Our nation’s Decennial Census has arrived and with the overarching pandemic of COVID-19, the count for marginalized and historically undercounted populations is more important now than ever before. The NAACP, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Unity Diaspora Coalition, the National Urban League’s Black Census Roundtable along with countless other organizations worked together to seize the moment as an opportunity to ensure a fair and accurate count for African American citizens through Black Census Week, a week-long virtual activity to incite awareness around the Census and the importance to fill it out in its entirety.
Black populations consistently remain undercounted in the Decennial Census, disadvantaging Black families and communities from economic progress and needed resources. According to many leaders in the community, African Americans are unaware of the importance of the survey. Particularly surrounding the present-day pandemic, census employees going door to door have been cut by 200,000 – limiting the outreach impact. Countless national and state-based organizations as well as celebrity influencers all came together, through webinars and promotional videos, to take action and push the agenda of #CountMeBlack.
“Being counted is imperative,” Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and national convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, said. “These are indeed trying times for our nation, as we endure the uncertainty of the COVID-19 global pandemic. It is times like these that stress even more that each and every person needs to be counted so that we receive the resources and assistance that are due for our communities. For that reason, we all MUST participate in the 2020 Decennial Census. Despite the challenges each of us are personally facing, participating in the census has been made much easier for us through the use of social media and digital technology. We must take the time and make sure we are counted and say ‘Count Me Black!’
Each day of last week (3/23-3/29) held a primary focus on a specific initiative for the Black community – education advocacy, environmental and climate justice advocacy, health advocacy, economic advocacy, voting rights and civic engagement, criminal justice advocacy, and faith organizing. Women, children, LGBTQ, Men, Immigrants, and others were all respectively accounted for in the virtual events hosted by various organizations.
The kickoff for Black Census Week began with a formal teleconference launch where many political figures and national leaders stressed the importance of participation in the online census. National Action Network Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton emphasized, “If we don’t participate, we can lose congressional seats. We don’t get the services we are entitled to. If we don’t participate we become accomplices in the undercount. We will take ourselves off the grid.”
On Wednesday, March 25th, The Black Women Roundtable (BWR) hosted an incredibly informative online forum on Twitter to discuss economic, health, and political empowerment for women and their children. “More than $600 million in federal funding was lost because of an inaccurate census count in 2010. We are claiming what is ours by being COUNTED!”, Rep Stephanie Moorie tweeted. Many women in the community, mothers, and organization leaders alike unanimously discussed the critical importance of active participation in the census as a solution to the lack of representation in funding.
The NAACP called for a tele-town hall discussing economic empowerment on Thursday. The conference call aimed to provide a time to learn and hear from leaders, activists and advocates who are pushing forward to get all community members counted in a COVID-19 reality. This session was about strategies, tactics, and tools that work to make the count. Harnessing the power of social media during this time is a critical conduit for spreading awareness to the community members who may be less technologically savvy; thus, it becomes a conduit for receiving the political representation that Black communities need to be heard come November elections.
For representation alone, Black women and LGBTQ communities are the most disenfranchised groups of the African-American population. Friday and throughout the weekend organizations such as National LGBTQ Task Force and National Coalition on Black Civic Participation took to Twitter to organize discussions to incite action. Task Force’s mission to retrieve the count of LGBTQ and ensure their representation channeled through an active discussion on Twitter, boosting the count. During the weekend, NCBCP highlighted the importance of elders and faith-based organizations to be represented, as they sources of trust in the community. It’s time to turn faith into action and wisdom into power.
For the various organizations and leaders involved throughout Black Census Week, the overall message for listeners “If you don’t count, you don’t matter” was a testament to the participation needed to be taken online, via phone, or by mail. Answering the census for ourselves and utilizing the tools we have to teach others of the importance is a declaration that the Black community is part of “We The People” – and that we refuse to be excluded from essential funding and political representation.