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"African, Caribbean, Afro Latino, and African American Leaders Count Down To National Census Day"

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Washington, DC - The urgent need for better schools, roads, and healthcare in disadvantaged neighborhoods are only a few of the reasons people of color should be eager to complete and return their census form, Melanie L. Campbell told several Black groups assembled at the US Capitol today for The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s (The National Coalition) Unity Diaspora Coalition (UDC) 30-Day Countdown to National Census Day and launch of the UDC Poster & Social Media Competition.

“The Black community was hurting before the economy crashed. It’s worse and we’re tired of getting the short end of the stick,” said Campbell, executive director and CEO of The National Coalition, and convener of the UDC. “It's also time to hold our own community accountable. People keep looking for change, we’re the change. We have come together to hit the streets to urge our community to answer ten easy questions to receive ten years of benefits.”

Congressman William “Lacy” Clay, chair, Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, chair, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressman Al Green (D-TX), were on hand to stress the importance of getting everyone counted. They pointed out that the census impacts political representation, economic opportunity and helps to identify where action is needed to protect civil rights.

The press conference marks the launch of the UDC’s aggressive 30-day push to remind the African, African American, Caribbean and Afro-Latino community of the importance of filling out and returning the Census form. The coalition also announced their partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association for the UDC Poster & Social Media Competition which seeks decrease the undercount of children.

The UDC Poster & Social Media Competition targets school-age children and young adults and challenges the youth to use their artistic talent to express why the Census is important to their community. Contestants can submit posters and other types of artwork, video, audio, poetry etc. For requirements, contest dates and prizes visit www.unitydiaspora.ning.com.

Members of the historic coalition will also help to clarify the widely publicized race question on the census form.

“It’s important that we make sure that immigrants understand that they can provide more than one answer on question nine,” said Claire A. Nelson Ph.D., founder and president, Institute of Caribbean Studies. “The Black immigrant population has grown 47% since 2000. When you consider that census count will help allocate more than $400 billion a year in federal money to communities, the sense of urgency to be counted becomes apparent,” Nelson added.

The Unity Diaspora Coalition is advising Black immigrant communities that don’t see themselves represented on question nine of the form, to check the appropriate box for their race, then fill in their country of origin on the line below. A poster size sample of question nine was displayed at the press conference illustrating a check in the box for “Black, African Am, or Negro” and Jamaican filled in on the “other” line below.

Benjamin Afrifa, chairman of African Federation adds, “In addition to the fact that many immigrants cling to national origins rather than racial identities, immigrants are often afraid to answer questions for the government. Our coalition is made up of trusted voices in the community that can convince residents that it is illegal for any of the information from the census questionnaire to be shared with any third party including immigration.”

The UDC is working with grassroots organizations to get hard-to-count communities in nine cities counted. Over the next 30-days local sites will host census countdown press conferences, town hall meetings and other census events. Cities are: Houston, TX; Jackson, MS; Gary, IN; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; Los Angeles, CA; NYC, NY; Atlanta, GA; and Miami, FL.

Another important issue is where to count prisoners. Although most state constitutions and election law statutes say a prison cell is not a residence, Census Bureau practices count incarcerated people as residents of the prison location. Makani Themba-Nixon, executive director, The Praxis Project said, "The Bureau's new data product will be helpful in assisting state and local governments to avoid prison-based gerrymandering because they won't have lack of data as an excuse."

The National Coalition Unity Diaspora Coalition partners include: The National Council of Negro Women, The Praxis Project, APRI, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Urban League, NAACP LDF, African Federation, Institute of Caribbean Studies, National Council of Negro Women, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Black Leadership Forum, NAACP, Skinner Leadership Institute, Institute of the Black World 21st Century, National Conference of Black Mayors, UniverSoul Circus, Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Black Youth Vote, Black Women's Roundtable, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and others.

For more information on the Unity Diaspora Coalition visit www.unitydiasporacoalition.net or www.ncbcp.org.


PHOTO CREDIT: JORDAN THIERRY
Front (L-R): Melanie L. Campbell of The National Coalition introduces Congressman Al Green (D-TX during a press conference kicking off the Unity Diaspora Coalition’s countdown to Census. Back row (L-R): Jackie Davis, UniverSoul Circus, Rev. Barbara Williams Skinner, Skinner Leadership Institute, Benjamin Afrifa, African Federation and Dr. Claire Nelson, Institute of Caribbean Studies.

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