Since the end of January, two members of the Beulaville Judge family have had their homes intentionally set on fire, and now — in the absence of a thorough early investigation — other family members wonder if their home will be targeted next.
On January 26, 2022, long-time community advocate Rebecca Judge and her daughter Beverly Judge watched their family home and four vehicles in Duplin County burn while local firefighters used only one hose to fight the flames. Beverly Judge was told by a firefighter, with a smirk on his face, “We are out of water.” Investigators quickly determined the fire was intentionally set. However, in the months following the arson, law enforcement has given the family no indication that a thorough investigation is taking place.
On May 4, Ayisha Bullock (Beverly Judge’s daughter) and her two children, both under the age of 10, were asleep at home when they were awakened by a loud explosion and glass breaking. Their home and two vehicles had also been intentionally set on fire. Bullock and her children were able to escape, but had to run through flames to get out of the home. First responders were shocked to find them alive, according to the family.
Now, the Judge family is demanding a full investigation into who set the fires and why, before anyone else is targeted or hurt.
“What does that say that we’re waiting on [law enforcement] to deliver justice?” Bullock asked. “Basically you’re saying that I have to wait to be attacked, now I’m attacked. When is somebody going to do their job? All I ask is to do your job.”
Mrs. Rebecca Judge, a Beulaville resident since 1957 and matriarch of the Judge family, says they lost almost everything in the fire; including four vehicles that were torched separately. The family believes they were victims of a racially-motivated hate crime.
“It is unbelievable that a person can carry such hate in their heart that they are willing to commit such horrendous acts; destroying not only possessions but threatening lives as well,” Mrs. Judge said. “It is the right and expectation of law-abiding citizens to have such persons tracked down and punished.”
The Judge family is left searching for answers.
- Who set the family homes ablaze?
- Why didn’t firefighters do more to save the Judge homestead in Duplin County?
- What has law enforcement done since both fires to find out what happened and if they’re related?
The Judges aren’t alone. This Duplin County family’s journey has brought to light similar stories from rural communities about unchecked racial discrimination and negative experiences with law enforcement and local government.
Hate crimes motivated by race have increased dramatically in the past few years, rising nearly 28% from 2019 to 2020, according to the most updated information from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ defines a federal hate crime as a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
In coordination with the Judge family, the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are launching an effort to call for a full investigation while collecting stories of similar incidents across North Carolina.
We are also asking Duplin County residents share their experiences of racial harassment in an effort to hold authorities accountable for protecting their citizens. We have two hotlines, phone and email, for residents who would like to report their experiences anonymously: firstname.lastname@example.org and 919-323-3380, ext. 172.
Founded in 1939, the NC NAACP is part of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its branches throughout North Carolina are premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination. www.naacpnc.org.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.