#InThe68: Updates You Should Know

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Our collective commitments towards flattening the curve have continued to yield positive results. Over the weekend, New York City reported zero COVID-19 fatalities for the first time since the pandemic began. While the road to recovery remains deeply dependent on our actions today, we can look towards this milestone as an example of our ability to stop the deadly virus.

I want to update you on the increasing urgency of the Census as part of our road to recovery, the safety in our communities, what you should know as workers returning to re-opened industries, and more.

The Census is Recovery

With a response rate of 58.8%, the 13th Congressional District, from which East Harlem's constituency resides, remains slightly above the citywide response rate of 57.6%. A good showing for a district deeply affected by the pandemic and one with historically hard-to-count areas. Yet, still slightly behind the national average at 62%.

I fought to help secure $30 million from the state budget to Census outreach efforts, but the unique challenges that arose as a consequence of COVID-19 have drastically altered our preparation for an accurate and fair count. There is no doubt that the incredible amount of work and dedication taken to prepare for a traditional outreach strategy must continue to be adapted to the extraordinary circumstances, and I believe we are on track for better results than in 2010.

Thankfully, the Census is more accessible than ever, and it is in this accessibility that the key of an accurate count relies. This is the first Census that you have the option to fill it out online or over the phone - with over a dozen frequently used languages immediately available.

Remember: 10 minutes, 10 questions, 10 years of federal funding for your community (https://my2020census.gov/)

Both New York State and New York City face a difficult, uphill road towards recovery. This means budget deficits in the billions, social services at risk of cuts, a disruption of funding towards community projects. Already were the stakes high for an accurate count in our communities - now our recovery depends on federal funding that is representative of every person who resides #Inthe68.

The 2020 Census also introduced expanded choices for demographic identities that will create more accurate representation. For many, checking off a race on the Census, with its limited options, can be confusing. Racial identity is not a monolith – it is a complex construct and one that remains fluid to many factors as determined by the community. This year, the Census separates racial, ethnic, and national identities and therefore allows residents the ability to identify themselves with greater accuracy.

For many diasporas, previous Census options limited their identity. Afro-Latinxs are, by all means, Black residents within the United States – they shouldn't have to choose between race and their other identities. Rather, it's critically important that racial, ethnic, and national identities are not erased as a consequence of a binary option of race or ethnicity.

While selecting “Some Other Race”, or even omitting the question entirely may seem appealing, it can lead to communities not being able to access entitled resources and benefits. When respondents omit their race, they are assigned a race by the Census Bureau, and due to “Some Other Race” not existing as a category in agencies that collect racial data, respondents that choose this are also assigned a race. This leads to a distortion of demographics. To ensure that communities receive the entitlements due to them, it is vital that respondents of African-descent check Black on the Census--this includes Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latinx individuals.

I encourage you to watch my MNN #RepresentNYC Segment on Census Justice and the Check Black Campaign to learn more about race, ethnicity, and nationality in the Census

Counting everyone can ensure that federal funding reaches our communities. The Census affects whether we receive adequate resources for everything from our schools to our hospitals for the next 10 years. And it only takes 10 minutes to fill out the 10 questions on the Census.

Take Back the Block

Each summer we prepare and build with community stakeholders to prevent gun violence which remains a consistent challenge for us during the warmer months. It's a painful period where our collective safety is compromised. While there is a reactionary nature to call on the police as the only means to solve this ongoing issue, we understand that inter-communal violence arises from deep, class-rooted, socioeconomic struggles.

When we envision a future where the police no longer brutalize our communities, we must also envision a future of community-led collective safety and wellness. That means that #EnoughIsEnough, and we must keep each other safe in our blocks. We must, without reservation, denounce gun violence in all its forms.

Combating gun violence demands a holistic approach. We cannot ignore the mass protests over the past two months in response to police brutality, but rather take lessons learned to reach our common goals: the safety and protection of every resident.

The Mayor's Office announced the Take Back the Block Initiative to respond to the uptick in gun violence affecting Harlem with focused efforts from both community and police presence. Police alone do not have the capacity nor the training to proactively prevent spikes in violence as a result from particular conditions affecting BIPOC working-class communities. We must then call on community leaders, especially those leading the youth, to engage in de-escalation, healing, and material aid in order to better diminish the potential of violence. We must support this work - from the State by advocating for greater investment in organizations committed to community safety, and by engaging with the community ourselves.

In East Harlem, organizations like Getting Out Staying Out (GOSO) need your help: consider getting involved