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'We've got to come together'
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'We've got to come together'
Poverty in Eastern North Carolina draws the spotlight




Davette Bulluck’s house is so cold she and her three daughters sleep with all their clothes on. After they bundle up, they get in the bed — all four together.

"It’s not pretty,” Bulluck told the crowd about her situation.

Bulluck is one of the many faces of poverty in Eastern North Carolina. The single mother of three shared her plight among hundreds Friday evening inside the auditorium of Rocky Mount OIC as a part of the North Carolina NAACP’s Truth and Hope Tour of Poverty. Various leaders and volunteers toured six northeastern counties Thursday and Friday, holding town hall meetings, visiting neighborhoods and listening to the stories of those directly affected by poverty each day.

While Bulluck has lived in Rocky Mount for six years, half of that time she hasn’t had a job. Her monthly income? $800. Her utility bill last month? $1,300.

Bulluck said her lights were cut off at one point and she had to pay $480 to get them turned back on.

"Have you ever tried to cook collard greens on a kerosene heater,” she asked the crowd. "Have you ever had your child do their homework in the dark?”

Despite her circumstances, she does what she can so that her family can survive. She’s even knocked on people’s doors, asking them if she can clean their yards or wash their dishes.

"Many people have seen me on the street picking up cans, cleaning people’s yards,” she said. "I do it because I have three little girls. There are times when my children had to eat and I couldn’t. There are children in my neighborhood ... if they’re not in school, they don’t eat.”

And when she walks those same streets looking for work, Bulluck often sees a sign that makes her upset.

"I love Rocky Mount,” she said the sign reads. "Now you tell me that I don’t want to kick one of those signs.”

But she doesn’t. Instead, Bullock moves forward, clinging to hope that one day it won’t be that way.

"God teaches us every day that faith is the hope of things we cannot see,” Bulluck said firmly. "I’m going to see my way out of this. To all these single mothers out here who say I can’t, you can. Get on your knees and pray.”

Edgecombe County’s poverty rate was 24.5 percent in 2010, according to an economic snapshot by the N.C. Justice Center.

Nearly 51 percent of Edgecombe County’s residents were low-income during 2008-2010. That means their incomes were less than twice the federal level.

The Rev. William J. Barber II, president of North Carolina’s NAACP, gave a speech Friday before those faces of poverty spoke.

"We need help from another source to fight this reality of structural poverty,” said Barber. "We have seen so many people speak truth about their pain, yet exhibit so much faith and hope, which makes it even more shameful. We are either going to hold each other and go up together or we are going to go down individually.”

 

‘TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE’

Wilson County’s poverty rate for 2010 came in at 23.7 percent — more than 6 percent higher than the state’s rate. But those numbers were grimmer for the county’s children, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey.

The county’s child poverty rate was nearly 38 percent in 2010, up from 30.9 percent for children younger than 18 the previous year, according to the survey.

Wilson residents and officials made the trip for the tour on Friday.

Hundreds listened to Barber’s message. The crowd either stood on their feet, clapped or said "Amen” during the speech.

"There is a certain dissatisfaction we have to have and a certain truth we have to speak, which is why we invited you here in order to properly challenge and heal because only the truth can set you free,” Barber said.

Barber said it’s not a sin to be poor, but it is a sin to create systems in which people have to exist in extreme poverty. He said it is not shameful for those to tell their stories and talk about the system that created poverty.

"It is a shame for us to go to election to election and never hear our politicians talk about the poor,” Barber said sternly. "They talk about the wealthy and the middle class. But never talk about the poor. That’s shame. Structural poverty is not the result of personal morality, but it is the result of public immorality.”

 

‘A TIDAL WAVE OF HOPE’

Across the country, there were 46.2 million people living in poverty in 2010 — the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years those poverty estimates have been published, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 1st Congressional District, which includes Wilson County, is ranked second in the country for food insecurity — or the inability to afford enough food. Ranked No. 1 in the country is Bronx, N.Y., according to 2010 study by the Food Research Action Center, an organization that advocates and works to end hunger in America through stronger public polices.

Barber said he hopes this tour will shine a light on the truth of poverty and despair in North Carolina.

"We believe our leaders in governments, media, businesses, churches and schools need to focus on the good of the whole,” he told the crowd. "We believe we can act in accordance with this idea, we can set (in) motion, a tidal wave of hope. But we can’t do it unless we face it and tell the truth.”

Barber contends that neither the government nor the private sector has adequately addressed historical and structural causes of deep poverty in North Carolina, he said.

"We’ve got to come together,” he said.

And poverty, he said, has many faces that we all need to be able to see.

"That’s why we’ve come here,” Barber said. "To hear from the people. We must put faces on those thousands and millions ...”

The UNC Center on Poverty and Opportunity and the North Carolina Justice Center teamed up with the NAACP for the tour.

 

olivia@wilsontimes.com | 265-7879
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View Comments:Show/Hide(11 comments)
teacher - sure said...

