Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, volunteer President of the North Carolina NAACP, will receive the annual $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. The award honors work to challenge the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative, and socially responsible work of significance. It is intended to encourage the recipients to continue their work, and to inspire others to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies they face in their own lives. The award was be presented to Rev. Barber at The Nation Institute's Annual Gala Dinner on Dec. 8 in New York City.
Reverend Barber — who pastors Greenleaf Christian Church, a 120-year-old congregation in Goldsboro — is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday movement, an alliance of more than 200 progressive organizations in North Carolina. The multi-racial, multi-issue grassroots civil disobedience coalition, which began organizing ten years ago, has met at the North Carolina state capitol for the past two years to protest the gutting of voting rights and social programs, and to rally for economic justice, universal healthcare, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, immigrant rights and public education.
Taya Kitman, Executive Director and CEO of The Nation Institute said, "Reverend Barber is one of our most powerful voices and innovative leaders in a time when, all across the country, we're seeing the power of people standing together to demand social change. Reverend Barber doesn't just inspire; he builds progress from the ground up. At such a pivotal political moment, we are thrilled to recognize his accomplishments in North Carolina, proud to support his exciting plans to come, and honored to award him The Puffin/Nation Prize."
"Reverend Barber is a leader in the fight for true equality for all and a more peaceful world. His efforts to organize everyday citizens and create a movement to fight discriminatory laws are a true example of creative citizenship," said Perry Rosenstein, President of the Puffin Foundation.
Barber commented, "Years ago down in rural Martin County, North Carolina, I was preparing to go off to college. My father gathered members of our church and community in our front yard and had them stand in a circle. He walked me into the middle of that circle and told me never to forget the people who made me who I am. No matter where life took me, he said, I want you to remember them and to always seek to be a servant for justice fairness and the betterment of society. Though many of them have passed, I have never forgotten those people or that lesson.
"I've tried to give and serve, not for money and titles but for the cause of justice and mercy," said Barber. "I am deeply humbled to receive the Puffin Award. With it, I will be reminded of my father's lesson and remember the people of the community, and try with everything in me to keep on serving so that my living will not be in vain."
Rev. Dr. Barber will write an annual report for The Nation magazine on the state of race, civil rights, and the revival of grassroots anti-racism movements, with the first essay appearing in January 2016. The magazine published similar essays by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1961 to 1966. A collection of his Moral Monday speeches — The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, will be published by Beacon Press, also in January 2016.
In 2005, Barber was elected President of North Carolina's NAACP, which has become the second largest state conference in the nation. He is one of 64 members of the NAACP National Board of Directors, and is the Chair of the National NAACP's Legislative and Political Action Committee.
In 2006, Barber convened the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People's Assembly, which champions a 14-point anti-racism, anti-poverty, anti-war agenda. He chairs the Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit initiative to revitalize Goldsboro through affordable housing, job training, low-cost child care, and after school tutoring. Rev. Barber is the author of two books: Preaching Through Unexpected Pain and Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation.