Monthly Archives: April 2011

Soul City

Part of what we do at R2J is share what we learn about the community’s history where we are working. For the next several weeks, that community is Warren County.

Soul City is one aspect of Warren County’s history that I find especially compelling and I barely scratched the surface. Basically, Soul City, near Manson in Warren County, was proposed in 1969 by Floyd McKissick, Sr., a civil rights leader and director of the Congress of Racial Equality. It was funded by the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A planned community with roots in civil rights?

The plans included three villages that would be home to 18,000 people by 1989. Residents could go to school, work, and church all within the town’s limits. It was even supposed to have self-contained health care.

Soul City failed to thrive, though some people live there today. Over the next couple of months I’ll be sharing what I learn. Enjoy the photos!

The sign for Soul City, picture taken on April 29, 2011.








This was the former Soul Tech building, now owned by the Department of Corrections.







Even more pictures:

Rural Counties Hardest Hit by Hunger


Nationally, the top 10 percent of worst food prices and food insecurity were 44 mostly rural, mostly African-American counties. This is consistent with what we see in North Carolina. We spend time in local shops, and it’s clear the diversity and quality of food is much lower in rural areas. I was surprised that there was such a lack of fresh produce.

Access to resources like food and shelter are essential to survive. In our modern society, access to education and justice are essential to succeed, even in the most modest definitions. Roads to Justice is working directly with rural populations to find out from the women themselves what they think they need to improve their chances of thriving.

At R2J, we don’t directly work to feed people. It is our hope that while we help women assert their legal rights, they also find their voice to assert their other needs.

The impact of natural disasters on the rural poor

It can nearly (and usually does) go without saying that the poor are hit harder when natural disasters happen. This weekend’s swarm of tornadoes has left at least 35 North Carolinians dead. In Bertie County alone there have been 11.

When I woke up this morning I immediately began searching the Internet to find ways to help clean up debris. Besides noting in times of need an RN degree can be a lot more useful than a JD, I could see that the poor, rural communities were not as able to weather this storm. Here are some reasons:

  • The more isolated you are, the less likely volunteers will show up on a Sunday afternoon. Despite so many people willing to volunteer, most people chose the location that is closest to them.
  • In a more urban area, more people are going to be effected by roads closed due to debris and therefore response is quicker. If fewer people are effected, there are fewer voices notifying the authorities, and there are fewer people on hand to do the work.
  • The equipment, such as chainsaws or large trucks which required to remove the debris by the volunteers are less available to the poor.  If you don’t got it, you don’t got it.
  • Buildings are already in poor condition. It doesn’t take an expert to see that trailers and mobile homes are a lot more dangerous in tornadoes than a well-constructed, permanent house.
  • Younger people often leave rural communities to find jobs, leaving a much older population behind. As a result, they are fewer residents who are able to get out and do the back-breaking clean-up.

My heart goes out to everyone who suffered loss due to this massive spring storm. I am hoping the outpouring of goodwill extends beyond Raleigh or even Sanford, and that Bertie County and other rural communities get the help they need.

Asset Building Resources

I had a wonderful meeting this morning about consumer credit and asset building. Before I add them to the growing list of links on our link page, I wanted to specifically mention how important these issues are to the rural poor. It’s exciting to see how many creative projects and studies are going on. Roads to Justice North Carolina will bring as much information to the community as possible, always remembering that this needs to be a two-way conversation.

Just in time for taxes- Earned Income Tax Credit Click and find someone to help file your taxes.

MDC- a non-profit whose goals are to improve educational and economic opportunities in the South has several initiatives that help.

The Benefit Bank, with tools to see what benefits you may be eligible to receive.

Advocates and researchers, plus even more resources at Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina.

I have even more, but this is a good place to start. We’d love to hear about any other resources! Please leave a comment or send us an email.

What is a Roads to Justice Round Table?

We’ll be having our first round table in Warren County in a few short weeks. The Round Table is an information gathering method, as well as a way to meet folks in the community. At Roads to Justice, it’s important that everyone has a seat at the table. Too often people are left out of the conversation concerning decisions about their own needs.

We ask people to sit down with us as equals- maybe drink a little sweet tea and snack on some cookies, and just talk. Our goal is to hear from the women themselves what they need to learn about. Unlike a lot of organizations, we make the effort to listen first. Only after we have been informed by the locals do we plan which legal clinics and workshops to provide. R2J is community driven legal education.

I’m looking forward to meeting new friends and partners in our efforts. We still haven’t found a location for the roundtable, but rest assured this will be a good time!
Bike Path to Justice

Local characters! Lord of the Rings and the Duke-UNC Rivalry?

Last week I drove to Warren County to gather some information before we really hit the ground. The nature of our mission requires a lot of research in the community. The scenery was life affirming. Spring is in the air! Daffodils and tulips near the courthouse, blossoms on the trees. Gorgeous.

Along with the beautiful terrain, I found a poster drawn by a local Episcopal priest. It is an epic battle between UNC and Duke with a parody of Lord of the Rings thrown in for good measure. What a local character!

As time goes on, this website will become fuller and bear fruit. It’s early spring  for us as well- and there are only hints of what is to come.

I am linking to the page to buy the poster

Check out the website,