“Bail out the people, not the banks.” “Don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor.”
These were some of the many words echoed by approximately 2,000 people in the third annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street march on Feb. 14. Led by the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and almost 100 progressive organizations, the movement behind HK on J was made clear to state lawmakers that the 14-point agenda proposed by committee members needed to be addressed. The unique agenda was proposed as a plan of action in order to strengthen living conditions in North Carolina for all residents. “Our agenda is comprehensive because so many people’s pain, problems, and disparities are comprehensive,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. “The cries of the people must be answered today.”
Like the marches held two years previously as part of HK on J, the 14 points have remained the same, with a few of its topics focusing on several key points. The points include, but are not limited to strengthening the quality of education, better living wages for those with low income, better health care, providing affordable housing, protecting the rights of immigrants, and assisting with funding for civil rights enforcement agencies. A rally was held in Chavis Park near downtown Raleigh as people, young and old, gathered to prepare for the march. The march proceeded from Chavis Park through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and through downtown Raleigh. The march stopped on Jones St. in front of the General Assembly office. From there, members of the N.C. NAACP, HK on J committee, and others representing organizations such as Democracy N.C., Justice for Immigrant Workers, El Pueblo Inc. and Black Workers for Justice, headlined a program highlighting each of the points made. Individuals representing several organizations and schools spoke on each of the 14 points outlined on the agenda. The relevance of the NAACP’s presence in the march was also highlighted as part of the organization’s 100th anniversary on Feb. 12. For Tiffany Whiting, a senior attending UNC-CH as a chemistry major, the merger of both HK on J and the NAACP means a lot to her as a member. “For 100 years, [the] NAACP has fought for the same things HK on J is fighting for in the 14-point agenda,” Whiting said. “It’s really good that so many students came out here.” In addition to the NAACP’s anniversary, the march was inspiring for those who abandoned the traditions of Valentine’s Day in order to demonstrate for civil rights. “It’s been empowering to see a lot of people here, with it being Valentine’s Day, that they came out here to pursue justice,” said Marquita McAllpine, a senior at NC Central University.
Among the marchers came an increase in youth and young adults as compared to last year. For some, it was their second or third time while it was an eye-opening experience for most first-time goers. Many of these people attend N.C. State University, which is not very far from the location of the march itself. “It was a great experience,” said Rhonda Benneton, a sophomore in psychology. “I wasn’t expecting this many people. It is beautiful that people came out here for a change because that’s what we need.” It was also a first time experience for Wende Nichols, a senior in history and Africana studies. “I enjoy hearing different people’s platforms of why they’re [the organizations] are here,” she said. Barber said the presence of the youth being at the march was needed to push the amendments proposed on HK on J’s agenda. “[The youth] must take change. It is not a move for a change for the future, but a move for the present.”
The next time HK on J will be held is tentatively planned for Feb. 13, 2010. Until then, many who attended HK on J were urged to continually take action for what is right for the majority. “We will raise our voices,” said Barber in his speech during the program. “We have to raise our voices. We must raise our voices because silence means approval” he said.