Moral Monday rally: ‘The battle is not yet won’

J.C. Watkins, others insist ‘we have hard work to do’
Early voting begins Oct. 23

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery

ROCKINGHAM — J.C. Watkins recalled a time when, in 1944, he was not permitted to register to vote in the Beaverdam No. 2 Precinct — his home polling place.

“‘You don’t need to vote,'” Watkins said he was told. “That was hurtful.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rev. Dian Griffin Jackson, left, stands on stage at Cole Plaza trying to ignite voters to head to the polls beginning Thursday at 9 a.m.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rev. Dian Griffin Jackson, left, stands on stage at Cole Plaza trying to ignite voters to head to the polls beginning Thursday at 9 a.m.

Watkins spoke of the injustice Monday evening at Cole Plaza in downtown Rockingham, where Rev. Dian Griffin Jackson and others coordinated the first Moral Monday rally and protest to what many North Carolinians feel are oppressive political maneuvers intended to keep them from voting, from a good public education, from affordable health care and from a living wage, among other issues. Approximately 200 people attended the event — the first of its kind in Rockingham — though Jackson acknowledged she had hoped for more.

Watkins continued his career in education in the ’40s, ’50s and beyond and rose to No. 2 in Richmond County Schools, and ran for public office — he became the first black person elected to the Rockingham City Council and the second black county commissioner in Richmond County. And still today, he said, there are injustices.

The second election following his return from college, Watkins said he had moved to the Leak Street community. He again went to register to vote. He and his wife, he said, made the front page of a local newspaper because they were the first black residents to do so.

Those who feel oppressed are still making featured headlines in local media. Watkins said it’s a sign that “the battle is

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

not yet won. We have hard work to do.”

Jackson didn’t disagree. She said the goal of the event was to “ignite the citizens of Richmond County to go out and vote. We need to put our money where our vote is.”

Early voting will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Cooperative Extension on Caroline Street on the following days of early voting: Oct. 23, Oct. 24, Oct. 27, Oct. 28, Oct. 29, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31.

At Cole Auditorium at Richmond Community College in Hamlet and at Ellerbe Town Hall, 108 W. Page St., Ellerbe, early voting will be available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 31 and from 9 a.m .to 1 p.m. Nov. 1.

Jackson said that many in the lower-middle class and below, financially, in Richmond County “feel like we’re not getting our fair representation.”

Robert Graves, a retired Latin teacher at Richmond Senior High School, said legislators aren’t paying attention to those who know education — the teachers.

“It seems that no one is listening to teachers now,” said Graves, giving a reason he left the profession. “I’m not alone in

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

leaving. If you believe in public education, you cannot sit this election out.”

Clifton Broady spoke on labor rights — the issues crosses color lines, he said — and Kimberly Harrington revved up the crowd with a pro-women platform. She quoted Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech at an Ohio convention, “Ain’t I A Woman” to the pleasure of the crowd.

“Yes,” said Harrington, a South Carolina newspaper editor, “we have progressed in our fight for equality.”

But she noted deficiencies that still exist.

“It’s no longer a man’s world,” she said, but noted that women make only 77 cents to a man’s dollar and fully half the workforce is comprised of a women — a first in U.S. history. Harrington said women are chief executives, business owners, women who “bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan.”

Other speakers talked about the importance of voting and the progress of the LGBT community as North Carolina courts have eliminated Amendment 1, the ban on same-sex marriage.

Rev. Dr. William Joseph Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, was the keynote speaker of the evening. He spoke on the importance of moving forward in the struggle for equality despite obstacles put in the way by people he

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Kimberly Harrington speaks on a pro-women's platform.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Kimberly Harrington speaks on a pro-women’s platform.

called “extremist legislators.”

He said House Speaker Tom Tillis, state Sen. Phil Berger and Gov. Pat McCrory launched “a campaign of extremism” two years ago that have attacked public education, women’s health, marriage equality, the right to vote via the Voter ID act, cutting early voting and more.

Barber likened the ongoing struggle for the quest for civil rights in the 1960s and the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.

“When you go after voting, that’s like walking through the blood of the march,” Barber said. “Somebody oughta say it’s wrong. If people have to work this hard to stop you, you must be a bad somebody.”

Barber suggested the answer is unity at the polls. He said in 2010 in North Carolina, 686,000 fewer people voted than in 2008 and 2012 — women and minorities.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com J.C. Watkins spoke on the importance of voting, and how there's work to be done for those who feel oppressed.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
J.C. Watkins spoke on the importance of voting, and how there’s work to be done for those who feel oppressed.

“What if we came together,” Barber asked.

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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