By Serenity White-Ilole

Bottom line: We need the census to help our communities thrive. We cannot serve our communities better without knowing which demographic we are serving. By using Census Bureau data, businesses and administrations are better able to determine where to build. This translates to more grocery stores, office buildings and factories, thus generating more jobs for those within that community.

For example, my community of Fresno, Calif., has few businesses that can generate jobs. We have to travel far for grocery stores, dentists offices, pediatrics offices and clothing stores. But census numbers can arm community advocates with the information they need to lure businesses.

Businesses looking to expand would see the amount of people and specific demographics they would be able to serve in the area and build. By knowing exact demographics, residents can advocate on their behalf for things that they see they need in their community.

Census numbers could help communities receive grants and funding from federal, state and local government agencies for services such as affordable housing, emergency services, sanitation services and better construction services. This would not only generate more jobs in these fields, but also improve the overall community.

The census is also the way the federal government determines how many representatives states get in the House of Representatives. In addition, census data is used to fund programs such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Pell Grants and Head Start. If counted in full, funding for these programs would be appropriate to the demand.

We have the ability to create change within our communities for the better, for ourselves, for our communities, for our families and for future generations. We can really make a difference and be the voice for our most vulnerable populations who are often left out of major policy decisions. In a perfect world, I would like to think we all would want to see our communities thrive and prosper. Creating change within our communities can start by completing the census and being counted. In representing ourselves we can help ourselves and our communities.

Serenity White-Ilole is a member of the Fresno State University NAACP.

This article first appeared in The Crisis Magazine, the Official Publication of the NAACP

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO. Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to