Reverend William Barber, 2017
acrylic on canvas
36 x 24 in
Joan calls the Rev. William Barber, a North Carolina pastor and political leader, “the closest thing to a Martin Luther King we have.”
A dynamic speaker with a big body and an out-sized personality and spirit to match, Rev. Barber gave a speech in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 that was described as “remarkable” and “riveting.” Despite his bulk, he has been known to jump up and down after a passionate oration, exhorting the crowd with “What time is it? It’s movement time!”
A lifelong activist, he was elected president of the NAACP Youth Council at 15, high school student body president at 17 and president of the student government at North Carolina Central University at 19, graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He got his master’s of divinity from Duke University and a doctorate from Drew University in public policy and pastoral care.
After leading civil rights protests he called “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina’s state capital, Barber was arrested when he refused to leave North Carolina’s legislative building in a protest over the Republican party’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, causing millions of people across the country to lose their health insurance.
At the same time, he resigned as president of the state’s NAACP to launch and lead a new “Poor People’s Campaign” aimed at building a progressive agenda to push back against the ultra-conservative policies of the right wing in state and national politics.
At the urging of a friend, Joan got in touch with him a year ago to offer her help and support. She sang by phone at one of his huge rallies, hearing the voices of thousands singing along from another state. After meeting in person at her concert in Raleigh they discovered that they both enjoyed, among other things, salty jokes, and have been friends and movement colleagues ever since.
“That’s a very King-like scenario,” she said. “He has a huge following. I like him and think he’s going to move some mountains around.”