically) think ecologically–nothing exists in isolation, so no challenge can be improved in isolation. Because communities are more than the random grouping of atomistic individuals, but complex networks of people with unique, multiple, and overlapping relationships, concerns, and cares, regional coordination is more capable of addressing its challenges because it is more diagnostically rich. Furthermore, building movements based on a common life together instead of a single issue resists buckling to divide-and-conquer politics which would pit single issue interests against other single issue interests.
2. Politics is more than Raleigh. Regional building allows communities to see themselves as democratic agents whose political voices aren’t solely determined by what elected officials in the capital will concede. Building regionally makes the movement a true people’s movement, hosting a diverse gathering of people who seek to define in their own voice their state’s understanding of justice and equality (as opposed to working within the narrow limitations set by the legislative and executive branches).
3. Here to stay. Because the Moral Movement is not negatively defined by its resistance to the present political regime, but, positively, by its commitment to continuously improving the economic, social, and political conditions of North Carolina, its vision can be sustained and renewed. Though the movement has grown significantly in response to the retrogressive policies enacted in the last few years, there is no indication that the movement must terminate if and when the current regime is voted out of office. Instead, the movement’s existing infrastructure can be revised to meet new needs that arise with the installation of new officials. Accordingly, the Moral Movement is creating lasting avenues that broaden the accessibility and depth of democratic engagement in the state. The regional focus allows the movement to build strong and broad ties to communities with lasting histories in the state. As long as these groups are in the state, their interests can be represented.