Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina

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Concerned citizens listen to speakers about continued poverty concerns in the state

The Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina organized by the NAACP, the NC Justice Center, and the UNC Center on Poverty Work and Opportunity, on January 19 and 20 visited six counties in North Eastern North Carolina to hear from some of the most excluded and exploited residents of North Carolina about their experience of poverty. Story after story revealed the truth that poverty is not an individual or personal problem, does not result from laziness or personal morality, but too often results from specific government action or inaction. The most recurring problems we heard were issues the UNC Center for Civil Rights focuses on - manifestations of community exclusion, including lack of access to water and sewer, segregated and underfunded schools, and unreasonably high electric bills.

Four out of the six towns visited, Washington, Elizabeth City, Scotland Neck, and Rocky Mount, are municipal power providers, part of the 32 Eastern North Carolina Cities in ElectriCities. Residents of these towns and the surrounding areas testified to astounding electric bills, all over $300 a month, some as high as $1300 a month. One young single mother, living in a subsidized one bedroom apartment with $175 a month rent, spoke of electric bills averaging $330 a month. Her monthly fixed income is less than $600 a month. Since 2010, the UNC Center for Civil Rights has studied the issue and met with residents organizing around these excessive rates in Rocky Mount and other cities.

At the Scotland Neck stop, Peter Gilbert, the Center’s Community Inclusion Attorney-Fellow, spoke about the Center’s work in Halifax County - environmental justice and exclusion issues in Lincoln Heights, access to political voice and justice for the residents of Brandy Creek, and most importantly the perpetuation of three racially segregated school districts. Halifax County maintains three districts, two of which are nearly entirely African-American and are do not meet the minimum state constitutional requirements for a sound basic education. The Roanoke Rapids city school district is maintained as a 70% white enclave school district; district lines are drawn to exclude black city residents but include white students who live outside the city. Learn more about education in Halifax county and read the Center's report, The State of Education in Halifax County.

The Center applauds the work of the NAACP, the UNC Center on Poverty Work and Opportunity, and the NC Justice Center for raising these issues to the public spotlight. We look forward to continuing to support future legs of the tour.

Visit @ncjustice and @truthandhopenc on Twitter for live tweets, pictures, and more information about the Truth and Poverty Tour. More pictures are available on the Tour's Flickr page.

News coverage of the Tour:

Posted by Peter Hull Gilbert on Wed. January 25, 2012 2:07 PM
Categories: Annexation, Community Inclusion, Education, Environmental Justice, Halifax County, Heirs' Property, Segregation
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106

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