Why I Moral March

The annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ), or Moral March, has many meanings and pillars. Civil rights, voting rights, and human rights are just some of the causes that Rev. William Barber, the leader of the “Moral Resistance,” encourages the march participants to defend.

These three causes are also especially important to the work of The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF). Andrew Goodman was a 20-year-old student who travelled down to Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964 to register African-Americans to vote. On his first day in Mississippi, the Ku Klux Klan kidnapped and murdered Andy and two other civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.

That is why I go to this march every year. As AGF’s East Carolina University (ECU) Vote Everywhere Ambassador, I feel it is important to show my solidarity and march with my fellow North Carolinians. Since 2013, the biggest fight has been voting rights. Because Andrew Goodman died for people’s right to vote, I believe it is the march meant for our organization to attend in big numbers, and we do.

The march drew the young, the old, and the disabled. Seeing people from all different walks of life as a united coalition behind shared values was inspirational. Nearly 100,000 people marched not just for their own rights, but for the rights of their children, their neighbors, and other Americans that they’ve never met. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to stand up for basic human rights and civil liberties in the freest country in the world.

Personally, I marched for healthcare for all, equal and higher education for all, and the right for all citizens to vote in a free election. I’ve seen people suffer in the “greatest country in the world” and I feel that if we allow for one person to suffer, we will all suffer. If we allow for even one person to have their vote taken away, then we all lose our voice at the ballot box.

The Moral March allows citizens to hit the streets and defend democracy outside the ballot box. We cannot afford to be complacent. We must do our duty as citizens and be active in our discourse, otherwise we will be the ones losing our voice. We have to hold our elected officials accountable and make sure they listen to their constituents, not lobbyists in Washington.

As I stood in front of the governor’s office with 100,000 others, we were heard across the country as the moral resistance. The dissonance in this country on who should and shouldn’t vote is absurd. It is a right of all Americans, end of story. Andy died along with two other people in a place that he did not call his home because he wanted to defend the civil liberties of others. As a Vote Everywhere Ambassador I follow in his footsteps to help my fellow Americans whenever and wherever they may be by standing up to injustice.

Even today, over 50 years later, we face similar infractions to American civil and voting rights. We cannot be complacent and we must be vigilant like Andy was in his last days. That is why we must show up and keep marching today and in the future.

About the Author

Erick Jenkins is a Vote Everywhere Ambassador and junior at East Carolina University. He’s currently majoring in Communications with a minor in Psychology. Erick is heavily involved with organizations on and off campus that focus on community service and building future leaders.