Moral Monday: A 62 Year Old North Carolinian Reflects on her First Protest

Elaine Estes_bio pictureBY MELODIE ELAINE ESTES

Nine months ago I wrote this article for Candid Slice about my first protest march: the last 2013 Moral Monday in Raleigh. I am uncertain if I will attend this year due to back problems but I plan to support future marches by spreading the word about them.

Some say that Moral Mondays were not successful. I disagree. When thousands of people band together across a state to support their convictions, unity and motivation grow and spread. These two qualities are the start of change, which cannot be dismissed. Changes will come. But change requires patience, time, effort, and love.

My First Protest: Moral Monday

Even though I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, I had never attended a demonstration of any kind. I am 62 years old. I always did what I was supposed to do and was taught not to make waves or cause trouble.

The demonstrations in the 60s and 70s were sometimes peaceful, sometimes not-so-peaceful, and about everything from racism to the Vietnam War. I knew in my head there had been plenty of peaceful protests over the years, but the ones that always stood out in my mind were the ones where people were angry, protested with screams and ugly signs, shouting ugly names against their “enemy.”

I was a little anxious to find myself volunteering to photograph the last Moral Monday here in Raleigh, NC.

I parked my car in front of the Capitol building and saw a large group of people wearing red t-shirts with the letters NCAE them. I wasn’t sure who they were, but they were heading in the right direction with signs protesting the education budget cuts. Then on a balloon I saw that NCAE stands for North Carolina American Educators, Inc. As we walked, more and more people in red t-shirts joined, each carrying a red balloon.

Then they started chanting. “Forward together. Not one step back.” I felt an interest and support for these people making a stand for our children, their teachers, and the right to vote, and other freedoms affected by the present legislature’s decisions.

A man with a megaphone lead the group further away from the Capitol with the resounding phrase, “The People, united, will not be divided.” I found myself speaking the words with feeling, proud to be a part of this group. We walked down the courtyard in front of the History Museum and the Science Museum. People standing or sitting along the sides waved and smiled.

Then we crossed the street. The General Assembly legislative building loomed before us. We walked under its tall ceiling and beautifully designed protective walls. On the far side of this building is a bridge, which crosses over to Halifax Mall. When I first heard this event was going to take place in a mall… well, you can imagine my relief that the mall was the large green grassy kind.

The walls of a building on the right of this mall bears quotes that support the cause of education:

  • “Just what do these writers/teachers aim to impart to their students?”
  • “I just try to stand out of their light.”
  • “Love worked where discipline failed.”
  • “You are a child, you are suited to be awed.”
  • “By example, almost never by words.”
  • “Learning in old age is writing on sand. But learning in youth is engraving on stone.”

At first, I thought, attendance for this Moral Monday was not going to be so good. Fifteen to thirty minutes later, I saw how wrong I was! The numbers had swelled to pack the Mall except for the roped off area for the speakers. Adults, children, adults with babies, teenagers, people of many races, joining together in one body and one force to support the cause of education, showing their displeasure with the decisions being made.

What a wonderful country we live in that we can have demonstrations like Moral Monday. I remembered hearing of the protests in China and other countries, where protesters are forbidden to gather—and when they do, they get shot, killed, or tear gassed. We can gather thousands of people peacefully and sing, chant, march, and make ourselves heard, and peace can be sustained! I am proud to be an American.

As music played and voices rose and fell, giving directions, instilling a sense of urgency in the air, I felt proud to be there, doing what I do best: recording verbally and in photos, the events that will go down in history as the last Moral Monday in Raleigh 2013.

I lingered a little longer, thinking how glad I was to have been here to experience this event in our state’s history. I was there! No, I did not choose to go to jail. My calling is to share a story through my words and my photographs. Those who went to jail for these Moral Monday causes have my utmost respect. Not everyone is willing to go to jail and be charged with civil disobedience for the things they believe.

Melodie Elaine Estes is a retired nurse; a widow; a mother of two grown sons, a daughter-in-law and a soon to be daughter-in-law; a photographer; a writer; one who is enjoying her life, family, friends and two cats while staying busy in whatever tickles her curiosity while trying to make a difference in her local world.

“My First Protest: Moral Monday” was originally posted on candidslice.com and sections are reproduced here with permission from the author and candidslice.org.

The First Moral Monday of the 2014 Legislative Session is today. For details, go to www.naacpnc.org.




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