2015 Honoree, Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II
Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, volunteer President of the North Carolina NAACP, is the winner of the 2015 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. The award will be presented to Rev. Barber at The Nation Institute’s Annual Gala Dinner on December 8 in New York City.
Reverend Barber — who pastors Greenleaf Christian Church, a 120-year-old congregation in Goldsboro — is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday movement, an alliance of more than 200 progressive organizations in North Carolina. The multi-racial, multi-issue grassroots civil disobedience coalition, which began organizing ten years ago, has met at the North Carolina state capitol for the past two years to protest the gutting of voting rights and social programs, and to rally for economic justice, universal healthcare, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, immigrant rights, and public education.
Taya Kitman, Executive Director and CEO of The Nation Institute said, “Reverend Barber is one of our most powerful voices and innovative leaders in a time when, all across the country, we’re seeing the power of people standing together to demand social change. Reverend Barber doesn’t just inspire; he builds progress from the ground up. At such a pivotal political moment, we are thrilled to recognize his accomplishments in North Carolina, proud to support his exciting plans to come, and honored to award him The Puffin/Nation Prize.”
“Reverend Barber is a leader in the fight for true equality for all and a more peaceful world. His efforts to organize everyday citizens and create a movement to fight discriminatory laws are a true example of creative citizenship,” said Perry Rosenstein, President of the Puffin Foundation.
Barber commented, “Years ago down in rural Martin County, North Carolina, I was preparing to go off to college. My father gathered members of our church and community in our front yard and had them stand in a circle. He walked me into the middle of that circle and told me never to forget the people who made me who I am. No matter where life took me, he said, I want you to remember them and to always seek to be a servant for justice fairness and the betterment of society. Though many of them have passed, I have never forgotten those people or that lesson.
“I’ve tried to give and serve, not for money and titles but for the cause of justice and mercy,” said Barber. “I am deeply humbled to receive the Puffin Award. With it, I will be reminded of my father’s lesson and remember the people of the community, and try with everything in me to keep on serving so that my living will not be in vain.”
Rev. Dr. Barber will write an annual report for The Nation magazine on the state of race, civil rights, and the revival of grassroots anti-racism movements, with the first essay appearing in January 2016. The magazine published similar essays by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1961 to 1966. A collection of his Moral Monday speeches — The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, will be published by Beacon Press, also in January 2016.
In 2005, Barber was elected President of North Carolina’s NAACP, which has become the second largest state conference in the nation. He is one of 64 members of the NAACP National Board of Directors, and is the Chair of the National NAACP’s Legislative and Political Action Committee.
In 2006, Barber convened the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly, which champions a 14-point anti-racism, anti-poverty, anti-war agenda. He chairs the Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit initiative to revitalize Goldsboro through affordable housing, job training, low-cost child care, and after school tutoring. Rev. Barber is the author of two books: Preaching Through Unexpected Pain and Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation.
Vice President, Puffin Foundation
Puffin Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship Award to Rev. William Barber II.
December 8, 2015
On behalf of Perry and Gladys Rosenstein and the Puffin Foundation, I am honored to announce the winner of this year’s Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. This annual $100,000 award honors work that challenges the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsive work.
Reverend William Barber II, Pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina more than exemplifies these goals. He is the architect of the “Forward Together Moral Monday Movement,” an alliance of more than 200 progressive organizations and vast numbers of the public, in North Carolina and beyond.
This multi-racial, multi-issue grassroots coalition has met weekly at the North Carolina state capitol for the past two years, sometimes with up to 80,000 demonstrators to protest the gutting of voter rights and social programs, and to rally for many issues, including:
Universal Health Care
Labor and Immigration Rights
Rev. Barber has said (and I quote the Nation so it must be true.) “The history of the white ‘Southern Strategy’ is to keep people divided …. This movement directly challenges that.”
And not only does the Moral Monday movement challenge that divisiveness, it openly recognizes that a truly successful movement must be multiracial, intergenerational and build diverse coalitions of support.
But the Reverend has not only built extraordinary coalitions, he’s also on the front lines himself. He’s been arrested three times for civil disobedience as he stood for educational and social justice.
Without important work of organizing and resistance like that undertaken by Reverend Barber, we risk becoming apathetic to the rising forces of intolerance and bigotry in our country.
The Puffin/Nation Award is intended to encourage and support the recipients to continue their work and to inspire others to challenge the system and oppression they face and witness in their own lives.
Reverend Barber is a leader in this fight for true equality and social justice. His efforts to organize everyday citizens and create a movement to fight discriminatory laws are a true example of creative citizenship.
We are honored Tonight to be able to help make this coming year one in which we can share in Reverend Barber ’s victories. His fight is our fight, and we salute him and stand with him. Thank you Reverend Barber.