The African American Leadership Forum (AALF) recently held our February Monthly CONNECT on the Black Census moderated by AALF program coordinator Alissa Paris! This month’s panel members included Anika Robbins (Civil Rights Commissioner & Executive Director of the ANIKA Foundation) and Kelsey Dawson Walton with guest Nicque Mabrey (Community & Cultural Organizer).

We reached out to Alissa to get her insights on the discussion.

AALF: How do the themes/topics explored in this Monthly CONNECT relate to the work AALF is doing in the African American community?

Paris: The Black census panel was an incredible meeting of minds and​ made space for the sharing of unique perspectives; important information from leaders in the Black community was shared. The Monthly CONNECT creates new relationships and strengthens existing ones in our network. By partnering with other BIPOC organizations, we have the opportunity to model our unique approach to addressing our community’s unique needs, which demonstrates how we can work in solidarity with partner organizations while keeping the focus on Black people.

What aspects of the Black census discussion were illuminated during this experience? What insights did you leave the convening with?

Paris: We highlighted that with the recent history of the 2010 census failing to count 800,000 Black Americans (a number comparable to the population of Alaska) that we have a lot of work to do. There is hope in knowing that the census is getting increasingly accessible, with the citizenship questions removed and the option of participating online, over the phone or by mailing in the form. We also learned that homeless community members can be counted as part of a household if they’re staying with a friend temporarily, and there’s work being done to enter apartment buildings (as renters can be a difficult population to reach during census time).

Monthly CONNECT Black Census

Our panelists emphasized the very tangible resources impacted by census data, such as grocery stores, seats in congress, money to fund our park programs, schools and even how borders and districts are shaped. Audience members shed light on the power that word-of-mouth can have when friends and family feel unsafe sharing this information. We learned that there are only two people who have access to the actual identities of census participants, and this information will not be made available for 75 years (the average lifespan). We will also be able to select more than on ethnicity, which allows for the beautiful diversity within the Black Diaspora to shine through.

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