“We are in a space of uncertainty, but the Census count is certain. Our current needs are colored by our current context but let’s not lose sight of what we need to do to ensure our communities are safe, healthy and our educational needs are being met.”
A guest post from OUSD director Jumoke Hinton-Hodge
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so many things have fallen from our consciousness. The 2020 Census has fallen to the wayside for too many and we are being undercounted. This is another crisis. However, this pandemic should help us understand now more than ever the profound importance of the census. It’s imperative for our communities to be counted. The census provides us the opportunity to bring in resources that are allocated to adequately meet our needs. We can be responsible for helping meet the basic needs of our fellow citizens. Take the time – that ten minutes it takes to complete the census says you care about our community now and in 2040. We are being counted so that others will be equitably served.
I’m not a health professional so I’m not qualified to speak about COVID-19. But what I’ve learned from this crisis, when it comes to addressing our health and social needs, access to resources is vital for our communities. By being counted, we are taking care of each other. I know many are sitting with high levels of anxiety as I am, we are all waiting and there is so much unknown. Even as we wait for a catastrophe that might happen in Oakland, we are still very much in control of keeping our families healthy and safe. We can control Oakland being counted.
I’d like to think the coronavirus has made all of us think deeply about our health care needs and wellness. Because of social distancing we’ve learned that our health, our behaviors can dramatically impact all. The individual in this pandemic is nothing compared to the wellbeing of the whole. We stay home because it’s healthy for everyone. The census is another gesture where we can express our care for the wellbeing of the whole community.
If we are not counted, we can be sure that our community won’t have what it needs when it comes to adequate health care facilities, emergency services and even having high quality providers and first responders in our community.
Being counted in the census helps us all address adequate housing for Oakland in the future. We have seen the impact on our community as a result of our already harmful housing crisis. We’ve seen this issue only become more exacerbated with the current crisis. Being counted now can change this trajectory , creating quality housing for the future.
When it comes to Education we’ve been a lot of free fall when it comes to education. Teachers, administrators, custodians and security guards essential to the education of our children are making big changes in how they do what they do on behalf of students and the Oakland community. Nothing is normal, the “new normal” will require greater and different investments and rethinking delivery of every service of the schools district.
Every person who completes the census is ensuring our school district and everyone in service of young people and families will be getting needed resources. Can you imagine if we were really resourcing our K-12 system better today? Perhaps we wouldn’t have recognized at the last minute, in the midst of the crisis, that our students and families weren’t prepared for distance learning. We are now paying for this lack of investment that might have better prepared our workforce across the entire District. More funding brought in through the census can support things like distant and hybrid learning. Being counted today impacts the future workforce.
During this pandemic the role schools play as the safety net within our communities has been made crystal clear. The school district has provided food, mental health services and educators are working so hard to make learning meaningful for students during sheltering. We need resources to ensure we can adequately serve students who are medically challenged and other students who have special needs.
The problem the Coronavirus has created for Census outreach, is the years of planning by organizers to reach communities have now become futile. Faith-based organizations and schools were ready to engage families and students about the importance of being counted but that process of going door-to-door and convening has been halted. We all need to step up and take extra effort to be sure members of our community are completing the survey. Completing the census form online might be challenging for some, but we’ll have to dig deep and create a space to encourage folks to participate.
The Census has been extended to July 31st.There is some much unknown , but that doesn’t mean we should risk not giving enough time for this vital moment which will set up Oakland for a better future. What we do today truly matters in 2040. Getting counted is something you can do for the entire community today.
We are in a space of uncertainty, but the Census count is certain. Our current needs are colored by our current context but let’s not lose sight of what we need to do to ensure our communities are safe, healthy and our educational needs are being met. Let’s be hyper vigilante about the census.