Tuesday, July 23, 2013

With Tim Tyson on Moral Monday in N.C.

Tim Tyson
Susan and I stopped in and paid a visit with old friend Tim Tyson in Durham, N.C. yesterday. A professor at Duke University, Tim was on his way over to the Moral Monday protest in Raliegh. 

Susan Klonsky reports from Durham:

Tim is a historian with a long view of the current wave of retrograde legislation and its connection to the history of race in North Carolina. He is one of the organizers of Moral Monday and has been arrested numerous times in the sit-ins. His 83-year-old father, Rev. Vernon Tyson, was recently arrested, as have been pretty much all the members of the Tyson family.

At yesterday's protest
Yesterday at the North Carolina Statehouse in Raleigh more than a thousand protestors convened the 12th weekly "Moral Monday" where more than 70 people were handcuffed and arrested, bringing the total of arrests to more than 900. The protests have focused on the draconian cuts in school funding as well as the rampant resegregation of schools in Wake County.  They have also targeted the current assault on  civil rights and social programs currently being rammed through the Republican-dominated North Carolina state legislature. The weekly protests include sit-ins inside the Statehouse, resulting in the arrests of hundreds (nearly 1000 arrests to date).  Moral Mondays were initiated by the NC NAACP and its state president, Rev. Dr.William Barber II. Moral Mondays are now supported by a gigantic statewide coalition of educational, civic, and charitable groups of every description. The protests have focused especially on cuts to education as well as to health care, food stamps, and voting rights.

Tim Tyson (arm raised) at Moral Monday
"Every week we protest all the cuts in every domain," Tyson explains,"but every week we emphasize one area." This week the focus is on the gutting of voting rights in the state. Each week the protest rallies have grown in size and breadth. This week they expected and got the biggest turn-out yet. Gov. Pat McCrory is pig-headedly forging ahead with measures designed to restrict voting rights, especially a voter ID law. McCrory's popularity has plummeted as a result of his cuts to public services, destruction of education and health programs, and the radical move of turning down a no-cost federal unemployment subsidy. "He's trailing slightly behind non-poisonous snakes" in popularity, Tyson notes.

As civil rights protections are rolled back, he explains, the main attacks are against the entire system of public education in the state. Multiple ways are being engineered to undermine the public schools and to incentivize parents to pull out. A voucher bill has just been passed, which will provide $4000 subsidy to any child who is pulled out of a public school and enrolled in a private school. Parents who opt to home-school their kids will receive a sizeable tax break per child. North Carolina, Tyson explains, was the last state to implement school desegregation--17 years after Brown. "They've been waiting all these years ever since for their chance to undo desegregation, and here it is."  Last week's drastic education budget destroyed the jobs of 5000+ teacher's aides. The legislature also removed the limit on the number of charter schools that can be formed, "opening the sluice gates for charter operators to flood the state."  And teacher due process, especially teacher tenure, has been wiped out altogether.

Art Pope (New Yorker)
Much of this action is backed politically and financially by right-wing powerhouse Art Pope, whom Tyson describes as "the third Koch brother." Head of a chain of retail stores,  Pope  has made his fortune in the low-income communities which are now under attack. He is joined in this enterprise by right-wing Raleigh businessman Robert Luddy, president of a company that manufactures kitchen ventilation systems and the founder of a charter school and private schools.
These guys know there's money to be made.

 I asked Tyson if this state of affairs has him down in the dumps. "Absolutely not! We haven't seen a movement like this since the 60s. We're growing a coalition, learning to work it together on all issues. It's true that the poverty is worse right now than it has been in decades. People are really hurting. The conservatives who control the state right now are more virulent than we've seen in years. There has even been a proposal put forth to legislate Christianity as the official state religion of North Carolina! But the point is the resistance. It's a movement. It's growing. It's spreading. It's far from over. We're kicking butt and we're going to win." But not without a fight.

PS:  Be sure to read Diane Ravitch's blog post: A Tragic Day For Public Education in North Carolina, a succinct comment on the education situation by Yvonne Brannan of Public Schools First NC.


  1. They want to legislate Christianity as the official state religion, but they can't seem to follow the most basic of Jesus' teachings. How ironic.


  2. In my hurry to get this posted I omitted mention of many of the issues and struggles that are vital components of the Moral Mondays movement. To name just a couple: Reproductive rights/abortion rights and Marriage Equality. There are many more strands knitting themselves together in the North Carolina movement against repressive and backward legislation and public policy.

  3. Add legalized pension theft to Moral Monday's list of outrage.
    While we follow the debt-ceiling- shiny-object, congress plans to steal pension funds from the working class:

    "Congress is expected to consider changes to ERISA later this summer that could open the door to benefit cuts for current retirees for the first time in recent memory. The cuts would hit pensioners covered by multi-employer pension plans. These are plans that are jointly funded by groups of employers in industries like construction, trucking, mining and retail food companies."


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.