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Teach-in strives to build community awareness

Moral Action Week, Aug. 21-28, was held throughout Tennessee with press conferences, teach-ins and rallies to help spread the message on various topics.
Johnson City and Washington County NAACP East Tennessee Vice President Ralph Davis said they were challenged in East Tennessee to hold a teach-in on Saturday, Aug. 23, during Moral Action Week in Johnson City. The subject of the teach-in focused on “ban the box” and restoring voter rights.
Ban the box, Davis explained, refers to the box individuals have to check when filling out a job application if they were convicted of a felony.
“We are trying to eliminate the box from the job application, so they can get through the interview process,” Davis said. “We feel that is a real discouragement to a lot of people trying to fill out applications. A lot of these people can get these jobs if they can get through the interview process.”
He said if the box could be removed from government and state jobs, that would be a tremendous boost for those looking for work.
The other teach-in subject matter touched upon some of the strategies to help restore voter’s rights for those who have served time.
“If the person has served their time and paid all of their fines and have done everything they have been asked to do, their voter rights should be restored,” Davis said.
A press conference and prayer was held in Jonesborough on Friday, Aug. 22, the night before the Johnson City teach-in, to talk about what needs to be done to improve individual civil liberties and civil rights.
Davis said although they did not hold the prayer vigil Friday night due to a couple of pastors not being able to make it, the conference was opened and closed with a prayer.
Jonesborough Alderman Adam Dickson said as an elected official he showed his support during the press conference.
“I was asked to speak on behalf of the town,” he said.
Dickson said the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., “really prompts those of us that have a moral center to really want to take action and be aware of these issues and talk about how we as a community can respond to them.” He said the voter law is another issue addressed. “It’s another reason why those of us with a moral center want to be proactive and try to respond to these issues,” Dickson said.
He said he will continue to encourage others to play a role and be responsive to these types of issues.
Davis said they have already found out that they will be participating in Moral Action Week next year.
“Next year we are planning on doing this again on a much larger scale,” he said.
Davis said they are discussing the possibility of doing an all day forum addressing a couple of issues with the possibility of having some breakout sessions and guest speakers.
“We were very pleased with the turnout and with the interest in it,” he said of this year’s event. “We had about 15, which is more than what we thought we would have.”
Other subject matters discussed during Moral Action Week’s press conferences and teach-in’s throughout Tennessee included labor rights, fair and living wages, economic justice, equal protection under the law, stand your ground laws, immigration, education and criminal justice, environmental justice, Medicaid expansion, healthcare and voting rights.