Grandmother Spends Moral Monday In Jail, A Birthday Present For Her Grandchild’s Future
Who am I? I’m a grandmother, a mother, a daughter, and a descendant of lines of ancestors who have been natives of the North Carolina territory and of no other state since before the Revolutionary war. North Carolina is my home and the home of all of my ancestors and descendants, and I am very regionalistic in the love of and pride in my state.
Specifically, like many of you, I am a product of public schools, from the very beginning of my education through graduate school, and, being born here in 1956, my school years were during a time when the education in my town was held up as a model of excellence nationally. A very friendly person, I have remained friends with many of my schoolmates from elementary and junior high, as well as high school and college days. Some have left, but there are many of us here who are just like me.
As a young person, I was fortunate to have relatives from one end of this state to the other, and opportunities to visit them constantly, always enjoying the extreme natural beauty of our Mountains, Piedmont, and Outer Banks.
Later, as an adult, I also traveled to other states and continents, but it was back to North Carolina I needed to come for the reasons above when the time came to raise my children. That I did, and now have reached an age where my parents also rely on my help due to sundry disabilities and infirmities from vision loss to vertigo, while my children also need my help in caring for their small ones. All of this I am so happy to be able to do.
Why did I join the Moral Mondays protest?
Over the past couple of years, I have been appalled by the prospect of fracking destroying the beauty of my state’s waters, landscape, and wildlife ecology. I have felt embarrassed by the national laughingstock my school system became under the direction of outsiders who do not share any love for this area as home. And most recently angered and outraged by the absolute malarky passed off as legislation proposed by the House to date this year.
Almost daily since last year, I have felt like my state was quietly being divvied up and bartered as chattel by interests from beyond our state lines but, other than participating a few smaller demonstrations, there was no place for me to give my voice in any meaningful or effective way until the NAACP began organizing the Moral Mondays protests.
At this point, I know personally the frustration and fear felt by people like my parents, my friends and relatives with dependent children, or handicapped dependents, and other natives of this state whose health, finances, job security, and distance, among other deterrents to coming to Raleigh, have no way to join their voices with the Moral Mondays protests, but wish more than anything that their voices could be heard.
Then I realized there was nothing stopping me from adding my small voice on behalf of those whom I know and love, and others whom I may not know personally but read through social media.
My voice is not eloquent like Reverend Barber’s, not even loud like his can be, but it is available, and I am available to lend my small voice on behalf of the many others who cannot, and join mine with the voices of the many who can, in hopes of being heard by the people who are tearing down every shred of what generations through centuries have struggled to build here and have loved. Not everyone can afford to go to jail, but I will turn fifty-seven next week and have a perfectly clean record. My children are grown. I work for myself. And I can spare a day and a night for this cause.
My third grandchild, Dylan Rose, was born on May 21, and I intended to give up my freedom for a day in the name of this cause as a birth gift for her, and a legacy to my 3-year-old grandchildren, Donovan and Diamony.
What experience have I had with the protests?
Before actually participating in arrest-worthy civil disobedience, I participated in the May 20th protest, entering the building with the clergy and others who did plan to be arrested. Before entering, a previous arrestee from the first or second wave, also a grandmother, told me that it was important to attend the church service and orientation in advance. It was, by that hour, too late to go there, but I entered the statehouse with those who had, did all the same singing and chanting as they did but, as the arrests reached about the half-way point, officers were still giving people the option to take two steps to the left if we were not going to give ourselves up for arrest, and I did.
As they handcuffed someone two people ahead of me in line, I watched from just a few steps away, and then from the upstairs of the rotunda until the last woman was led off in handcuffs.
Then I went outside to join the other supporters until both buses left amid our cheers and songs. I also took advantage of the opportunity to shake Reverend Barber’s hand and express my thanks and appreciation for all he was doing toward giving a voice to so many across our state who would not have had any way to express their grievances and demand redress from our legislators.
My Granddaughter was born the next day, and with Memorial Day holiday for the legislators falling on the 27th, Mega Moral Monday was organized for June 3, so I resolved to participate fully, go all the way. Not alone, though; I called in the troops, and invited almost everyone I know to join the posse. My neighbor even went to get his mother, a retired science teacher, from Durham, and drove me with them to the church.
The rally in East Martin Street Baptist Church was pure fun and organized to a T. Greeters at the door asked each who entered whether his/her intention were Civil Disobedience or support, and sent each person to the left or to the right accordingly. Those intending to go all the way went through the fellowship hall to fill out information packets to be saved by the legal defense team for distributing cases among volunteer attorneys, then were seated in the center section of the church with the supporters in the sections on either side.
