NEW YORK — NYC Census 2020, in partnership with BRIC, has launched “On the Front Lines”, a multimedia video, social media, and print campaign that features six Black New Yorkers who are front-line workers that have kept the city fed, safe, moving, and protected from COVID-19, speaking to New Yorkers in their own words about the critical importance of the census in keeping our healthcare, housing, transportation, and education systems fully funded and operational, both now and into the future.
In speaking directly about the census being the basis on which New York City — and Black communities in particular — can obtain the money, power, and respect they are rightfully owed, the campaign seeks to underscore the importance of the census to the city’s future, in particular for a community that has been historically been significantly undercounted in the census.
“In order for the census to fulfill its true function as being the foundational exercise that allows for the functioning of our democracy and the equitable distribution of money and power across all 50 states, it is imperative that all Black and Brown communities in New York City participate in it,” said J. Phillip Thomson, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. “If there is an undercount in the 2020 Census, there’s a real risk that New York State will lose representation in Congress and our fair share of $1.5 trillion in funding for education, housing, healthcare, and so much more. By participating, we will not allow racist or xenophobic attempts to manipulate the census against us to be successful.”
“The fight for civil rights and equity is not over. The census can be an instrument of justice, if – and only if – all New Yorkers are counted,” said NYC Census Director Julie Menin and Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel, NYC Law Department. “The census is about money and power for Black communities, which have a long history of being undercounted in the census. The “On the Front Lines” campaign is the manifestation of our mission — to ensure that Black communities across New York City get the resources and the representation they are owed.”
“From COVID-19 to criminal justice, recent events have highlighted the countless injustices and inequities that Black New Yorkers face every day, and made clear how much work we still have to do as a City and a nation in the ongoing fight for civil rights,” said Acting HRA Administrator Gary Jenkins. “Now, more than ever, it is vital that we listen to and hear the Black community, as we work to uplift and empower all of our most marginalized neighbors. The Census ensures that communities of color are represented in government and beyond and provided the resources they need and deserve to build a stronger and more equitable New York City.”
“Throughout history, black and brown participation in the Census has been limited. Today, NYC is leading the way in ensuring our communities are counted in the census and thereby receive the full amount of federal funds they deserve,” said Jordan Stockdale, Executive Director of the Young Men’s Initiative. “It is quite simple; filling out the census will provide our communities with millions of dollars that increase opportunities for our young people, provide services to the elderly and strengthen our neighborhood infrastructure.”
“Getting counted in the Census remains a powerful tool to ensure our continued cries for justice and change for Black New Yorkers are met with money, increased representation, and meaningful investments in community resources,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “For too long, Black New Yorkers, including Black immigrant New Yorkers have been undercounted in the census, and it’s left our communities underfunded and underrepresented. As we fight on for justice and equity, we cannot forget that the 2020 Census is central to this fight. Every New Yorker–regardless of background, immigration status, age, or what language you speak–can get counted.”
“As an arts and media organization committed to civic action, we recognize the fundamental importance of accurate representation in the census, especially among Black communities,” said Kristina Newman-Scott, BRIC’s President. “We are proud to work with the NYC Census 2020 team on this campaign to centralize the voices of the city’s Black essential workers.”
In 2010, many majority-Black neighborhoods in New York City, from The Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn, had census self-response rates that were 10 or more percentage points behind the citywide average, meaning that these communities have been missing out on millions of dollars for critical services and the full political representation they are entitled to, from City Hall to the halls of Congress.
Though this gap has noticeably narrowed for many of the same neighborhoods this year, and certain Black-majority neighborhoods, such as Co-op City in The Bronx (69%) and Starrett City in Brooklyn (64%), far outpace the citywide average of approximately 53% (as of June 29), much more work needs to be done to ensure New York City receives its fair share of $1.5 trillion in federal funds every year and does not lose what could be up to two congressional seats. Other Black-majority neighborhoods, such as Wakefield in The Bronx, Jamaica in Queens, and Canarsie in Brooklyn, currently have self-response rates at just over 45 percent, approximately eight percentage points behind the citywide average.
The campaign emphasizes the importance of New Yorkers self-responding immediately, as self-response data is vastly more accurate and complete than data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s door-to-door enumerators, who commence their operations in approximately six weeks. It has never been easier to self-respond to the census than in 2020, when it is available both online and via phone for the first time, at my2020census.gov or at 844-330-2020.
“Black New Yorkers have been undercounted in the Census for far too long,” said Marco A. Carrión, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit. “Ensuring our Black neighbors are counted gives us the ability to fight for the resources our historically marginalized communities deserve.”
“The inaugural census in 1790 denied the humanity of Black Americans and belied their contributions in the creation of our country and its freedoms. It has taken centuries to arrive at the 10 questions we have now, and although they are imperfect, these 10 questions on the census provide the keys to unlock the pathway to recovery from the pandemic of the COVID virus and the epidemic of systematic racism that has denied agency to the Pan-African communities in America,” said Kathleen Daniel, Field Director, NYC Census 2020. “This ad campaign demonstrates our position on the front lines and affirms our roles as equal partners in the architecture of our future.”
On the Front Lines: The Workers
“If we fill out the census, we have a better opportunity to get equity, financial equity, and educational equity, and equity is how you advance yourself,” said Dr. Ebony, an adolescent medicine specialist who works in the Bronx and lives in Harlem in the campaign.
“This is what my community looks like, these are the numbers that go with it, this is the help that we need….if we’re not counted (in the census), then we don’t exist,” said Izzie, a teacher in the campaign.
“Your neighbors need you out there – your friends, family. We need each other. If we help each other (and complete the census), it makes it easy,” said Alpha, a driver from West Africa who currently resides in Harlem in the campaign.
“We owe it to ourselves to fill out this census. This is how our voices will be heard. We owe it to each other,” said Tabytha, a TGNB educator in the campaign.
“You are somebody because you are counted…fill out the census and be counted. Let the world know that our community is here,” said Verna, an Administrative Housing Superintendent who works in NYCHA’s Emergency Services Department in the campaign.