By Nathan Ham
Community activists and supporters showed up at the Harvest House in Boone on Monday night for a third and final town hall style meeting to highlight more of the issues that poor people face in the High Country.
This was also the final meeting before the Poor People’s Campaign holds its “40 Days of Action” campaign, which will include marches and peaceful demonstrations all across the state, including Boone.
Here in Boone and surrounding areas, poverty has become a growing issue, and that is why the High Country Chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign is trying to slow down the poverty growth with the goal of, one day, eliminating it all together.
“Watauga County, out of all of North Carolina, has the third highest rate of poverty. That’s absolutely shameful,” said Cathy Williamson, co-chair of this local chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign. “Telling the stories, changing the narrative of what people in poverty are enduring, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Trying to educate the general public on what those battling poverty every day are going through is key to get support and action from the community.
“For the many people living in poverty, a bump in the road is far more than an inconvenience. Many of us here all have those safety nets, we have the backup plans and we have the support when life comes at us hard. We have the resources for the inevitable rainy day. But for those that begin every day from a place of scarcity, a place of physical, mental and emotional scarcity, not having enough… a bump in the road is life changing,” said Williamson. “A car that won’t start, that could turn into the loss of a minimum wage job. A sick child that needs medical attention, that turns into lost wages and extra bills. When you’re poor, much of your quality of life is out of your control.”
Fellow co-chair Charles Douglas also took time to speak on the poverty issues that can be seen every day.
“62 percent of Americans are poor or low income. In the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, more than half of our citizens are poor and low income,” Douglas said. “It should be incumbent on us as citizens to go out into our communities, at our jobs, in our social groups, and look for that person that may be going through something, and ask them ‘how are you doing? Is everything okay?’ The way we treat people in this country that are struggling, is to tell them to be ashamed of yourself, that you’re not working hard enough. That’s really shameful.”
For 40 days straight, starting on Mother’s Day in Raleigh, the Poor People’s Campaign will be making its presence felt, speaking on the battles that people in poverty fight every day and trying to bring awareness to a problem that has simply gotten out of hand.
“We’re going to commit to civil disobedience each day so that this state and this nation can come to understand that poverty comes in many forms, that’s why more than half the country is going through it,” Douglas said. “The 40 Days of Action will be about standing together and telling the state that we’re tired of this. There are a lot of issues to fight about, a lot of differences we may have, but there should be no difference that gets us so divided on the common issue of poverty.”
At a local level, the goal is to have the largest Poor People’s March in Western North Carolina in Boone. The march will take place sometime in April with April 14 as the tentative date for the peaceful protest.
“Our hope is that by having such a massive march in Boone, people will really see that it’s about the stories and us standing together against poverty,” Douglas added.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Poor People’s Campaign, information can be found online at poorpeoplescampaign.org.