Green wristbands were given out to denote intention to surrender to law enforcement. There was great applause for the people who would be “Marching Down the Freedom Way” that afternoon. Reverend Barber gave his sermon on morality, and got several well deserved standing ovations, and Professor Joyner explained the importance of maintaining the peaceful nature of protest, what things we should not do, and legal aspects. Then we were shuttled to Halifax mall in cars and a bus where hundreds of others had already begun to gather.
The gathering on the mall grew to the thousands, and after keynote speakers had rallied the crowd and Reverend Barber had repeated his sermon for the multitude in front of numerous media cameras, the ones who would enter the building were shepherded to a line of two, three, and four abreast, and we followed the clergy across the bridge into the building, up the stairs to the main rotunda on the second floor.
I have to say, between the May 20 and June 3 protests, the May 20 one had the better singing and more of it; it continued from the sidewalk until the last bus pulled out, and arrestees later wrote that it continued on the buses and all the way through the magistrates office. Perhaps because I may have been with people more my age and above on June 3, or for whatever reason, my group of fellows waiting handcuffed in the statehouse cafeteria were talking animatedly about what would happen next and getting to know each other. Frankly, I would not have had the stamina to have continued the singing anyway, but it was genuinely moving to see the remaining crowd cheering our bus as it pulled out of the sally-port in spite of the thunder-storm and torrential rain that would have driven off the faint-of heart. It was too dark for me to recognize faces, but I sincerely thank all of you who were there; I got all emotional about your moral support.
The Arrestee Experience.
On our bus, with our hands cuffed too closely to operate the window clips without cooperating, many hands made work light as we opened the windows in pairs. I was in the second (inmate) seat and had all my fingers poking through the mesh, trying to wave my thanks and good-byes to everyone outside. We had a “blue-light-special” police escort from the Salisbury Street sally-port to the WCDC on Hammond Road, where I got my first view of the rear entry to the newest section of that rather attractive (for a jail) facility.
The people at the jail could not have been any nicer to us if we had been at a family reunion. They did their jobs in a professional manner, and did not treat anyone as less than a fellow human being worthy of the same dignity and respect I know that they always offer to everyone who is a “guest of the county.” This I especially wish to write for others to see and know: I did not observe any officer at any time treat anyone for any reason with less than respect and dignity.
Processing through the system in detention booking and CCBI was a slow, laborious process. We were all tired. I know the jailers must have been tired.
But the smiles never left the faces of all I could see during those hours, right up to the magistrate’s window. Okay, my magistrate was not running for president of the Sunshine Girls club, we can leave it there. A couple of my bus-mates were taken through ICE, and then brought back to the group, until we were finally released a little after 1 a.m.
WTVD-11 was at the door leading to the public area from the booking area, and a few people wrote me later to say they had seen me come out chatting with someone (officer Brown,) but I haven’t seen any coverage so far.
Volunteer attorneys were waiting in the lobby along with people from NAACP and Raging Grannies. I signed my waver of appearance so a lawyer could handle my case in my absence, was given a “bling” button that boasts I went to jail with Reverend Barber, and followed a Raging Granny out to the parking deck for some great home-cookin’ and a bit of denouement in the company of my fellow “comrades” (chuckling at the word-choice as I write) and volunteer supporters there to shuttle any who needed a ride back to the church, or downtown, or home. I got a ride home at two in the morning from a Granny in her eighties who had baked bundt cakes and delivered them to the jail! Go, Granny, Go!
My advice for others.
- Obviously it is best to attend the orientation in advance.
- Eat well before getting arrested, as it will be a while before you eat again.
- Don’t bring anything with you that can be called a weapon, like a pen-knife on your keys. If you can leave most of your stuff elsewhere or with someone, your best bet is to have your identification, only. (Mine was in my bra.)
- Follow every direction for peaceful protesting you are given by professor Joyner and Reverend Barber, as any deviation or misbehavior will reflect poorly on not only YOU, but on all the people in the Moral Mondays movement. Keep the motto “Forward Together, Not One Step Back” in the forefront of your mind at all times, with emphasis on the “Together” aspect.
- Unless you have a better arrangement, park in an area that is safe and free, a mall or shopping center, for example, then ride the bus or catch a ride in. You could probably arrange to park in the parking deck at jail, and ride with a friend from there into town, about two miles, so that you automatically have a ride when you get out.
- In case those mug shots end up on the Slammer, and if you care what they look like, touch up your roots or apply all-day make-up, whatever it takes to look the way you want to be remembered; the picture will also be in your file.
- Make friends with everyone you can, whether they are wearing a uniform or not.
- Come back to the Moral Mondays Arrestees group and write about your experience for the future arrestees to see how it went for you.