Being counted out!
By T. Willard Fair
Black Miami, I am so tired of our leadership dropping the ball on opportunities to empower our people.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts one of the most important programs in our nation. It sends out a questionnaire meant to count every person in every household in every community.
This decennial enumeration decides the allocation of federal funds to states and local areas for the next ten years. It also determines our political representation and our socio-economic marketing influence
The 2000 Census had a 16 million undercount and was so horrendous that it led to the loss of millions of dollars in federal funds and under-representation of Black and other minority populations in Congress and state Legislatures.
This year, the 2010 Census was supposed to be better. It was supposed to ensure the total involvement of the minority community in its efforts to improve the accuracy of the count.
President Barack Obama established an historic precedent and broke a 200-year tradition by taking the Census Bureau out of the Department of Commerce and placing it under the White House.
He gave it a budget of $15 billion (triple the last Census budget) and put over $600 million into an outreach campaign. This campaign was aimed at getting thousands of organizations, news outlets, minority leaders and school children to spread the word and preach the gospel about the importance of the Census.
The Census Bureau talked about getting “trusted voices” involved. The NAACP launched its “Yes We Count” 2010 Census Participation Program and my leader, Mark Morial, President of the National Urban League was appointed to serve as chair of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee.
But then something went terribly wrong. The Congressional House Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee grilled Census staff as to why the Black Press of America, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and others were complaining that the Black media got very little of the multimillion-dollar advertising campaign dollars.
In Florida and especially in Miami Dade County, the Black media got virtually crumbs. The State of Florida allocated $420,000 in a communication campaign for Blacks and then did the same thing the White House did – awarded the advertising dollars to a large multinational white agency.
The Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc. received a small Ford Foundation grant through the National Urban League to reach the hard-to-count (HTC) Blacks within the Liberty City, West Little River and Brownsville/Allapattah areas which we had serviced for over 50 years and which has been identified by the U.S. Census as one of the hardest to count areas in Florida.
We began to search for additional dollars for our outreach campaign. Much to our disappointment, we got little or no response from our Black elected officials, our Black organizations, or our Black faith-based institutions.
We even applied for the State of Florida’s Census communication dollars and got nothing – neither did the NAACP, nor any of the Black ad agencies that applied.
While the Hispanic piece was awarded to a Hispanic agency, the Black piece was awarded to a white agency. What does that say to us – about what the powers that be think about our ability to mobilize us?
We joined Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez’ Complete Count Committee (CCC) and attended the Mayor’s kickoff of his outreach campaign at the African American Cultural Arts Complex in the heart of the Liberty City Black community, several weeks ago. Almost none of the Black leadership showed up – it was us, Mayor Shirley Gibson and a few county staff people.
As early as last October, then Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (Mayor of ALL Miamians) called the Miami Hispanic leadership together and created a local campaign with Univision “Ya es hora! Hagase contrar!” (It’s time, make yourself count). Not one Black leader was there.
I applaud the Mayor for taking care of his community, but my question is who’s taking care of our community?
Taking the Mayor’s lead, the Hispanic Media “saturated” their communities with radio/TV and print ads, while Black-owned and operated media in South Florida are complaining that “We haven’t seen a dime”.
But where are the resources for the Black media from the Black leaders? Where are our Black preachers, our Black leaders, our Black organizations – the 100 Black Men, the Deltas, the Omegas, etc., etc., etc?
Mayor Shirley Gibson (also co-chair of Mayor Alvarez’ CCC) has taken the leadership in the City of Miami Gardens Census count and has worked closely with the Miami Urban League to get all of our Black folks counted. But all attempts to reach out to other Black leaders have neither generated concern nor funding for outreach.
Democrat, Republican, Black, white, Hispanic – seems like nobody cares about us. But the real issue is why aren’t we as Blacks just as concerned about getting counted as everyone else seems to be? Where is our coalition?
The Pew Hispanic Center survey shows 9 out of 10 Hispanics intend to participate in the Census. Where is the survey for Black folks? It seems 9 out of 10 Blacks either don’t know or don’t care about the Census.
So if we don’t care, why should anybody else?
At the end of the day, when 9 out of 10 Hispanics are counted and only 1 out of 10 Blacks are counted, I guess we will do what we always do – wait until the process has been completed, complain that the process was unfair, and then scream “racism”.
That seems to be the only thing we know how to do. When will we learn how to get ahead of the game and stop being left behind?
T. Willard Fair has been the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc. for the past 46 years.