A group of key area stakeholders joined together Wednesday morning at Hodel’s in Bakersfield to meet with local media outlets to offer ideas for ongoing Census coverage.
Panelists at the Ethnic News Media Briefing briefing presented by Kern Sol News in association with Kern Complete Count Committee included: Cristina Camacho, NALEO Educational Fund; Raji Brar, COO Countryside Market and Restaurants: Kab Okoh, Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce; Jasmin LoBasso, Kern County Library; Arleana Frink Waller, ShePower Ambassador; Wendy Garay, BCSD Teacher, LGBTQ+ Student Advocate; and Eliana Honeycutt, Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Led by Kern Sol News Executive Director Reyna Olaguez, panelists offered a mix of personal and professional insight into how the Census will impact their community through accurate counts, and ideas for encouraging participation through effective media engagement.
Jasmin LoBasso, marketing and promotions coordinator for the Kern County Library says all branches will be ready to answer questions from the public as this year’s Census will also include online and user-friendly kiosks available for the first time.
“We have 24 (library) branches. We knew with a transition to an online questionnaire; we’re going to get a lot of questions. We will have a kiosk to fill out the Census at every single one of our branches.”
To encourage families to participate in this year’s count, all Kern County Library branches will also host a range of free census-inspired programming, including workshops on how to research family genealogy, coloring stations with fictional family tree coloring activities, family-themed storytime and more activities through the month of April. An updated calendar of events can be found at kerncountylibrary.org.
For Cristina Camacho of the NALEO Educational Fund, the work of being a Census advocate brings with it a number of challenges local media may already aware through their own coverage; however, new concerns are always bound to enter the conversation once you enter the field.
“About 61-percent of non-citizens saw the importance of the Census, but when they were asked how likely they are to participate, that number went down to 37-percent.”
Camacho pointed to misinformation including threats of a rumored citizenship question having a negative effect on this year’s turn out. According to the United State Census, there will be no citizenship question, and you will not be asked whether you or anyone in your home is a U.S. citizen.
Another panelist, Arleana Frink Waller, founder of ShePower, a local non-profit that offers peer mentoring and leadership development to young women said she is currently working to train a number of trusted messengers that would provide outreach within the African American community to ensure an accurate count.
“Since the 1790s, (the African American population) is a community that has been under counted. We look at that community and see a lack of resources. This has been a long problem. We are underrepresented at the table. It’s not that we don’t want to be counted. It’s that no one has educated us on how to be counted.”
Local businesswoman Raji Brar, who has also been proactive in promoting Census awareness within the Bakersfield Sikh community added that one particularly new change to the Census questionnaire has been met with overwhelming approval.
“I’ve never been able to fill out a bubble that says I’m Sikh. But guess what, April 1, I will. And that’s so exciting,” she said.
If you are you a professional member of the media and would like to reach one of the above panelists for an interview about the Census, please email Reyna Olaquez at Reyna@southkernsol.org.
Visit Kerncounts.org for more information on the Kern Complete Counts Committee.