I have always been an activist
I’ve been willing to show up, to speak out, to press for change. Between the big marches and protests I have written and spoken out against environmental despoliation, injustice and senseless war. I have addressed students, church groups and conventions on matters of governance, environment and ethics in Newark; Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis; Denver; Columbia, S. Car.; Lakeland, Fla.; Knoxville; Greensboro; Cambridge, Mass.; Charleston; Washington, DC; Des Moines; Boone; Charlotte; Raleigh; Hickory; Spartanburg; Franklin; Black Mountain; Burnsville; Hendersonville and, of course, right here in Asheville. AltogetherI have delivered talks in 25 cities in a dozen states since 2010.
Beginning in 2004 and continuing through todayI have fought commercial development of the city-owned property opposite the Basilica of St. Lawrence and the Asheville Civic Center and pressed for creation of a public park. The fight goes on.
In August 2015, I was one of 12,000 attendees of a Bernie Sanders for President rally in Phoenix, and among nearly 3,000 in Greenville, S.C.
In May, 2014, I was a speaker at the Asheville Rally Against Monsanto/GMOs.
In Sept. 2013, after four years of meetings and dialogue with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, George Friday of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, an interdenominational group of religious leaders, representatives of the Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, leaders from the local immigrant community, members of Occupy Asheville and city council members from cities around the country, the Civil Liberties Resolution I crafted was approved by unanimous vote of the Asheville City Council. It reminds all City employees, and all of our citizens, that discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political actions or beliefs is wrong and won’t be tolerated in our City.
In the summer of 2013, I used campaign funds from my City Council reelection campaign to rent buses for Asheville citizens to attend Moral Monday events in Raleigh.
On Aug. 5, 2013, I opened the Mountain Moral Monday event in Asheville, leading the estimated 10,000 person crowd in Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land is Your Land.”
In 2012 I attended the Restore the American Dream conference in Washington DC, working with others to advocate a change in our national priorities – toward people and away from corporate welfare.
In 2012 I challenged incumbent Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler in North Carolina’s 11th Congregssional District primary. Shuler had consistently voted with Republicans in Congress and I believed someone had to challenge his voting record. In mid-campaign the General Assembly redistricted Asheville out of the 11th District, Shuler dropped out of the race, and his chief of staff Hayden Rogers jumped in. I came in second in the three-way race, but won handily in the portion of Buncombe County which remained in the district. I addressed urgent issues facing the country in a series of YouTube videos.
In 2011 and again in 2015, Cecil attended the annual Netroots Nation conferences (in Providence and Phoenix, respectively) – learning and planning with other internet activists on methods and strategies to advance progressive political positions.
In 2008, Cecil was an outspoken advocate for the N.C. Racial Justice Act which passed in 2009 and permitted NC death row inmates to challenge their sentences if they could prove racial bias in their trials. (The death sentence would be commuted to life without parole. When the GOP took control of the General Assembly in 2010 they overturned the law.)
In Sept., 2005, Cecil was one among 150,000 people protesting the Iraq war in Washington DC.
In 2003, I created a petition drive to stop the City Council sale of a chunk of City/County Plaza (now Pack Square Park) to the Sammons Corp. for construction of a high rise development. The petition triggered a city-wide protest that resulted in Sammons’ abandonment of the plan.
In 2003, I instigated the Asheville iteration of the Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy Tour, working with Jim Hightower and representatives of about 50 WNC non-profit groups. I rented the Asheville Civic Center, and paid out of pocket for expenses that far exceeded donations at the gate. (Asheville’s Rolling Thunder group held subsequent events over a couple of years to repay me.)
In 2003, I was a co-director of WNC Meetups for Howard Dean, and helped found the Progressive Project which later moved its operations to Boston (under the direction of Jasmine Beach-Ferrara) and was active nationwide in addressing gay-rights issues. Since then Jasmine returned to Asheville, founded the Campaign for Southern Equality, and was elected to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2016.
In 2003, I was co-emcee, and co-organizer of the two largest pre-Iraq war protests in Asheville.
Looking further back, in the mid-1970s I was active with the Clamshell Alliance in New Hampshire, lobbying and marching against construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.
In Nov. 1969 I marched against the Vietnam War in Washington DC, after participating in Moratorium teach-in activities on my college campus.
I show up.