On Saturday, February 10th, I had the opportunity to participate in the NAACP’s Moral March alongside members of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN), Equality NC, and hundreds of other organizations. These groups and participants comprise the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition, a union dedicated to creating equitable social change through civic participation and legislative action. This coalition has grown substantially since its conception in 2007, increasing from approximately 3,500 supporters to over 80,000 participants in 2017. This year, it was an honor to march with an even greater a magnitude of advocates from across the state to demonstrate our conviction for a more equitable society. We marched for criminal justice reform in our courts, for DACA protection in our communities, and Medicaid expansion in our state. Unified in our purpose of maintaining human rights, we met in the morning in front of the Raleigh Convention Center.
The People’s Assembly began with a myriad of speakers and performances, most of which were prepared and delivered by students from nearby colleges, such as North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University. One theme that was established within the pre-rally was the inclusion of youth advocates, their necessity within social movements and their role in the future. Young advocates, such as myself, were encouraged to utilize their energy, passion, and skills to assist in the purpose of moving, “Forward together, not one step back.” This includes participating in activities such as encouraging civic engagement among our peers and positioning ourselves to assist in making future social change possible.
During the pauses between speakers, I assisted in gathering petition signatures from members of the audience who support NCAAN and its mission of increasing healthcare access for LGBTQ individuals. It was an incredibly reassuring experience to have so many people affirm their support, since we live in a political climate in which the right to healthcare is being constantly negotiated. Following the pre-rally, I enjoyed being able to share my personal experiences with petition signers and hear from members of other attending organizations, such as the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and the Raging Grannies. Together we marched and chanted in unison for equality in healthcare, criminal justice reform, and civic engagement through the streets of downtown Raleigh.
The Moral March culminated with numerous speakers giving speeches about how to take the resistance to the ballot box and assist one another in addressing inequality within our communities. As I stood alongside other advocates chanting the words, “Forward together, not one step back,” I reflected on how proud I was to be participating in the march as intern for NCAAN. It is incredibly gratifying to be involved in an organization that is rooted in creating political and social improvements for persons disregarded, excluded, or purposefully disadvantaged by our society. I am proud that I had the opportunity to march with NCAAN and thousands of other volunteers for causes I believe in through participating in the NAACP’s Moral March.
-Mason Zeagler, NC AIDS Action Network Intern