Op-Ed: My childhood was because of your Census participation

My childhood was because of your Census participation
David Tucker (Photo contributed)

By David Tucker

The city of Richmond – sitting on the San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay – has a rich history due to these bodies of water. During World War II, the Richmond waterfront was home to an industrial sector that employed thousands of workers in the shipyards – a large number of African Americans and women just starting their jobs. My grandmother came to Richmond to do exactly that – work in the shipyards.

While many were out fighting in the war, this provided the opportunity for minority-owned businesses to open. To go to and from work, a rail line was built to transport workers to the shipyards since they lived throughout the Bay Area, including Richmond. During this time, while most mothers went off to work in the shipyards, daycare for children blossomed as women could care for each other’s’ children. 

As the decades passed, this industry expanded, which also increased the need for transit routes, housing, local services and resources for the working families.

As a young teen growing up in Richmond, in the 1970s, my brother, sister and friends spent a lot of time at afterschool programs and community centers. This was our little world – our local library, swimming pool, sports field and overall hang out area – kept us safe and sane. We even went to the occasional political rally or community meeting.

Little did we know that all of the local resources we took advantage of were because of the Census.

You see, where I grew up and went to school, like so many Black and Brown families, the Census was never taught or explained. There was never a conversation about bringing back your tax dollars to the neighborhood or that it was our civic duty, our civic right to take the Census.

As a team member of the California Complete Count – Census 2020 Office, the statewide outreach and communications strategy to motivate Californians to respond to the Census, I now realize how my childhood was benefitted by my community responding to the form.

Census data informs funding for key programs such as Head Start, childcare and development programs, community mental health programs, nutritional programs, educational and health care resources, and much more.

The Bay Area has stepped up to the Census challenge – through our county partners and United Way Bay Area, we’ve been able to motivate and activate around 73 percent of households to respond to the Census form.

Having seen gentrification take place in predominately Black and Brown neighborhoods, the boarding up and moving out of small business and a decrease in accessible education and recreation facilities, the Census provides an opportunity to make a difference.

The Census provides an opportunity to put your community in front of decision makers, developers, and financial institutions. The Census gives you the power to show that your community matters.  

Unfortunately, for so many Black and Brown families, even to this day, we were told to believe we should be thankful for what we have, not knowing we could have more, no – actually that we could demand more through the simple easy act of responding to the Census.

By participating, we can set forth a roadmap for the future of our communities, in the nation’s most socially and economically powerful state. We can ensure the voices of the most unmanifested continue to be pushed forward.

The time is now – you have until September 30 to complete the Census. There are three easy ways to fill out the form:

  1. Online at my2020census.gov
  2. By phone at 844-330-2020 (a list of in-language options is available here)
  3. By mail if you received a paper form

My childhood was shaped by these resources – You can help shape the upbringing all our children deserve. The Census is that tool to provide a better future for our neighborhoods.

David Tucker is a Richmond resident and the Northern California Lead, California Complete Count – Census 2020 Office.