June 17 is Census National Day of Action and just in time for the occasion, Harness, an organization co-founded by America Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams, and Wilmer Valderrama in an effort to engage celebrities in social change has decided to launch its #BeCounted campaign.
Harness is working with 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ Fair Count in launching the 2020 Census campaign, which is aiming to specifically engage communities of color, which are typically underrepresented and undercounted in the census.
Actor Kerry Washington, one of the spokespersons for the campaign, shared with ESSENCE the importance of these communities getting involved.
“If we under-count in communities like Latinx communities, Asian-American communities, Arab communities, Native communities, Black communities, young people, we actually divert funds away from those folks. And we divert representation away from those folks,” Washington explained. “The census not only determines where government dollars go, but it determines how many people [represent us] Congress, how many votes we have in the Electoral College. So, not responding to the census means that that under-representation robs funds and representation from your community”
This is more important, perhaps now more than ever, as the country works to recover from the devastation of the novel coronavirus, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color, particularly, the Black community.
“We won’t have the resources we need in the Black community. We won’t be able to support our hospitals and our schools in the Black community if we are not counted,” Washington added. “So, we have to show up and fill out the census for our kids, for the more elder members of our community. We have to fill out the census so that we can be counted and have what we need to recover.”
The actor cautioned that as of just Monday, only 61% of the country had responded to the census so far. The deadline to complete the short survey is Oct. 31.
Washington revealed that this particular project is important to her because often fans jokingly come to her social media platforms pleading that “Olivia Pope,” the revered fixer from the hit series Scandal which Washington portrays, fix whatever the issue of the day is.
“Whenever a crisis happens, people often go to my social media and are like, ‘Olivia Pope, you have to fix this. Olivia Pope, save the day’. And for me, it’s just so important to remind people that Olivia Pope is a fictitious character. She actually doesn’t have the power to transform your community, but you do,” Washington said. “If you are in a community that doesn’t have enough respirators while you’re facing COVID, that doesn’t have enough of a voice in the House of Representatives, where you feel like your schools are not getting adequately funded, all of those changes can be impacted by filling out the census.”
“You have a lot more power than Olivia Pope. And that for me is one of the reasons why it’s important for me to remind people of that,” the actor urged. “To say, ‘You are more important and more powerful than Olivia Pope. Olivia Pope cannot fill out a census. Olivia Pope cannot vote’.”
And that really is the crux of it, the census, for Washington, drives home the point that everyone is equally important.
“I think actually in society we tend to overvalue celebrities or people in the public eye and pretend that the people in the public eye are more important, and we’re not,” the star, whose most recent project includes Little Fires Everywhere, noted. “And that’s actually what the census is about, right? It’s that every single person in this country counts and we want you to be counted. It’s not about us. The #BeCounted campaign is really about making sure that everyone is seen.”
For more information about the 2020 Census, visit BeCountedNow.com