Lambasting local black leadership’s failure to galvanize the community to respond in large numbers to this year’s Census, T. Willard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc., said the black community needs to follow former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz’s lead.

Fair said in an editorial posted recently on the Urban League website that Diaz met with local Hispanic leaders in October to coordinate a local campaign to maximize the number of Hispanic people counted in the Census, and that no black leaders were present. Instead of questioning whether the former mayor included all of his constituents, Fair is calling out black leadership for its failure to organize and encourage the black community to respond in large numbers.
“Black Miami, I am so tired of our leadership dropping the ball on opportunities to empower our people …Where are our Black preachers, our Black leaders, our Black organizations – the 100 Black Men, the Deltas, the Omegas, etc. etc. etc.,” queried Fair, who is a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

According to Fair, “The 2000 Census had a 16 million undercount and was so horrendous that it led to the loss of millions of dollars in federal funds and under-representation of Black and other minority populations in Congress and state Legislatures.”

The one black leader whose efforts Fair applauds is Miami Gardens’ Mayor Shirley Gibson, who has led an aggressive effort in the predominantly black city to ensure that every resident is counted.

Said Fair of Gibson’s efforts, “Mayor Shirley Gibson (also co-chair of Mayor Alvarez’ Complete Count Committee) has taken the leadership in the City of Miami Gardens Census count and has worked closely with the Miami Urban League to get all of our Black folks counted.”

Mayor Alvarez’ Complete Count Committee (CCC) is a diverse representation of leaders from organizations from throughout Miami-Dade County. Gibson serves as co-chair with North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre and Miami-Dade School Board Vice Chair Perla Tabares Hantman.

Because Census data help determine the amount of federal dollars cities and states receive, and impacts on the number of schools, hospitals and services that an area receives, the push is on to get people to complete and return the forms. Information collected via the Census also helps to determine how many seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Some businesses use the data to determine where to set up shop. 

Barbara Howard is spearheading the Census effort for the ULGM and also serves on Mayor Alvarez’s CCC. Howard said invitations to attend a Feb. 24 Census meeting at the ULGM were sent to numerous black leaders, including black pastors and elected officials. Twenty-five people attended, among them Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami; the Rev. Walter Richardson, pastor of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church; psychologist Herman Dorsett; and representatives from Florida Memorial University and the city of Miami Gardens. 

Because Florida was recently ranked in last place in the nation in the number of Census forms returned, Howard said there was a decision to blanket the community with volunteers on Saturday, April 10 during a “March to the Mailbox” event aimed at getting people to complete and return the Census forms. The ULGM is hoping to recruit between 150 and 200 volunteers to participate in the outreach event.

Efforts to provide high school and college students with community service hours for their participation are underway, Howard said.

According to Census data released earlier this week, the national average for returns is currently 60 percent. Florida’s return rate is 57 percent. The return rates for cities in Miami-Dade vary from a high of 66 percent in Hialeah, to a low of 48 percent in the city of Miami. Miami Gardens’ return rate is currently 54 percent.

Fair said that a Pew survey reported that nine out of ten Hispanics plan to return their Census form. He speculates that nine out of ten blacks “either don’t know or don’t care about the Census,” and will “wait until the process has been completed, complain that the process was unfair, and then scream ‘racism.’”

People interested in volunteering for the “March to the Mailbox” outreach event should contact the Urban League at 305-696-4450.