Wednesday, June 18, 2014



Harry Targ

The new Indiana Moral Mondays’ Working Group will kick off the formation of a statewide grassroots activist organization on September 19-20, 2014 in Indianapolis, hosting faith community meetings with Reverend William Barber from North Carolina; workshops on organizing, and a major mobilization featuring speeches by Barber and leaders from around the state. Organizers are inviting activists from around the state who are committed to building a new moral movement to improve the lives of workers, women, people of color, the young and old, gays and straights, and immigrants.

Civil rights, labor, environmental, religious, women and other activists have been meeting since March in Indianapolis to develop this Indiana statewide network inspired by the North Carolina “Moral Mondays” movement.

The Hoosier network will challenge reactionary policies adopted by the Indiana legislature and supported by Governor Mike Pence. Activists want to reverse efforts at voter suppression and the weakening of worker rights. They demand Medicaid expansion, legislation raising the minimum wage, the closing of coal powered plants that pollute communities, and increased support for public education.

At its June 14 meeting attendees representing the NAACP, labor unions, and environmental and women’s groups approved a Mission Statement that will guide the work of the new network. It includes calls for equal justice, an end to disproportionate incarceration of minorities, the right of workers to organize, well-funded public education, environmental justice, full voting rights, and immigrant rights. Of particular relevance to Indiana history the Mission Statement calls for the transformation of the “history of racial bigotry in Indiana to one of racial and ethnic equality and unity.”

The Emergence of Moral Mondays in the South

Moral Mondays refers to a burgeoning mass movement that had its roots in efforts to defend voter rights in North Carolina. Thousands of activists have been mobilizing across the South over the last year inspired by Moral Mondays. They are fighting back against draconian efforts to destroy the right of people to vote, workers’ and women’s rights, and for progressive policies in general.

Moral Mondays began as the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly (HKonJ) in 2006 to promote progressive politics in North Carolina. Originally a coalition of 16 organizations, initiated by the state’s NAACP, it has grown to include 150 organizations today promoting a multi-issue agenda. In 2006, its task was to pressure the state’s Democratic politicians to expand voting rights and support progressive legislation on a variety of fronts. 

With the election of a tea-party government in that state in 2012, the thrust of Moral Mondays shifted to challenging the reactionary policies threatening to turn back gains made by people of color, workers, women, environmentalists and others. Public protests at the State House weekly in the spring of 2013 during the state legislative session led to over 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience and hundreds of thousands of hits on MM websites. Similar movements have spread throughout the South (Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida) and in some states in the Midwest and Southwest (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Missouri). Moral Mondays in North Carolina resumed in February with 80,000 activists in attendance.

Rev. William Barber, a key organizer of the movement, has grounded this new movement in history, suggesting that the South is in the midst of the “third reconstruction.” The first reconstruction, after the Civil War, consisted of Black and white workers struggling to create a democratic South (which would have impacted on the North as well). They elected legislators who wrote new state constitutions to create democratic institutions in that region for the first time. This first reconstruction was destroyed by white racism and the establishment of Jim Crow segregation. 

The second reconstruction occurred between Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 and President Nixon’s 1968 “Southern Strategy.” During this period formal segregation was overturned, Medicare and Medicaid were established, and Social Security was expanded. Blacks and whites benefited. Dr. King’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign envisioned a defense and expansion of the second reconstruction. However, the Nixon presidential campaign encouraged appeals to racism and began the process of reversing reforms in the region and the nation at large.

Now we are in the midst of a third reconstruction, according to Barber. Political mobilizations today, like those of the first reconstruction, are based on what was called in the 1860s “fusion” politics; that is bringing all activists—Black, Brown, white, gay/straight, workers, environmentalists, immigrants—together. Fusion politics assumes that only a mass movement built on everyone’s issues can challenge the billionaire economic elites such as the Koch brothers and their Wall Street collaborators with masses of people (the 99 percent). Fusion politics, he says, requires an understanding of the fact that every issue is interconnected causally with every other issue. Therefore, democracy, civil rights, labor, women’s, gay/lesbian, immigrant, and environmental movements must act together.

The Indiana Moral Mondays Working Group has created committees to organize the September events and to build the organization. In addition Indiana Moral Mondays Working Groups are being constructed in cities around the state.