You are the worst excuse for a teacher. Masters Degree - BIG DEAL! Well I worked hard for my degree and it is a BIG DEAL for me especially for the cost of it. If you refuse to fill out any government form and will continue to do so because you think the people are frauding the government - let the government know instead of refusing to fill it out. I wish I knew who you were and I would make sure that you no longer taught in any school because you are deliberately breaking the law by not filling out the forms. Evidently your Masters Degree didn't have any classes that taught "ethics" and what legal ramifications will bestow you for failure to do your job.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 9:45 AM
TO God Help Us All said...

You missed the point. The person stated that they get more in help than a teacher makes. Obviously your masters degree on business didn't help with your math skills. I know for a fact some of the parents I teach get more $$$ in help than I make. I know ones collecting disability checks for their kids simply becaus their kids are "slow". Teachers are the ones that have to deal with the paperwork on these kids and fill it out for the parent. Occasion I refuse to fill it out and will continue to do so, especially the ones who are frauding the govvernment. Unfortunately I teach in a school where this goes on a lot and no one seems to try and stop it. By the way, I have a master degree too, BIG DEAL!

Friday, January 27, 2012 at 12:08 AM
God Bless Us All said...

Why are we blaming Republicans or Democrats anyway? We are the ones who placed these elected officials. Maybe we all should take a look in the mirror from time to time and not just to fix our hair or make-up. Are we really happy with what is staring back at us? Do we really live by what we preach? Stop blaming this one and that one, be productive to make the changes we need. Teach our children to be productive citizens as well. Get them involved in the community. You may even learn a lesson or two. Take responsibility for our actions!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:03 AM
said...

Perhaps you missed the most important line in my comment, when I stated it is sad when we can not intelligently address these issues. I did not put anyone in need of aid down, nor was I sanctimonious (was unaware I even mentioned anything to do with religion). I simply stated that family planning should be taught to middle and high school age children. I did not mention poverty, hunger, nor taking any entitlement away from people who are receiving assistance now. I am all for helping the less fortunate, but something must be done to stem the tide of young people having children they can not afford to raise. Perhaps you should have paid a little more attention in your reading comprehension classes on the way to your MBA and you would have understood my comment a little better.

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 12:55 PM
God help us all! said...

To said: You may be a recent college graduate but it appears to me that you didn't learn a thing when you were there. What person on government assistance makes more than a Wilson County School teacher depending on how many children they have is wrong and you know it. There is no way that anyone on government assistance makes more in a year than any teacher. To say something just to be saying something is stupid which is what makes you - college educated and all. Everybody knows that a person hungry is due to poverty. That education you received is wasted because you didn't learn anything while you were there. You may have a college education and you may pay taxes now and contribute to charitable organizations - don't let that sanctimonious attitude that you now have - backfire on you because the same God that put you where you are today - tomorrow just might take it away and then you will be in the situation of trying to put food on your table. And by the way, I also have a college education and a Masters Degree in Business Administration but I don't go around putting other people down because they are poor, hungry, or that snide undercover remark that you made about Rev. Barber "has not gone hungry in some time," fat. Remember - what goes around - comes around.

Monday, January 23, 2012 at 8:27 AM
said...

I am a recent college grad and would love to start a family but finicially know that I can not afford to do so. I pay taxes as well as contribute my time and money to charitable organizations. Family planning should be taught in our middle and high schools. It is obvious our current sexual education plan of abstinence is not successful. Knowledge is power. It is sad when high school teachers in Wilson County earn less in a year than some of their students receive in government assistance due the amount of children they have. We have a serious problem in America when we can not intelligently address these issues. It does not appear to me that William Barber has a leg to stand on when it comes to hunger caused due to poverty. One could easily infer Rev. Barber has not gone hungry in some time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM To Conceered said...

The comment you made about the lady with 3 kids was just plain stupid.Maybe you need to fall off your Throne and take a reality check,Because even though you may have life by the tail right now it can all be taken away in a moment.You never know what a person has gone through in their life to put them in the position they are in.I agree theres just to many people out there on Welfare and milking it to death But at least this lady was looking work and trying.Not everybody has the gift to afford education.Its not free.Maybe she had a sick mom and dad and had to take care of them in her younger years.Thats what happen to me.I wanted to go to college ,But I put ny mom and dad first.Just always think before you make a statement like that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 1:08 PM Oh Please said...

It's the republicans who put us in poverty and then you blame the democrats for trying to dig us out.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 6:11 PM twindad said...

No, it sounds like those who are not poor need to come down off their high horses or ivory towers and help those who are not as fortunate.
Maybe we need to understand the true meaning of these words of Jesus, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me."
Maybe those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ need to actually start acting like Him by doing what He said.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 5:23 PM conceerned said...

if this single mom of three had stayed in school and out of the bedroom, she (they) may not be in such dire need. Why she getting $800.00 per month
and been unemployed for ever....get real

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 5:15 PM Former Wilsonian said...

Historically, the poor and disenfranchised have voted Democrat and there continue to be more and more poor and disenfranchised according to their "advocates". The country has spent billions and billions on social programs ever since LBJ's Great Society and yet we have more "poor" than ever before according to their "advocates". Sounds like some people and their "advocates" need a reality check.

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:55 AM
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