NC Legislative Black Caucus pays a visit to Governor McCrory

By Jaymes Powell Jr.
Communications Specialist

North Carolina’s Legislative Black Caucus have been deeply involved in the fight in the legislature and Thursday morning the group joined in protest. A majority of the 33 member unit marched from the Legislative Building to the Capitol to meet with Republican Governor Pat McCrory, wanting to directly express concerns and outrage at the direction the GOP is taking the state and to join with the hundreds who have peacefully demonstrated against Republican legislation in the past several weeks resulting in nearly 50 being arrested.

Unlike many of the other North Carolinian activists who were arrested while attempting to speak with Republican lawmakers, no members were arrested. However, as others before, the Democratic legislators were denied access to speak with GOP leadership. While a McCrory aide said the governor would speak with the caucus next week, the Democrats hand-delivered a list of concerns focusing on legislation delivered by Republicans they say downwardly affects the lives of millions.

STOP AND LISTEN

While the Republican-led General Assembly continues to push harsh legislation at will, Democrats explained McCrory can stop this – either by influence or veto. If not, the stains of 2013 will be around when McCrory runs for re-election in 2016. 

“We’re going to gain an understanding from our leaders in the legislature and the governor that we will not be silenced. We will not be moved, that we are serious about people’s concerns, that we are looking at what’s going on in this state as it disproportionately affects poor people, people of color, seniors, what they call ‘the least of these’,” Rep. Rodney Moore (D – 99th District) said as the caucus walked away from the Capitol with McCrory unavailable.

“This is only the beginning of our action as a caucus. That’s what you can get from this. That we are committed that the governor hear our voice and to make whatever corrective action that he needs to save his administration in the years coming forward,” Moore continued.

“We represent 3.6 million constituents. Citizens. Voters. He has to take notice. It would hurt him if he would not at least give us an audience or engage us in conversation about the real and true issues.”

The caucus has been upset by a range of legislation this session, including attacks on women’s rights, voting rights, health care, poor and working class families and a suppression of dissent when it was time to debate gun control. These issues coupled with the frustration of so many North Carolinians all but forced the caucus to march to governor’s work place.

While the Republicans have sealed the doors of discussion on protestors - who included the NAACP, students, clergy, workers and LGBT advocates – they have opened a dam’s worth of burning legislation, many North Carolinians and Democratic leaders say.

The Republicans began with turning down an opportunity to expand Medicaid and then began politically-scalding Tar Heel life with rightwing bills. The flow of legislation and language is.forcing state issued photo voter identification, truncating early voting, restricting student voting, hurting minorities, stunting senior living, putting a stop on youth and women’s rights all while cutting off debate on gun control - even arguing Japan didn’t invade the United States during World War II because of all the civilian firearms.

Democrats point out and claim it was more likely the presence of the United States Military and first responders.

VOTERS MATTER

As Republicans have sought to strip rights and attack safety nets while enriching a small portion of their base, Democrats say they want the views of the voters to be heard and respected.

“Our membership represents approximately 3.6 million North Carolinians. They’re voters and we’re here to express their concerns. We want to make sure the governor knows, it’s not just 33 people,” House Democratic Caucus Leader Larry Hall (D – 29th District) said, speaking in the Capitol’s main hall to a McCrory assistant who promised to deliver the message.

“We represent 3.6 million voting aged [people] if North Carolina that couldn’t come here today…but we certainly expect that [Republican governor Pat McCrory] will address the concerns we have.”

The assistant then replied.
“I’m sure he’d love {unintelligible} them,” she said. Hall responded, “I’m Representative Larry Hall, from Durham,” as if he wanted the governor to know who had paid him the visit along with the rest of the black caucus.

After delivering a printed copy of their concerns, the Legislative Black Caucus left, headed back to the Legislative Building to begin a day’s work and said a prayer.

‘We’re trying to show the people of North Carolina that we are trying to represent those that feel underrepresented,” Rep. Deb McManus (D-54th) explained just after praying. “At this time, we are not taking care of all the people in North Carolina by any means.”

STANDING TALL, WALKING FORWARD

The caucus’ march and stand with their constituents came just before North Carolina NAACP President Dr. William Barber said the group will have non-violent protests every week until the current situation is resolved.  The group has had dozens of members arrested for non-violent protests in the past several weeks with almost 50 being hauled off to jail.

With other groups vowing similar continuing protests, Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Garland Pierce (D-48th District) said he and the unit had to march to the Capitol. “It concerns me as a state legislator that so many of our citizens feel they are having to come to Raleigh to voice and discuss the issues that affect them daily and they’re not being heard,” Pierce said after the march.

“I’m trying to understand why almost 50 people have been arrested. So, it’s obvious to me that there’s something going on that’s effecting the lives of people and citizens see it and feel it. It’s important for us to keep our eyes on. It will continue, peacefully of course, but it will continue.”

After the group prayed and set off to work, caucus vice-chair senator Earline Parmon (D- 32nd District) said Republican legislation is detrimental to the lives of North Carolinians, so the Legislative Black Caucus can not afford to sit down. They’d rather take a stand, she said.

“Going as a group, as a caucus to let the governor know that we are here as voices of millions. I think he will know that we are not going to be quiet. We will not become a part of conspiracy or silenced,” Parmon said forcefully on education, economic, minority and voter rights . “So the Legislative Black Caucus has to speak up. We were sent here by our constituents to be their voice in Raleigh.”

Sitting in his office after the march, Pierce reflected on one of his favorite Frederick Douglas quotations. “’Power concedes nothing without a demand’,” Pierce, a veteran of the civil rights movement recited. “’It never did and it never will’.”

Jaymes Powell Jr. can be reached at JaymesPowellJr.@NCDP.org