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Civil rights groups to gather in Rocky Mount on Saturday

A coalition of civil rights organizations will meet with citizens this weekend in Rocky Mount to discuss ways to combat the increasing rate of poverty in North Carolina and bring the issue to the attention of politicians and the public.

The session comes on the heels of the six-month Truth and Hope Poverty Tour, a 2,000-mile, 27-city listening tour that captured stories of people living in poverty in North Carolina. At a summit Saturday in Rocky Mount, the civil rights organizations will release a 26-minute video telling the stories of people they met during the tour.

The tour is co-sponsored by the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the NC Justice Center, the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at North Carolina Central University and the AARP of NC.

While poverty has been an issue the organizations have been discussing for years, the listening tour has taken the organizations’ commitment to fight poverty to another level, said William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP. “Humans are more important than a bank,” Barber said. “We have a policy that banks are too big to fail. We need to have a policy that humans are too precious to fail.”

UNC law professor Gene Nichol, head of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, said the tour is “making visible what we too frequently and intentionally render invisible.”

As an example, Nichol recalled the morning when listening tour organizers stopped at a downtown Raleigh homeless shelter. They saw several residents emerge from the woods, get food, and then return to their tents in the woods a few hundred yards from the state legislature, where no one ever would have known they were there.

Although the organizers spoke of a Marshall Plan-style agenda for eliminating poverty in North Carolina when they announced the tour in January, Barber declined to provide a monetary number or other details of the group’s plan until after the summit Saturday.

-- Staff writer Gloria Lloyd


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