theGrio’s 100: William Barber, fighting for the rights of all North Carolinians

Rev. William Barber (Courtesy Eric Byler)

Rev. William Barber (Courtesy Eric Byler)

Who is William Barber?

Rev. Dr. William Barber is the president of the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter, and the pastor of the 120-year-old Greenleaf Christian Church Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Barber also serves as an adjunct professor in the Masters of Divinity program at North Carolina Central University.

During his carer. Barber has fought for diversity in public education, against discrimination, and for programs for low income people, and is the convener of the group  “Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition” (HKonJ) which consists of dozens of North Carolina NAACP chapters and social justice groups, and whose stated goal is to “visibly challenge the extremist right wing attacks on voting rights, economic justice, public education, and equal protection under the law.”

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Barber first attracted national attention in April 2012, when he joined other black clergy in North Carolina in opposing that state’s Amendment One, which would bar same-sex marriage, along with civil unions and domestic partnerships in the state. Breaking from many traditional African-American and national Christian groups. Barber even recorded a Youtube video opposing the law, and delivered a passionate sermon on the eve of the vote,

The Amendment passed in May, during the same week President Obama declared his support for gay marriage during a televised interview.

Barber’s advocacy wasn’t over, however, and he became one of the most vocal opponents of laws, including in his state, that many African-American leaders believed were aimed at reducing the numbers of black voters, in order to prevent President Barack Obama’s re-election. Barber became a key voice of black voter advocacy in the closely contested state, which Obama won in 2008, calling Republican tactics, including voter ID laws, “Jim Crow, Esq.” and saying “The extreme nature of these tactics started after the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president. The radical conservatives know when the electorate is broad and deep their narrow agenda may not survive the election.”

While Obama narrowly lost North Carolina in 2012, black voter turnout reached historic levels, particularly during early voting, and Barber led the fight to push back against tactics many believed were as egregious as any form of voter suppression since the days before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What’s next for Rev. Barber?

Barber’s organization, HKonJ, is declaring that it will mobilize “to end poverty” and for “economic justice” in 2013, and has a rally planned for February 9th at Shaw University in Raleigh. Barber recently told local TV station WRAL that the group group, including 85 organizations, representing “1 million grassroots activists” will press a 14-point agenda that includes pressing for high quality, diverse schools for all North Carolina children, living wages, collective bargaining for all public employees, affordable housing and universal healthcare, along with a reckoning with the state’s racist past.

Follow William Barber on Twitter at @TruthAndHopeNC or learn more online at RevWilliamBarber.com.