Got a story to tell about how poverty has affected your life due to job loss or other circumstances? If so, organizers of a statewide bus tour want to hear it on Monday.
“The Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina” will make a stop in Mount Airy that day as part of an overall effort to “put a face on” the problem, according to promotional material issued for the event.
From 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Monday, a group that will include activists and media personnel will listen to local residents’ stories of need at a site on the corner of Independence Boulevard and Willow Street in Mount Airy. A local organizer said this is the same location near BB&T-Blue Ridge Burke Insurance where a “Bring it Beck” rally was held last Labor Day.
Sessions will be led by Dr. William Barber II, the outspoken state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Professor Gene Nichol, director of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
The “poverty tour” of North Carolina was launched in January in the eastern part of the state to document the economic conditions faced by some residents in the hopes of influencing legislative policy and other actions.
Western North Carolina is now the focus, with the bus to initially visit Guilford and Rockingham counties on Monday before heading to Surry. Afterward, the tour will continue in Forsyth and Rowan. The two-day swing will conclude Tuesday in selected mountain counties.
Only certain areas were targeted, with Surry chosen due to the hardships its citizens have faced from textile layoffs over the past decade.
Monday’s gathering at Independence Boulevard and Willow Street will include speeches and other remarks, but the intent is mainly to hear local residents’ stories of poverty. The event will serve to document the depth of the need, although organizers stress that they don’t have the solutions.
“They just want to point out the fact that we do have poverty in North Carolina,” a Surry NAACP spokesman who is helping to coordinate Monday’s visit, said of tour leaders’ intent. “They just want to hear these stories.”
Often people in government and other institutions, as well as the general public, might be aware that poverty exists and seem genuinely concerned, he said. But they can’t truly grasp the scope of the problem until they see firsthand how some people must live. “And it’s sad,” the local NAACP spokesman added.
Hunger has become a major issue in Surry, he said, pointing out that more than 6,500 households are relying on food stamps.
But it is hoped that shedding light on poverty’s specific effects on North Carolinians will lead to more efforts to address them.
Barber, the state NAACP chairman, is a longtime minister from Goldsboro who has become a powerful and influential voice on a variety of public issues. His most recent activism has included campaigning against North Carolina’s marriage amendment along with involvement in the state Racial Justice Act, voter registration campaigns and the Trayvon Martin case in Florida.
In May 2008, Barber was guest speaker for the annual Freedom Fund Banquet of the Surry County NAACP which was held in Mount Airy.
There is a chance videos could be made of some local people telling their stories Monday, if they agree, according to the Surry NAACP spokesman.
Everyone is encourage to attend the gathering, he said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.