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One of the responsibilities and privileges I have as an intern here at the SOHP is to search through the over 5,000 interviews available on the interview database for relevant and interesting pieces to share. I have listened to interviews on topics ranging from leaders in women’s rights to the history of UNC to gay and lesbian activists in Chapel Hill. I have grown frustrated with the past policies of the state and country but have grown equally as inspired by the brilliant and determined individuals who demanded better and acted on that demand.

Scholars for NC Future Panel
Jacquelyn Hall of the SOHP was a panelist at last week’s event hosted by the Scholars for North Carolina’s Future

Just in the past several months, there have been many proposed and passed changes in voting rights laws in North Carolina-many of which will arguably make it more difficult for people-especially young people, to vote. Effective in 2016, no student ID will be accepted to vote, and only photo IDs will be allowed. This is one of many laws affecting health, women’s rights, education, and the environment in NC. The Forward Together Movement that spun out of the Moral Monday rallies at the General Assembly showed a North Carolina unwilling to settle for nothing less than true democracy. Just like the stories of the Civil Rights movement have inspired others to act in the face of injustice, I have no doubt the stories shared through Moral Mondays will one day inspire and teach a new generation of concerned citizens.

There’s a lot we can learn just by listening. And I began my work here with a desire to understand how to fix the present by learning from those who were brave enough to tell stories about their past.

People like Alice Ballance, a native North Carolinian and major force behind community engagement towards voting and antipoverty programming since the 1950s:

“We started our voter registration drives teaching people how to vote and we finally got some black folks that would run for something, you know. And we got them elected. And then in turn they would turn around and help the other black poor folks. And that’s the way that we got started and getting some help for the People’s Program on Poverty.”

I went to a panel discussion the other day on Moral Mondays and what recent legislations means for the state of NC. Jacquelyn Hall, founder of the SOHP and a history professor here at UNC was a panelist at the event. During her time to speak, she mentioned the powerful nature of oral history to tell alternative stories of how the lives of real people are being affected on a daily basis. In an era where the media no longer has the resources or staff to fully analyze life and often resorts to stating what happened rather than why and how it will affect citizens, oral history is an avenue for the voices of real people to be heard.

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