Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a leading civil rights advocate for the past two decades, received a prestigious 2018 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” on Thursday, Oct. 4 for his dedication to moral and social justice.
In 2013, he launched the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, designed to resist what he says is the state legislature’s extremist retrogressive agenda of attacking voting rights, health care expansion, living wages, union rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights and public education.
In 2016, he electrified the Democratic National Convention with a plea for Americans to be “moral defibrillators” to save the soul of the nation.
Last year, alongside Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, he took up the fight against systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the distorted moral narrative of Christian nationalism with the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival.”
Barber, the campaign co-chair, is currently on a national tour to promote the campaign, which is aimed at mobilizing poor and low-income voters to the polls ahead of the midterm elections.
As part of this effort, Barber was arrested in Chicago for civil disobedience alongside workers in the “Fight for $15” initiative who were lifting up their demand for union rights for workers across the service sector.
Barber serves as the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., and is the national president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach.
“It is a deep and profound honor and overwhelming surprise to receive this award,” he said. “It inspires me to keep working, keep standing, keep loving and to continue working for the cause of justice. The moral crises of our time are the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy, and the false, distorted moral narrative of so-called ‘Religious nationalism.’
“I, along with others believe that only a moral fusion movement can work to change these realities,” he said.