The year 2020 has felt like a decade, and we are only two-thirds of the way through it. This year was already slated to be packed with important moments: the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the presidential election in the fall, and of course, a host of weddings, births, graduations and other important moments in one’s life. Unfortunately, what no one had on their vision board or written in their planner was a pandemic forcing us all to shelter in place for an unknown amount of time.
During the spring and summer, we watched as events were canceled, businesses shuttered their doors and our economy appeared to be in free fall. As the months stretched on, unemployment only seemed to increase. As Congress weighed which particular stimulus packages would most benefit the American public, it became clear that COVID-19 would be a present and crucial element of the way our country operates for the foreseeable future.
With so many unknown elements in our lives right now, it can be easy to succumb to the fear that is so palpable everywhere. The future of our economy is uncertain, we are in the peak of an election season, and while the rest of the world seems to be moving on from coronavirus, our numbers keep increasing nationally. There is so much rebuilding to be done, and when it is time, we will do this rebuilding together. In order for us to do that, we must have an accurate count in the 2020 Census.
We know that our communities are suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, and at the same time, if our communities remain undercounted, we will not have the resources we need to recover from this pandemic. As our country begins the long process of recovery, people will need the resources that are allocated through the census. The 2020 Census results will direct more than $1.5 trillion every year for the next decade through more than 300 federal programs. From Head Start to Medicaid, environmental protections to disaster recovery, and safety net programs like SNAP, TANF and WIC, nearly all federal funding formulas rely on the census for their allocation. Additionally, census results inform the reapportionment of Congress and the weighting of the Electoral College; guide redistricting efforts at federal, state, and local levels; and influence economic development opportunities.
During the years when I served as the president of Spelman and Bennett Colleges, I constantly witnessed the power that young Black women have to do what is required to bring about positive change. Today, as I serve as the president and chair of the board of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), I see the power that Black women of all generations have when we come together and work toward a common goal.
Today, I am calling on the membership of NCNW, including our 32 affiliate organizations, to exercise our collective power in the interest of ourselves, our families and our communities.
This is a call to action to commit to ensuring that our communities get counted.
NCNW is partnering with Fair Count in the Sisters for the Census initiative, which is focused on ensuring an accurate count of Black women, children and families in the 2020 Census. Join us in helping our communities get counted by:
- Participating in the “Sisters for the Census Text Bank,” a joint effort of NCNW, Fair Count and Census Counts, which will be held Saturday, Aug. 22 at 1 p.m. ET. You can participate from the comfort of your home, training is provided, and the platform allows you to keep your personal number private. This text bank is part of the Census Outreach Expansion Project, which aims to text over 10 million people living in areas with low 2020 Census response rates to encourage them to get counted.
- Visiting Black America Counts, where the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Fair Count provide state-by-state information on what is at stake if Black people are not counted in the 2020 Census. See what’s at stake for your community and get involved.
- Spreading the message to your family and friends that the census ends on Sept. 30, but you should not wait until then to respond. You can respond in three ways: online at www.my2020census.gov, by phone at 1-844-330-2020, or by filling out the form mailed to your residence.
The road to recovery from COVID-19 will be long, but we will get there. And a fair and accurate census is critical to ensuring we get what we need to make that happen. If you have already completed the 2020 Census, thank you for doing your part to make sure that your community will receive the resources needed to recover from this health and economic crisis. If you have not yet completed the 2020 Census, please do so today! We are counting on you to be counted so that your community—so that all communities—have their share of the resources needed to move into a brighter future.
Dr. Johnetta B. Cole is the president and chair of the Board of the National Council of Negro Women.
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