BLOG # 1 - July 6, 2019
Here we go again.
Every ten years, the U.S. Census is sent to every household in the country, in order to get an accurate population count of a given area. This process is essential because the data collected by the Census decides how many Congressional seats are needed to represent the people in each community. It also determines how necessary federal funds that power social programs, housing, and education, among other things, are distributed.
Especially under the current Administration, where potential unnecessary changes to the Census would target the most vulnerable people in the country, this important time presents an opportunity to be part of something good – not only for ourselves, but also for the entire State of California.
#CountMeIn Lancaster is a new initiative where artists and community leaders will work with the Lancaster Museum of Art and History (MOAH) to visit community centers and families living in Lancaster. The goal is to spread the word of why it is crucial to be counted, and to ensure that as many people as possible take part in the 2020 U.S. Census.
Help us make this program a success, and you can #CountMeIn.
BLOG # 2 - July 17, 2019
Yesterday was the official launch of the #countmein project. Our first engagement event took place in conjunction with the Café Open Mic Night at the Cedar Memorial Hall, a historical building in the heart of Downtown Lancaster.
Team member Nathaniel Ancheta gave opening remarks, telling the audience how happily surprised he was about the transformation of Lancaster Blvd and the ways the community made it possible. He said, “Change is inevitable but participation is a choice.” He finished his speech by encouraging everyone to participate, both in the night’s #CountMeIn event and the census, and to “take hold of that change”.
Our primary goal for this event was to engage with those participating in the open mic by asking them to write a couple lines about what means to be “counted in”. We brought a couple poetry samples using the words “Count me in”. Many people wrote compelling and powerful lines and read them aloud on stage. One of the most touching pieces was written by someone who wished to be anonymous. They wrote:
Counting the seconds that have passed
Counting the moments that passed by.
A person who was lost and now has been found
Somebody who finds comfort in silence.
Inside a box where I’ve been chained
Now is the time where I break free.
Robin Rosenthal brought several Polaroid cameras to the event and gave them to anyone who wanted to take a picture. I saw many of the people smiling while taking the photos with their friends because they had the freedom to be themselves. Needless to say, the end result was outstanding. These Polaroids will be used by the MOAH in a future art show, planned for the end of the #CountMeIn project.
Some of the night's polaroids
Jane Szabo, our official photographer, captured photographs that will definitely be a highlight of the #CountMeIn project. She has the ability to connect with people of any age and make them feel at ease while taking their portraits.
The film crew, consisting of Janice, Nathaniel, and Dave, also shined. They filmed and interviewed people about the census and the importance of being counted, demonstrating the essence of what means to be counted in.
BLOG # 3 - August 11, 2019
BOOK REVIEW: LESSONS LEARNED FROM SATURDAY’S WORKSHOP
Saturday’s workshop, a bookmaking session, happened at 3 PM at the Lil Book Bug, right in the heart of Lancaster Blvd.
Among rows of bookshelves, our workshop tables were set up and covered in art supplies. The day’s goal was for our participants to design the pages for an accordion-style book about inclusion. They could draw, write, and put together anything they wanted on those pages, so long as it had something to do with being “counted in”.
Our team members ready to start the workshop
Despite the prime location and time slot of the workshop, participation in the bookmaking was very low. Some of us running the event stood outside the building, handing out pamphlets with information about the 2020 Census to people on the street. This did not work as well as planned.
While the event was going on, dozens of people walked along the Blvd in both directions. Many of them were glued to their phones, tapping their screens with urgency, and didn’t give us the time of day. (My team member told me this was because of an event in Pokémon GO). Others took a pamphlet from us, but kept walking. No matter how many people saw or passed by us, nobody wanted to go in and see what the event was all about.
People strolling the Blvd playing Pokémon GO
This workshop taught us an important lesson that we, as ambassadors of the #CountMeIn movement, had to learn sooner or later. Getting everyone interested in the 2020 Census is a difficult task and, even if we think we’re doing enough to attract people’s attention, there will always be those who don’t engage.
I can’t speak for my team members about their feelings with this experience but, while I was frustrated at the lack of interest, I am more determined than ever to inform people about the importance of the Census. Games and other things will continue to exist and draw people’s attention, but there is plenty of time to do those things and still participate in something as crucial as a Census.
Those few people who did participate in Saturday’s workshop made a huge impact on the project, because the pages they created for the book are just the beginning of a larger story, one about Lancaster and a future where we can all be counted in.