Feb 112013


Monday, February 11, 2013

More than 35 Pitt County residents and ECU students joined thousands of North Carolinians in Raleigh on Saturday to rally for progressive policies to improve education and combat poverty.

Thousands of marchers walked from Shaw University to the Legislative Building on Jones Street during the seventh annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street event.

Worried about actions of the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly, the marchers, members of civil rights and left-leaning groups, had a sense of urgency that left local participants energized.

“It was very empowering and motivating,” Jamar Sampson, treasurer of the ECU NAACP, said. “It gave me a chance to become educated about issues going on and that are affecting you and people you know.”

The march was spearheaded by the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and included more than 140 coalition groups. Poverty, education and voting rights were among the issues emphasized Saturday, The Associated Press reported.

“In the face of our progressive agenda, we’ve seen a new ultra-conservative, Republican-led leadership unleash a cruel and unusual attack on labor rights, unemployment rights, Medicaid and voting rights,” NAACP North Carolina President William Barber said. “It will have a devastating impact on the poor and working people.”

Coalition members expressed concerned about attempts by the Legislature to pass a voter identification bill. A measure that cuts jobless benefits could reach GOP Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk next week.

The state’s poverty rate is 12th highest in the United States, with one of every four children living in poverty. The rate is much higher for black and Latino children. The NAACP said 1.7 million North Carolinians live in poverty — about the same number as in 1968.

“The gap between the rich and poor is wider than it was during the Great Depression,” Barber said. “There are 700,000 in deep poverty, 600,000 children. There are 10 counties where the poverty rate has been over 20 percent for more than 30 years.”

Demonte Alford, first vice president of ECU NAACP, said while it will be a difficult struggle, he is optimistic that the Legislature will listen to the message.

“Pitt County is filled with out-of-state and out-of-town students who place Pitt County in the balance,” Alford said.

Not only does he want to turn the community’s college students into a organized voting block, Alford believes they can be a force for uplifting the community.

“We’re not just students. We are residents of Pitt County, and if one person is hungry, if one person is homeless, it affects us also,” Alford said. “We are all connected.”

He wants to find ways to encourage ECU students to get more involved in local nonprofits and charities.

“When I was standing on the stage, and I was looking out and they were playing Mcfadden and Company’s ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,’ I saw all these different people out there, dancing and singing, and I realized it was possible to unify this state,” Alford said.

via The Daily Reflector.


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