Down Homies are putting miles on our cars as we zig-zag across the state on back roads, from the mountains to the coast. We are rolling into places where we believe the people have something to say. One stop away was in Nashville (North Carolina has the original Nashville, y’all– it’s in Nash County!). Nash County is a rural place filled with hard-working, good folks who know their community best.
We have long made it a foundational practice in our work to learn more about the concerns and values of rural communities through deep listening. This is rooted in our belief that poor and working people are the experts in our own experience and hold the knowledge and know-how to improve our communities. All too often, we don’t have a seat at the table to truly be heard.
When we knock on doors in a new community or hold our listening sessions, we ask three basic questions:
What keeps you up at night? What worries you here?
Who is responsible for these issues? (Plainly put: Who is to blame?)
What can we, as poor and working-class folks, do about it?
In Nash County, three major themes quickly surfaced: Issues with water quality and affordability, concerns about rent and home prices, and a lack of public transportation in the county. All three are connected to a feeling that poor and working people aren’t being valued or getting the real, tangible support they need.
“We need more affordable housing,” explained Martha Hill, who has lived and worked in Nash County for years. “It used to be 500 a month to rent and they have doubled the price.” Many in the room echoed this concern, saying that wages haven’t gone up at the same rate as the cost of housing and utilities.
“Why am I paying a 900 dollar light bill?” asked William Peete, who is new to the county. Prices like this are taking up too much of working folks paychecks, causing working families to have to cut back on food and other essentials to make ends meet.
Conversations like this happen all the time at Down Home: We know what the issues are. We know what needs to change. We are the majority– most of us live in these conditions that so often do not work for us.
“What is getting in the way?” asked Bridget Parrish, a retired police officer who came out to the gathering. “People don’t have a strong way to get the issues out to the community and address the issues.“
Down Home wants to build a structure in places like Nash County to do just that: Get the concerns of working people addressed in the halls of power. We want to bring the investment and capacity so that local working-class people can build the multiracial formations needed to not just lobby for change but to be in positions of power themselves to make decisions for our own communities.
Does this sound like something YOU should be a part of? Reach out to us here and we will connect you with a local Down Home chapter or organizer.