Malaki Spencer squeezes his fingers into his palm and throws a fist into the air, nodding his head as a young woman opens up about the struggles facing those, like her, who are trying to put themselves through college on a minimum wage salary.
"How are we supposed to live? Tell me," Spencer says. "How are we supposed to better ourselves when we have to choose between school and food? So yeah. That's why I showed up. All them people hatin' on what we're doing out here can't answer that."
The crowd that converged on the Capitol Monday for the Moral Day of Action protest was as diverse as the issues they showed up to shine a light on.
Cisgender heterosexuals stood shoulder to shoulder with members of the LGBTQ community to condemn HB 2. An elderly white man put his arm around a young black woman who was wearing a T-shirt that said: "STOP THE VIOLENCE. PUT GUNS AWAY."
"I told her that this killing has to stop," Russell Jernigan said. "Back when I was a kid, we used to say, 'It takes a village.' Well, somehow, our villages got divided. And it's leading to a lot of death. A lot of young death."
There was no division Monday in Raleigh—at least among this crowd. In fact, the unity that was on display stretched across state lines, as the Reverend William Barber's latest Moral Monday rally saw similar demonstrations unfold on the grounds of state capitols in thirty-one states.
"What I like about this is that you've got a kid over there in a shirt that's talking about raising the minimum wage to fifteen dollars, but he's whooping and hollering for the gay folks and the women and the veterans," said Sheila Anderson, who was taking a post-lunch walk when she saw the crowd. "And when they sing, they sing together. It was kind of beautiful. Did you hear it? It was something, wasn't it? Felt like I was in church."
Barber made sure of that. He lectured the "so-called religious right" about their indifference to the poor. He quoted the Bible and scoffed at their self-described evangelism. And he vowed to continue to lead an urgent movement to improve the lives of the "disenfranchised" across the nation.
"The goal is to directly take over the theological practices and sometimes heresy of the so-called religious right," Barber said. "This is work I hope to do until I leave this Earth."