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August 29, 2019

Dorchester Reporter: Pressley, Campbell urge participation in census tally at a rally in Fields Corner

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley and City Council President Andrea Campbell joined activists from across the city at a “Get Out the Count” rally in Fields Corner on Tuesday to urge neighborhood residents to participate in next year’s federal census.

“If you are not counted, you do not count to the federal government,” Pressley told a gathering inside the VietAid Community Center on Charles Street. “You are all worthy of being seen, heard, and invested in.”

As of April 1, 2020, the US Census Bureau will send door knockers or letters to every household in the country as part of a once in a decade count of the nation’s population. The final number is used to determine levels of political representation and forms the basis of eligibility for federal programs and funding for education, housing, and transportation infrastructure.

According to Campbell, census figures in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, in particular, are some of the hardest to confirm due to immigration trends and the undocumented population. The census counts all people living in the country, whether or not they are citizens.

“We need to make sure that we get the resources that we deserve and are entitled to to deal with the inequities in our communities,” said Campbell, who urged residents to participate. “We have large Vietnamese, Haitian, Cape Verdean, and Latino populations. Without a complete count, our stories will not be told. We need an accurate count to paint the picture of the problems we face and adopt the solutions that our communities need.”

The cost of skipping the census could be severe in many aspects of governance. According to WBUR, city officials estimate that for every person not counted, the state loses roughly $2,400 in federal funding each year. And according to the US Census Bureau, in 2010 nearly 20,000 children ages 0 to 4 were not counted in Massachusetts.

“The census provides a story of what is happening in our communities,” said Mimi Ramos from New England United 4 Justice. “Being counted is about our story and it matters every time the rent is due and the Section 8 voucher system is able to provide rent assistance, or even lunch for our children in schools.” 

Paulo Debarros, the president of the Cape Verdean Association, addressed the event in English and Cape Verdean.

“The 2010 Census showed that there are 15,000 Cape Verdean immigrants in Boston. We know the actual population is almost double. Our community lost out on important resources and political representation. That’s why I’m asking people to pledge to count in the 2020 Census.”

Rep. Pressley commented on the diversity of people in the room. “This is what Dorchester does: It’s one of the most impressive models and bright spots in the 7th District— a true model of multicultural, multilingual, multi-generational organizing,” she said.

City pitches in

Boston has invested $100,000 in mini-grants for community-based organizations to get out the count. Applications are due on Fri., Sept. 6.