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William Barber’s prophetic voice demands voting rights and justice for all

Stacy M. Brown | 8/9/2016, noon
The headlines blared almost non-stop.
Reverend William Barber, the president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

The headlines blared almost non-stop.

“Rev. William Barber Rattles the Windows, Shakes the DNC Walls,” NBC News said.

“The Rev. William Barber dropped the mic,” the Washington Post marveled.

And, “Americans who’d never heard of Rev. William Barber II won’t be able to forget him after last night,” said Ari Berman of the political website “The Nation.”

Even celebrities were awed.

“I’m an atheist and I’d go to Rev. William Barber’s church in a second,” King of Queens actor Patton Oswalt said. “Just to get levitated by his voice.”

Barber hasn’t always held the national spotlight, but he’s never sought it out either.

As the President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, Barber has worked in the trenches to deliver strong messages that oppose hate, violence and oppression.

“We have always insisted that some issues are not left versus right, but right versus wrong. Racism is not a liberal or conservative issue,” Barber said. “Subverting democracy is not partisan. It is immoral. It’s just plain wrong.”

According to Barber, North Carolina’s voter suppression law that passed in the wake of the infamous 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision, was a major culprit in subverting democracy in poor and Black communities.

Earlier this summer, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Barber and the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and other groups that had filed suit on the day the Governor Pat McCrory signed the law.

“The decision exposed the racist intent of the extremist element of our government in North Carolina,” Barber said. “Just think of what that meant. It would have an effect on all the southern states and it would tip the scales in the election.”

Based on the ruling, North Carolina voters will not have to show a voter ID in the state in November or in any future election, Barber said.

“North Carolinians will enjoy the full scope of early voting opportunities previously available, and will not be denied needed safeguards to protect the ability to exercise the right to vote including the option of same day registration,” he said.

Barber continued: “We know that this decision is a step closer to a freer, fairer electoral system in our state and in the nation. It is our duty to continue this fight until barriers based on race are swept away as ancient history. This is not a photo ID bill, this court ruled on the most sweeping, retrogressive voter suppression bill that we have seen since the 19th century and since Jim Crow and the worst in the nation since the Shelby decision.”

Going forward, the fight must continue, he said.

And, that’s just one reason why he accepted an invitation to speak at the Democratic National Convention in July.

“We were in Cleveland delivering to all the presidential candidates, state governors and senators, our higher ground moral declaration,” Barber said, noting that one year before his assassination, King had called for a time to break the silence about the injustices in society.