The census is too important, Baraka says. ‘We cannot let fear deter us.’

By Ras J. Baraka


The City of Newark kicked off our 7 Days of Census at Arts High School this week.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and Secretary of State Tahesha Way joined over 500 stakeholders, community members and students Monday as we all came together to recognize not only the upcoming census, but also the importance of each resident of the great City of Newark.

The upcoming census is of critical importance to not only Newark, but to every community in America. We get one chance every 10 years to count every single person in our city and Census 2020 is it. You may be asking why are we talking about the census when it is a year away. It’s because census data is critical.

It determines our federal funding, including health, education, transportation funding and various areas that impact the quality of life of all residents. It impacts where new schools are built, how public transportation can be improved to alleviate traffic and much, much more. It also determines critical funding and programs that support our community. These programs include Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, WIC, Pell grants for college students and reduced-price school lunch programs for Newark children. They are just among a few of the programs that will be impacted by this count.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the census “provides a basis for division of more than $675 billion in annual federal funding for programs.”

If we miss one person, we lose thousands of dollars in funding. We also lose representation. The vital data determines the number of seats New Jersey and every other state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, it delineates congressional and state legislative districts, school districts and voting precincts. Now more than ever, we must have an accurate count.

I write this with much reverence, as I have spoken to many members of my community from all ethnic groups, and they have articulated that they are afraid to participate in the upcoming census. This is mostly due to the current events happening, what we are seeing on the news and the injustices that are happening regarding deportation and threats of deportation across our nation. I am here to say that we cannot let fear deter us, but rather let knowledge empower us.

The U.S. Census Bureau collects information for statistical purposes only. Please know that your information is completely safe, private and never published. Personal information collected cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court, and is protected by Title 13, a federal law. Any violator will be subject to severe penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Census bureau employees are sworn to protect confidentiality for life.

Ras J. Baraka is the mayor of Newark.

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