The Baltimore branch of the NAACP has not been shy about declaring what it feels city leaders and community organizers need to do to make the 2010 census a success. But president Marvin Cheatham said his group is also doing its fair share of work publicize how the census directly relates to the city’s welfare.
After kicking off their initiative with a float advertising the census at the Martin Luther King Day parade, the NAACP is now preparing for its second major public meeting to be held on Feb. 23.
“The NAACP is actually doing this all over the country,” Cheatham said. “In certain states, certain branches have been identified to do even more work as a result of poor returns in the census 10 years ago. Baltimore City has been one of the cities identified here in the state in Maryland.”
The association’s first meeting “raked city officials through the [coals],” Cheatham said, because he did not believe they were taking the issue seriously. The upcoming meeting will invite leaders involved with the census to engage in a question and answer session, which Cheatham hopes will educate community members and recruit people to join the NAACP’s census coalition in making phone calls and knocking on doors. He purchased shirts, hats, jackets and other forms of paraphernalia to have a uniform team ready to go out and alert key groups in the community including former felons, immigrants, the homeless and residents in drug addiction facilities.
“We need to identify with areas that have high poverty,” Cheatham said. “We need to make certain that we know all of these location. You got to knock on doors.”
Put simply, the census is 10 questions that take 10 minutes to answer and can earn the city $10,000 per person, Cheatham said. However, the city will lose $1,000 per person each year for 10 years if residents do not answer and return the census forms. It could also result in lost representation in Annapolis, as was the outcome of the 2000 census when Baltimore had its last catastrophic census return rate. Cheatham said the 1990 census return rate was also unfavorable for the city and fears the 2010 census could resemble prior decades if appropriate actions are not taken.
One concern he has is securing sufficient funds needed to get the word out. The NAACP has received $3,000 from the federal government to pay for its paraphernalia, but Cheatham would like to see money come in to help feed his volunteers, put gas in cars and pay for electric bills once phone calls and faxes made on behalf of the census run up the bill.
“You need to have resources,” he said. “Having paraphernalia isn’t going to be the real answer. The answer is making phone calls. We know what to do, we just need the people and the money to support us. That’s what we’re hoping Tuesday will do.”
With the listing its headquarters will provide, the local NAACP will soon begin making phone calls to targeted communities. Cheatham also hopes to get a couple of caravans riding throughout the city once the weather improves as one of several ploys he is planning to heighten awareness of the census. His request for funding for a 30-day television show on the public access channel is still pending, but he would like census officials to host the program so they can provide pertinent information to everyday citizens.
“It’s almost like doing a political campaign,” Cheatham said. “You need money to run campaigns, that's what this is. We’re going to be success.”
The meeting will be held at 6:30 -8 p.m. Feb. 23 at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave. For more information call 410-366-3300.