Transgender activist Rev. Mykal Shannon speaks at HKonJ 2019 in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo courtesy of The Freedom Center for Social Justice)

The HKonJ (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) will host its largest assembly of LGBTQ people and allies from throughout the state and across the nation for its Feb. 8 People’s Assembly March and Rally in Raleigh. The theme is 1000 STRONG and represents the anticipated number of people who will march in this segment of the annual event.

NC NAACP LGBTQ Committee Inaugural Chair, Bishop Tonyia Rawls, is coordinating this historic effort. She is a longtime activist and architect of the organization’s LGBTQ work. Rawls stated, “I am so proud of the progress we have made in the efforts to link the needs and concerns of the LGBTQ community with those of the civil rights community. We quite often are fighting the same enemies of freedom, justice and equality and have decided it is time to tear down the walls of separation that have divided us by race, class, gender and sexual orientation.” She went on to celebrate the partners who have already joined in this effort.

Support has come from PFLAG, The National Black Justice Coalition, DEMOS, The Task Force, Many Voices, The Unity Fellowship Church Movement, Equality North Carolina, The Freedom Center for Social Justice, The Black Unitarian Universalists, Believe Out Loud and others who are signing on as individuals and organizations to help mobilize the effort.

The NC NAACP kicked off its first annual “HKonJ People’s Assembly” in February of 2007 when over 3,500 supporters sanctioned and signed the coalition’s “HKonJ 14-Point People’s Agenda”. The HKonJ Coalition transformed the 14-Point People’s Agenda into comprehensive reform bills that have been introduced in subsequent legislative sessions. The most recent victory came Dec. 26, 2019, when North Carolina federal judge Loretta Biggs blocked the law requiring “approved” forms of ID before residents could vote.  While the hold is temporary, it was a big win for the LGBTQ community and the NC NAACP voter ID case against the state which continues. Judge Biggs wrote that state elections officials had been planning “a very large statewide mailing” for the first week of January, to tell voters about the ID law, and she blocked that effort. [Ed. Note: Cards had begun to be received in December to registered voters.] This case has importance to transgender individuals, elders, young adults, the formerly incarcerated and others who are often denied free access to elections.

The HKonJ Coalition holds an annual mobilization called the Moral March on Raleigh & HKonJ People’s Assembly annually. It grew to approximately 80,000 in 2017. Each year, on the second Saturday in February, thousands of HKonJ marchers flood downtown Raleigh, N.C. where the HKonJ People’s Assembly convenes and ultimately marches to the North Carolina State Capitol to address issues related to justice, protections and equality for all residents.

After years of partnering with the LGBTQ community on legislative issues like Amendment One, (a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in North Carolina that, until overruled in federal court, amended the Constitution of North Carolina to prohibit the state from recognizing or performing same-sex marriages or civil unions), and HB2, (which was passed in March 2016 and amended state law to preempt any anti-discrimination ordinances passed by local communities, and compelled schools and public facilities containing single-gender washrooms to allow only people of the corresponding birth-certificate sex to use them), NC NAACP is taking steps to expand the relationship.

In 2019, they participated in four Pride celebrations and hosted a series of listening sessions that allowed them to learn more about how to more effectively support and strategically partner with the LGBTQ community. NAACP State President, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman stated that, “I am clear how important it is to protect the marginalized and oppressed within our state; that of course, must include members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender-variant community who have far too often been used as social and political scapegoats.”

Individuals and organization who are interested in getting more information about how to be a part of this effort, or how to become a sponsor, should contact Ezra Fairley-Collins at or visit the LGBTQ Justice segment of the NC NAACP’s website for updates.