The success of Saturday’s 2020 Census Caravan through the streets of Bakersfield and Lamont surpassed expectations.
Organized as part of the 2020 Census Week of Action in collaboration with the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, the afternoon and early evening caravans on May 16th attracted over 25 vehicles affixed with homemade signs meant to help reach hard-to-count populations.
Kern Sol News youth census liaison Janell Gore joined the first caravan at Bakersfield College just after wrapping up her last final of the spring semester before rushing over to join the line of cars along Haley St. Revving up their cars in support, the line of vehicles proceeded to honk and cheer their way through a section of east Bakersfield.
“It was so beautiful, families came out of the house and cheered,” she said.
In addition to Kern Sol News and the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Caravan was also joined by representatives from a number census partners including the Bakersfield College Complete Count Committee, the Centro de Unidad Popular Benito Juarez Inc. and more.
“I looked through my rearview mirror and Dolores Huerta was right behind me,” said Gore of catching a view of the Civil Rights icon who has been actively lending a voice of support to census efforts in the central valley.
Nataly Santamaria, promotores network manager with Vision y Compromiso who participated in the Bakersfield and Lamont caravans, says the opportunity to interact directly with residents was a big boost to the cause.
“People who were at home were happy to see us. At first, they thought it was another celebration coming through, but as soon as they saw our signs they were able to see what was going on. There were kids who would help get their parents to come out.”
In the city of Lamont where rates for hard-to-count populations are higher, Santamaria says arriving with assorted census promotional goodies: sunglasses, t-shirts was also a great a way to help break the ice.
“The goodies helped us out, and because we were driving slow, we were able to have short conversations. They were receptive of us driving by, but reluctant of the census. I think it’s the fear about sharing your information that lot of people will not answer. We gave them booklets and reminded them of the phone number they could call with questions.”
Edith Mata, who works as a census youth liaison with Kern Sol News was also excited to be part of the Caravan, gathering with fellow students from Bakersfield College and other census partner groups. Leading call-and-response chants on a bullhorn that could be heard in the neighborhood, Mata says her drive to help ensure a complete count was boosted after Saturday’s event.
“The experience was awesome,” said Mata, who also just completed her spring semester studies at Bakersfield College. “I had been looking forward to letting our community know that they should be heard in 2020 to help get resources and funding especially during this pandemic. It’s a great way to get their attention for the betterment of our community.”
Residents who wish to complete their Census questionnaire online can visit, my2020census.gov or call the U.S Census Bureau directly in English: 844-330-2020 or Spanish: 844-468-2020.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, census field operations are scheduled to resume across the country on or immediately after June 1st.