North Carolina we’re better than this.
That’s an apt line Britt Harper Uzzell sings on the album “We Are Not For Sale: Songs of Protest.”
Aiming their music at the North Carolina GOP, a group of musicians from around the Tar Heel State, who call themselves the “N.C. Music Love Army,” are turning the volume up on the Moral Monday movement by releasing an album of protest songs Nov. 26.
Moral Monday activists engage in peaceful protest every Monday in the state’s legislative buildings to voice their discontent against legislation made this year by the Republican-dominated state government. Some controversial policies include cuts to social programs and education, new abortion restrictions, and limits to voting rights.
In June, after a Moral Monday protest that saw more than 150 protesters arrested, Django Haskins of Chapel Hill-based pop group The Old Ceremony, wrote, recorded and posted a video of himself performing a song called “We Are Not For Sale.” Haskins called the track “a public service message to our so-called public servants.”
Inspired by Haskins’ tune, Charlotte-based musician Jon Lindsay wrote, recorded and posted a protest song of his own called “N.C. GOP Just Don’t Know Me.” After the positive feedback from Haskins’ and Lindsay’s expressive protest tactics, Lindsay and North Carolina musician Caitlin Cary realized that there was enough momentum and musical talent in the state to release protest songs on a larger scale.
Over the following weeks, the “Love Army” assembled a musical roster of about 25 North Carolina-based performers. Due largely in part by the feverish devotion of Lindsay and Cary (the co-creators of the “Love Army”), the musical group has become an important part of the movement, performing at several Moral Monday events.
According to Lindsay, the mission of the “N.C. Music Love Army” has remained the same.
“We realized that to be the conduit and the amplifier of the existing message that Dr. William Barber and the Moral Monday movement and the NAACP of North Carolina are already doing such a good job leading, that was our niche. That’s the role that we wanted to be able to fulfill,” Lindsay said.
Django Haskins: You can’t wish away back to the day of Old Jim Crow, we won’t follow you.
“North Carolina is a place that has historically been regarded by the rest of the country as ‘The New South,’ not a regressive place where people try to hold on to the old ways. That’s not been our national perception, because that’s not who we really are,” Lindsay said.
However, the young artist fears that the politically moderate rhetoric that merited Gov. Pat McCrory the moniker, “Pragmatic Pat” may be a thing of the past — along with the state’s reputation as a precursor to the New South.
In July, McCrory signed into law legislation that requires abortion providers to meet the same standards as surgical centers, allows health-care providers to decline to perform abortions, and prevents any public health insurance policy for paying for abortions. This news came less than a year after McCrory promised not to sign any new legislation restricting abortion rights.
In “My Body Politic,” Caitlin Cary and Shirlette Ammons cry foul on McCrory’s women’s health stance:
We want our wrongs righted, any attempt to control our bodies we’re poised to fight it.
The same month, the state House passed legislation that would require voters to present government-issued photo identification in order to vote, repeal same-day voter registration and limit early voting. “Moral Monday” protestors criticize this measure, claiming it aims to decrease voting access to college students and minorities — two groups known to vote blue.
One month later, McCrory released the 2013 education budget, which phases out tenure, eliminates future salary increases for teachers who earn master’s degrees, and cuts $120 million from the budget for teacher assistants, making North Carolina teachers one of the lowest paid in the nation.
In “North Carolina We’re Better Than This,” Uzzell sings in response:
If we love the kids as we say, why do we strip the funds away, with no increase to teachers’ pay, if we love the kids as we say?
These changes in policy drove the state so far to the right that it can be easy to forget that this is the same state that voted Democrat in the 2008 U.S. election and recently hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
North Carolina residents have continued to display a growing desire for a more politically balanced legislation. Moral Monday protestors like Lindsay stress that the actions of state officials may not reflect the ideology of its citizens.
Jon Lindsay: Is this here what Jesus would do?
Faith and spirituality remain key themes in “Songs of Protest.”
To the rest of the nation, invoking Christian morals to protest conservative GOP legislation may sound counter-intuitive, maybe downright impossible. But such is the case for Moral Monday protesters, who say recent decisions from the N.C. legislators are “biblically immoral.”
The Moral Monday movement is led and organized in part by Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP whose weekly speeches are, by definition, sermons. His role in the Moral Monday movement led to him being named “20 Activists Who Are Changing America” in the Huffington Post earlier this month.
According to Barber, protestors are especially angry that state lawmakers have voted to deny federal funds for Medicaid to cover 500,000 people through 2016, even though it would be mostly federally funded. Barber asserts that cutting unemployment benefits from 165,000 people, omitting early voting, repealing the Racial Justice Act, and implementing a voucher scheme to hand out public money to private schools are inconsistent with biblical principles.
Barber’s message and his leadership of the weekly movement inspired the lyrics on “Songs of Protest,” according to Lindsay. This is especially evident in Lindsay’s track, “Is This Here What Jesus Would Do?” in which the pop musician sings:
Would Jesus wanna make it harder for his people to cast a vote than to buy a gun? I think he’d be over in that Raleigh jailhouse with the other righteous ones.
“It’s almost as close to a religious experience as I’ve ever had,” Lindsay said about watching Barber’s speeches. “It’s powerful and it’s informed by all the right values that I stand behind and I know the ‘Love Army’ does.”
This year, more than 900 N.C. residents have been arrested at Moral Monday protests. Lindsay hopes the 10-track record of protest songs will encourage more residents in the Tar Heel state to voice their desire to reverse many of the decisions made this year by state legislators.
“Our goal is that we can draw enough national attention to the fight that next year, we’ll be able to vote [current legislators] out. Despite their gerrymandering, despite their voter suppression and despite all these really blatantly pathetic, desperate tactics that they’re taking to hold on to this regressive agenda, it’s our hope that we can simply replace them,” Lindsay said.
“We Are Not For Sale” will be released Nov. 26 on iTunes, CD, vinyl and digital download and will feature Jon Lindsay’s “Is This Here What Jesus Would Do?” and Django Haskins’ “We Are Not For Sale.” The record’s debut will be accompanied by a release concert on November 30, 2013 at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill.
This article was originally published on Yahoo! News through the Yahoo Contributor Network which was shut down in July 2014. For more content by this author that was originally published on Yahoo! News, click here.
Check out three tracks from “Songs of Protest” right here: