(Photo Credit: Jamila Reddy)

RALEIGH, N.C. — On Feb. 8 a crowd of 30,000 individuals marched and rallied in downtown Raleigh at the 14th annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly and Moral March.

Organizations, families, and friends walked together — singing, chanting, and carrying signs with messages like “Love is Love” and “War is Costly, Peace is Priceless” — through downtown Raleigh to the front of the state capitol building. Those gathered heard speeches from those fighting for a number of issues, including higher wages, quality health care for all, immigrant rights, LGBTQ protections and equality, more funds for public education, criminal justice reform and voting rights. The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, former state NAACP president and founder of the national Poor People’s Campaign, spoke on the main stage, celebrating the crowd for coming together under a shared agenda of equality and justice and encouraging people to vote. “We have to show that we are still here. We have not given up fighting,” he said.

This year, the LGBTQ Committee of the NC NAACP made history by establishing the largest contingency of LGBTQ individuals and allies for the People’s Moral March and People’s Assembly. The group, called the 1000STRONG Coalition, was done in partnership between the NC NAACP, The Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition and The Freedom Center for Social Justice. Sponsors included PFLAG, Unity Fellowship Movement, Equality North Carolina, LGBTQ Democrats of NC and qnotes.

The coalition joined together to celebrate the full humanity of LGBTQ people while lifting up the intersectional needs of the community, and demanding an end to anti-LGBTQ legislation, organizers shared.

Members of North Carolina’s LGBTQ community spoke on the main stage, sharing personal stories about gaining the right to marry, the homelessness crisis facing transgender women, the multi-faced discrimination experienced by those in the LGBTQ community, and more.

“We made a bold statement to NC representatives that LGBTQ rights are civil rights, and that the intersectional needs of their residents cannot be ignored,” said Ezra Fairley-Collins, the Freedom Center’s intersectionality programs manager.

Jessica Hulik, director of civic engagement and politics at Equality North Carolina, said, “Marching with this coalition of LGBTQ organizations from across NC, felt extremely powerful.”

Reina Pozo, Charlotte native and recent graduate from Chowan University, marched with the coalition as an ally and called her experience “inspirational and truly humbling.” “It grew my respect and love for the power that is the LGBTQ community. I gained a new sense of community and perspective on the world.”

The day before the rally, as part of the pre-march event programming, the LGBTQ Committee hosted a leadership summit where LGBTQ leaders and allies generated ideas about how to work together in more impactful ways.

“This historic effort exceeded our expectations,” shared Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls, the inaugural chair of the NC NAACP’s LGBTQ Committee. “Yes, we wanted to send a message to N.C. legislators to advance LGBTQ rights and protections, but we also consider it a major victory that so many of our LGBTQ siblings felt represented, loved, seen and affirmed by our support.”

info: fcsj.org.