Flint organizations work to ensure residents are counted in 2020 census

FLINT, Michigan—Earlier this month, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint awarded businesses in Flint and Genesee County over $300,000 in grant money for census outreach. The need for such outreach coincides with a recent survey done by George Washington University that projects a distribution of $142 million of federal funds for the city based upon the population. Each person who remains uncounted is a $1,800 loss.


The census, which seeks to count the entire population of the United States, began Jan. 21 but isn’t officially observed until April 1. The count is taken to allow an accurate distribution of $675 billion to fund everything from hospitals and schools, to programs like Medicaid and parks and recreation grants nationwide. In the face of the city’s population decline, Flint leaders and businesses are coming together to make sure everyone is informed and gets counted.


Theresa Roach, community activities director for the Crim Fitness Foundation, is teaming up with Danielle Brown of the Flint Danielle Brown of the Flint & Genesee Literacy Network specializes in raising literacy awareness and education in the community.& Genesee Literacy Network to host a free training workshop centered on census outreach and education strategies. The goal, according to Roach, is to educate service providers and community leaders about the census, and the significance it has on the community.


“Our main goal is to get people who are community leaders, whether they're an institution, a church, and help to break down barriers for people who might have one,” says Roach. “The impact that I hope we have is to get people to think broader about the importance of the census and get them to think about how it impacts [their] everyday life.”


The one-hour workshop begins at 9:30 a.m., and again at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Mott Regional Technology Center. The workshop explains how to effectively communicate what the census is and the importance to Flint residents.


That’s where Brown and the Literacy Network comes in. The Literacy Network specializes in raising literacy awareness and education in the community and knows the impact language can have. Together they intend to establish a unified message with regards to the census.


“We want to make sure that our community is literate around how the census works, how residents participate, and also how providers participate,” explains Brown. “The intention is to help people learn how to teach others the value of the census and being able to have a thoughtful conversation about how our different communities benefit.”


The impact of the census affects American born and non-born citizens, immigrants, undocumented people, and hard-to-Executive Director Asa Zuccaro and Census Coordinator Alondra Rosas of the Latinx Technology and Community Center specialize in enhancing the quality of life for Flint's Latinx community.reach communities. Several organizations in Flint, like the International Center of Greater Flint and its co-founders Phyllis Sykes and Adil Mohammed, are reaching out to these populations.


“What we said we would do is develop public service announcements, and advertisements featuring local people from the international community stressing the importance of participating,” says Skyes. “That's how important it is. We want to use people from the community to get the message across.”


The International Center of Greater Flint is a major hub for the international community in Flint including students who attend the local colleges and universities. The International Center sponsors events like National Women’s Day to promote cultural awareness and acceptance. Together with other cultural businesses, they hope to send the message that their input counts, even if they are not all United States citizens.


This is exactly what Asa Zuccaro, executive director of the Latinx Technology and Community Center, and Alondra Rosas, the center’s census coordinator, are planning to do. The Latinx Center, founded in 2002, specializes in enhancing the quality of life for Flint’s Latinx community. Work is underway to inform and engage the diverse Hispanic population in Flint through document translation services and other efforts in hopes to use its presence to stress the relevancy the census has on their lives.


“My job here is when someone walks through these doors, they come in and they're like, OK, I have a responsibility and I need to take action,” says Rosas. “People who can't speak English or anyone who doesn't really understand [the census], I'll help them.”

“We recognize our connection with the community. We're a great partner to help get the word out to our cultural community,” explains Zuccaro. “How can we engage more business on the east side, and maybe a hard to reach geographical area? How can we tell as many cultural and community leaders that the census is common and just spread the word?”

The message is the same for Devin Bathish, executive director of the Arab American Heritage Council. With the help of Outreach Coordinator Lucine Jarrah, the AAHC is utilizing its grant dollars to engage the Arab community with a fresh perspective. Founded in 1980, the AAHC aims to preserve Arab heritage and meet the needs of Flint’s Arab community. For Bathish and his staff, culture and identity are central to engaging a community that still has no checkmark box denoting their heritage.


This motivates the AAHC to focus its outreach to various religious communities through planning multiple workshops and providing document translations from Arabic to English and back.


“We are rolling out a plan that involves us going out to the different community centers,” explains Bathish. “With the permission of those community centers, we’re going in, giving information about the census, talking to people who are either involved or want to be involved and dispelling some myths around [the census].”


The importance of the 2020 census for Flint reaches far beyond money. For these organizations and more, understanding, culture, and being counted hold greater relevance than ever before.


To find out more about 2020 census visit the government website.

Read more articles by Xzavier Simon.

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