The Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) at Medgar Evers College and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are hosting an emergency summit on the Census 2020 on Friday, April 26, at in Crown Heights.

Titled “The Black Elected Leadership Emergency Summit on Census 2020: A Crisis in the Making,” the conference will highlight the specific ways that each elected official’s district may suffer due to a census undercount in 2020. CLSJ and Williams will be joined by Congresswoman Yvette Clarke; State Senators Roxanne Persaud, Zellnor Myrie and Kevin Parker; Assemblymembers Diana Richardson, Tremaine Wright, Walter Mosley, Nick Perry and Charles Barron; as well as Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo and Robert Cornegy.

“In 2020, the year where accounting for every single New Yorker is critical for the future of the state, Black New Yorkers are at substantial risk of a major census undercount,” warned CLSJ in a statement.

During the Census 2010, Black New Yorkers were the “hardest to count” group in New York State; Black neighborhoods in New York City ranked among the hardest-to-count districts in the nation. Undercounting the number of Black New Yorkers, including undocumented New Yorkers of African descent, will result in the loss of billions of dollars in government funding, the center emphasized.

During the 2010 Census, some Black neighborhoods in NYC were among the hardest to count districts in the nation. Source: Center for Las and Social Justice.

A census undercount will also trigger significant underrepresentation in government that could lead to the loss of one or more congressional seats as well as the reduction of political representation for Black New Yorkers at the city and state level.

The possibility of a citizenship question, which would require everyone living in the United States to declare whether they are citizens, being included in the upcoming census could further depress turnout among immigrants and communities of colors, advocates fear. And preliminary Census Bureau data seem to confirm these concerns: Adding a citizenship question could depress responses in households with at least one noncitizen by as much as 5.8 percent — which disproportionally affects states with large immigrant populations like New York, California or Texas.

During Friday’s summit, census and redistricting experts will discuss migration patterns within communities of African descent and outline the ways that existing districts may be redrawn when new political boundaries are established during redistricting. 

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams will call special attention to the unique role of Black elected officials in protecting Black communities, and participants will strategize on conducting census campaigns in their districts to chart a path forward to ensure that all New Yorkers of African descent are counted on the census.

“Participating in census 2020 is critical for Black New Yorkers, who have historically been among the most undercounted groups in the state,” said Imani Dawson, spokesperson for the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College. “Undercounting means we don’t get our fair share of federal dollars and are at risk for losing representation at the federal, state and city levels. Our communities can’t afford that kind of loss. This summit will mobilize our elected officials to make the census a priority and ensure that our count is as accurate as possible.”

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