The Opportunities Industrialization Center is scheduled to be the final destination of a two-day, statewide tour of rural counties and inner city neighborhoods where families struggle to find work, decent housing, transportation and sufficient food.
The Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina kicked off Thursday in Beaufort County, and since then, a busload of activists, reporters, foundation leaders and scholars have made their way through selected counties in Eastern North Carolina, engaging in town hall meetings, sessions with local leaders and tours of neighborhoods directly affected by poverty.
The tour, sponsored by the North Carolina NAACP, the N.C. Justice Center and the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, will arrive at 4:30 p.m. today at the OIC, and start a two-hour long session in the OIC’s auditorium at 5 p.m.
“The tour is right on time,” said Andre Knight, local NAACP chapter president. “We have been hit the hardest as far as job loss, job creation and utilities – and this tool will help to put a face on poverty in this part of the state.”
Knight said he hopes people come out to testify to their struggles, especially those suffering from high utility rates.
“There are people in Rocky Mount making utility payments that are twice their mortgage,” he said. “Utility payments have devastated about everybody I know and are a major factor in why many people are in poverty. Utilities are bankrupting households.”
Organizers said the black community have been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis, and the tour serves as an opportunity to listen and highlight the concerns of those most affected by poverty and economic injustice.
“If we see the faces of poverty, maybe then we will have as a state the moral motivation to do the long, hard, necessary and righteous work of turning this reality around for the good of the whole of our state and nation,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, chairman of the N.C. State NAACP.
Hearing from those affected firsthand is more advantageous than just looking at numbers, said Gene Nichol, director of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
“We mean, through this modest effort, to illuminate and highlight barriers to opportunity in North Carolina, these moral and social transgressions that hold us all back,” Nichol said. “We want to do so not simply through data, and statistics, and documents and reports - but through the words and voices and protestations and hopes of those most directly affected.”