Story by Mary Martin. Photos courtesy of The Concilio and DFW Urban League Young Professionals
Amid the cacophony that is the summer of 2020, there is a very simple task on everyone’s plate: filling out your census response. And while the US Census Bureau is working to ensure a high level of response, several Dallas-area nonprofits have also joined forces to communicate with their neighbors and ensure that every voice is heard in the crucial count.
The Concilio is one of those organizations. As a family-focused nonprofit with deep roots in the Latino community, their team is utilizing every network and tool they have in order to reach the hardest-to-count areas of Dallas. “We began partnering with Dallas County Counts early in 2020,” says Florencia Velasco Fortner, President and CEO at The Concilio. Florencia has been with The Concilio for the past 15 years and remembers helping during the 2010 census as well. But 2020 comes with its own set of challenges, along with some advancement in technology. “We had planned to host parades and festivals, and recruit hundreds of volunteers and corporate partners for door knocking, but after COVID-19, our policies and strategies have changed,” explains Florencia.
The shift includes digital outreach on social media, text messages, and even a car parade hosted with the Texas Counts Virtual Road Trip. “We are also working to meet people where they are,” says Florencia. “We are partnering with schools and local businesses to hand out census kits in a safe and socially distanced way. We’re also working with Latin supermarkets and paleteros so they are empowered to help their customers learn more about this year’s census and how important it is to participate.”
The meaning behind the census is what nonprofit groups are doing their best to explain this year. As social justice, racial equality, and healthcare are part of the cultural conversation, community census partners are educating people about how funding for education, transportation, hospitals, and voting districts are all determined by census data. Bemnet Meshesha, President of DFW Urban League Young Professionals (DFWULYP) is also leading her team to help young people understand the impact the census has on their community. “People don’t realize how many resources will be lost if they don’t participate,” explains Bemnet. “This is our shared story and shared reality. It determines our schools, health, and representation. The census is the most important work we can do in this decade.”
The volunteers with DFWULYP have worked to set up census and voter registration booths at recent rallies and marches, including information about the census in protest care kits. “We see young people risking their lives to make their voices heard, but the data doesn’t show that young people are well-represented in civic engagement,” says Bement. “The census can shift the language around proximity to power.” DFWULYP also continues to host online events with arts, music, and spoken word performances that connect entertainment with the movement toward census and voter registration.
The census deadline has been extended to mid-August due to the novel cornona virus pandemic, so if you would like to get involved as a community volunteer, there is still time. You can connect with The Concilio and DFW Urban League Young Professionals to find the best way to help. And if you have not yet filled out your own census form, please do that now at 2020census.gov