Strike Debt Raleigh, an offshoot of Occupy Raleigh, discusses debt

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Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013 12:35 am | Updated: 12:45 am, Fri Feb 1, 2013.

Focused privately beneath dim lighting and the scent of burnt espresso at Cup A Joe coffee house, four women sat in a corner collaborating, discussing, and planning.

Strike Debt Raleigh, a branch of the Occupy movement, met Thursday night to discuss debt awareness and relief, planning events beyond picket-waving protests.

The Raleigh chapter of Strike Debt, which picked up several months after its founding New York counterpart, addresses what Katina Gad, senior in fashion and textile management said was the keystone issue of Occupy Raleigh.

“When we asked around the table [at Occupy] what the biggest issue was, they all said debt,” Gad said.

Gad said she thinks debt of all kinds has become an increasingly heavy burden upon North Carolinians, especially college students, and that that is enough for her to work against it.

Rachel Davis, a member of Strike Debt Raleigh said she sees debt as less of an unfortunate misgiving in the U.S. than as a violation against citizens’ rights.

“[Higher education is] a right, not a privilege,” Davis said. “You don’t want a future generation to be held back by their debt.”

Gad said she believes legislation has become restrictive of public education in the state, and could lead to more student debt or a decrease in higher education beneath the wealthy.

“When you raise the price to go to college, you are only going to have people with the most money attending,” Gad said.

Among the events planned by Strike Debt Raleigh is the “Not A Loan Education Lottery,” in which willing participants enter a raffle with the chance of being “liberated” of a portion of their debt. 

With $5,000 dollars directly funded toward the winners’ debt, members of Strike Debt Raleigh said they hope the Not A Loan Lottery will relieve some students’ debt. Anyone is eligible for the raffle.

Members of Strike Debt Raleigh brainstormed ways to get students involved and open up about their debt, something Gad said will be one of the group’s largest challenges, asking the group, “How do you get people to speak about loan debt?”

Gad said she believes she could make the biggest difference by focusing on the University, where she said a tremendous amount of students are already experiencing loan debt.

Shannon Benedetto, former member of Occupy Raleigh and current member of Strike Debt Raleigh, said she believes the loan system is a double-edged sword for the average student. 

“Without a college education you can’t have a future, but debt also keeps you from having a future,” Benedetto said.

Members kept placing a chalkboard in Raleigh for the public to profess their debt, organizing speeches, and making a public demand for Bank of America to help easing student loans on fellow North Carolinians, in their list of likely endeavors. 

Strike Debt Raleigh plans to meet on Thursday nights at Cup A Joe and further announcements can be found on Facebook.