Truth & Hope Tour makes stop in Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
Valeria Levy has been out of work for sometime and although she is not homeless, she understands the plight of someone who is one paycheck away from losing it all.
Levy spoke Monday night during the Rowan County leg of the statewide Truth & Hope Tour, which hopes to cast light on poverty in some of North Carolina’s communities that are struggling.
The tour stopped at Moore’s Chapel AME Zion Church on Partee Street where activists, scholars and other leaders wanted to get a snapshot of the economic situation in the area.
The North Carolina NAACP, NC Justice Center, and UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity organized the tour. It began Jan. 1 from Raleigh and made its first stop in Beaufort County.
Levy told those gathered she was recently a pharmaceutical sales representative, who like many other sales reps, have found themselves without a job.
She said things need to go back to being a place of community, where people looked out for each other and showed concern for one another.
“I didn’t grow up in poverty, but I did grow up in the church,” she said.
She recalled as a young child visiting someone in the neighborhood who didn’t have food, and at the time, did not really understand why her family was giving them a meal.
The town hall-style meeting was led by the Rev. William Barber II, president of the state NAACP and Gene Nichol, professor of law and Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina.
Barber said the point of the meeting was to “first tell the truth and then to reveal the truth” about poverty.
“When there is no truth, there is no freedom to aspire to anything different,” Barber said.
The other goal was to put a face to the numbers and statistics.
As of November 2011, Rowan County’s unemployment rate was 10.6 percent and the state rate was 9.5 percent. In 2010, 20.1 percent of the county’s more than 26,000 people lived in poverty compared with the state’s rate of 17.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
Deborah Scales said she didn’t know poverty, but has observed it here in Rowan County as well as other states including New York and Atlanta.
She said the people most affected are the ones who should’ve been at the meeting.
“Where are the kids that the problems are impacting the most?” she asked.
“How do we get them here?” Scales asked.
Felix Perez, through interpreter Jesus Cedeno, said he was originally from Puerto Rico and is an American citizen, but wanted to know how Latinos could get help.
Perez is unemployed and said when he tried to seek another job he was told there was nothing comparable to the job he once had. He tried to get more education and was told the only help he could receive was basic computer skills and the other “stuff you have to get on your own.”
“When you go on unemployment, you are basically nothing,” Perez said.
“Where are the benefits?” he asked. “Is it because I’m Latino?”
The tour, which is in its final stages, will continue in Rowan County today for a walking tour at 7:30 a.m. in East Spencer where leaders will visit with people.
For more information, contact the NAACP at 919-682-4700.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.