Georgia’s First “Moral Monday” Pushes Medicaid Expansion
(APN) ATLANTA — In a cold, blustery rain, about five hundred Georgians stood on the front steps of the Georgia State Capitol for over two hours imploring Governor Nathan Deal to stop playing politics with the lives of over 650,000 citizens and accept federal funding of Medicaid expansion in Georgia.
This was the day of the birth of the Moral Monday movement in Georgia. As first reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Moral Monday is an activist movement that began in North Carolina and involves activists protesting at their State Assemblies en masse.
APN has posted a video to the APN Video Section, courtesy of Judy Conder’s Youtube channel, of Rev. William J. Barber–founder of Moral Monday in North Carolina–speaking to the Georgia Moral Monday movement here: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/interspire/rev-barber-speaks-at-georgias-first-moral-monday.html
Gov. Nathan Deal has so far decided not to take federal funds to expand Medicaid.
Monday’s events began with conversations with those few legislators who were willing to speak with their constituents about the necessity of exerting their influence on the Governor to accept federally-funded Medicaid expansion.
The activists then moved across the street to the sanctuary of Central Presbyterian Church for a
workshop led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber III, founder of the original Moral Monday movement and President of the North Carolina Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Rev. Gary Charles, Senior Pastor of Central Presbyterian Church, welcomed Rev. Barber; Rev. Francys Johnson, President of NAACP Georgia; Rev. Edward Dubose of the NAACP National Board of Directors; and members of the Moral Monday Georgia Coalition and in particular those who suffer as a result of the governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid. He prayed that this important movement would make a difference in the heart of the governor.
“The Central Presbyterian Advocacy Center located beneath the sanctuary serves over 14,000 homeless and nearly homeless each year. It will make a difference in the lives of those who visit here on a daily basis. Moral Monday’s vision is larger than our own self-interests,” Rev. Charles said.
Though Rev. Barber says he was given a warning in a Threat Analysis by the U.S. Department of Justice that his life may be threatened, he courageously chose to participate in the day’s events.
The Southern strategy of the right-wing extremists is afraid of a moral challenge, he says.
“We must be willing to go to the cross to expose them… Moral decency is a necessity for a democracy… America goes forward, has a hiccup; America goes forward, has a hiccup.”
He urged the crowd to “be steadfastly immovable on your high principles.” He cautioned that progressive activists are in a marathon.
“This is not a moment, but a movement,” he said.
In North Carolina, Moral Monday took eight years to gain enough momentum to move the Governor’s approval ratings from fifty percent to thirty percent, and that of the North Carolina legislature from forty percent approval to nineteen percent now.
Moral Monday Georgia Coalition, comprising over 55 partner organizations, knows that this marathon has just begun.
Though this inaugural Monday was a great success, receiving national and even some international media attention, much remains to be done.
Moral Monday is a fusion coalition of Blacks and Whites; males and females; and people of working, middle, and even some people of the upper class, advocating for diverse issues that they say benefit the common good and are grounded in moral principle.
The “Southern Strategy” to manipulate poor, White, Southerners to vote against their own interests may be crumbling.
Rev. Charles L. White Jr., NAACP National Field Director, told the crowd, “Moral Monday stands in the gap.”
“If folks connect voting to medical care, they won’t ever stop voting,” Barber said.
Of the 650,000 Georgians who are being denied health care, over 3,600 are projected to die needlessly in 2014.
Medicard expansion is an opportunity for Georgia not only to cover needy children, but to invest in health care for entire families.
“Moral Monday is exciting, because ordinary people are coming together and are focused on not what is political and expedient, but what is right. This is the source of power in the Moral Monday Movement,” Rev. Johnson told APN.
“This case, it is the right thing to do to insure 650,000 Georgians and prevent the closure of seven to fifteen hospitals in mainly rural Georgia, while putting over 70,000 people to work. And absent a good reason, and none has been presented, why should Georgians pay for Medicaid expansion in other states and not enjoy the benefits here? I think it is immoral for this governor to leave these people in the cold,” Johnson said.
“The NAACP is proud to be part of this coalition, in that it represents part of the folks deciding for themselves what is right. We are excited about the participation of Rev. Dr. Barber. He has put together a diverse coalition of some folks who never would have crossed paths. He has joined them together by asking the question, ‘What is the right thing for North Carolina?’ So we look forward to doing the same thing here in Georgia,” Johnson said.
On the wet west steps of the Georgia Capitol, several speakers expanded on Rev. Barber’s strong exhortation to the Governor “not to make a deal to deny the values of a common humanity and lead this state backwards.”
These speakers included Rev. Timothy McDonald, Senior Pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church; Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society; Rev. R.L. White, President of the NAACP, Atlanta Chapter; Charlie Fleming, President of the Georgia American Federation of Labor and Council of Industrial Organizations; Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta); and others.
More importantly, the stories of those impacted by the governor’s intransigence were told, such as that of Nancy Daniel, a single senior citizen and a grandmother of eight from Duluth, Georgia.
Daniel is a small business owner who struggles without health insurance. If Governor Deal accepted Medicaid expansion, she is one of thousands who would receive relief.
Rev. Francys Johnson, President of the Georgia NAACP continued his exclusive APN interview
“This moment begins in Atlanta today, but the echoes are resounding in Savannah, Albany and Athens. I feel it and I think those who are here feel it, and I think it’s going to catch fire across Georgia,” Johnson told APN.
“I think the Governor is going to find it increasingly difficult to continue to, for purely partisan reasons, object to doing what is right and makes common sense. That is expanding Medicaid in Georgia,” Johnson said.
“I think Governor Deal is going to receive very strong pressure from a very strong candidate in Jason Carter, who supports this movement. The governor needs to get over his irrational fear of his far right base who are neither right nor religious and are just plain wrong on this issue,” Johnson–who attended law school with Sen. Carter–said.
After an hour and a half, the cold, wet activists proceeded in the steady rain, single file, up the Capitol steps in defiance of Capitol police, and placed the stark white crosses, Stars of David, and crescents, at the front door of the Capitol.
This Monday coming up, January 20, 2014, the movement will join the annual march to remember and celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King.
On January 27, Moral Monday Georgia activists plan to return to the Capitol to either celebrate the expansion of Medicaid or to escalate their nonviolent moral dissent.
EDITOR’S NOTE: APN Staff Writer Kevin Moran, author of this article, is also an organizer for Moral Monday.