Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney  and Democratic Vice President Joe Biden will be making stops across North Carolina next week, talking about their respective visions to move the country forward. Both sides might do well to pay attention to Saturday’s “Truth and Hope Poverty Tour”  in Rocky Mount.
The one-day summit follows a series of meetings in 27 communities to document poverty and the economic challenges facing many North Carolinians.
The NC NAACP, the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, the NC Justice Center, the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at NCCU, and the AARP of NC launched the tour in January to put a face on poverty behind these startling statistics:
- Nearly 1 in 5 North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2010. That is roughly the same percent of the state’s population that was struggling with economic hardship in 1969.
- Approximately 1 in 4 African-Americans and 1 in 3 Latinos lived in poverty.
- Job loss, high unemployment and low earnings combined with underinvestment in the institutions that support opportunity are driving economic hardship in communities across the state. African-Americans, for example, in 2010 had a joblessness rate of 17.4 percent – nearly 7 percentage points above the state average of 10.5 percent for that year.
- High and persistent poverty impacts families and their communities. For children especially, growing up in poverty has lifetime consequences. In North Carolina, 40.2 percent of African American children and 42.6 percent of Latino children lived in poverty.
- Educational achievement suffers in these conditions of economic hardship and underinvestment. For every 5 students in North Carolina who enter high school, four years later only 4 of them graduated. For Latinos the graduation rate after four years is 68.8 percent and for African-American students the graduation rate is 71.5 percent.
- Poverty impacts not only quality of life but also longevity. The average African-American in North Carolina lives 6.5 fewer years than the average white North Carolinian.
Organizers of the summit will also debut a documentary Saturday about the poverty tour:
For those wanting to attend this weekend’s summit, it will be held at the Opportunities Industrialization Center, 402 E. Virginia St. , Rocky Mount.