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Resolutions Worth Keeping
Lorraine A. Green
January 6, 2000

Christmas and New Year's have come and gone, but many of us are still reflecting on the past year and thinking about what we might do better in 2000. Some of us have resolved to cut down on our favorite vices such as ice cream, chocolates or television. Others have vowed to adopt new, positive habits such as spending more time with family, reaching out to friends or exercising. While many have made intentions to improve their personal conditions, I want to call on you to make a resolution that will improve the condition of African Americans and our community as a whole.

As I reflect on the many great strides we have made in this last century, I feel a great sense of pride and hope for the future. It is in part because of our activism in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and many other initiatives given life by our thriving democracy that we have made tremendous progress as a people in the last 100 years. We have done well. But I believe we have a long way to go before we can achieve the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned for this nation and for our people. That is why I ask you to add a new resolution to you list: Fill out and return your census questionnaire and spread the word about Census 2000 in your community.

The Census will take place beginning in April, offering everyone the opportunity to stand tall in the new American Portrait. It is critical that all African Americans in this country are included in this picture. The Census tells us who we are as a people, and the data collected is used by government officials and administrators at all levels across this nation to determine important policy priorities.

The information collected which is kept completely confidential-- will help determine the fair allocation of approximately $180 billion in federal dollars each year and impact programs ranging from Medicare to Head Start. The data will also help officials and economic development planners decide where to build new hospitals and schools, and where new affordable housing units should be located. In addition, the census information will help officials decide on the number of congressional seats allocated to each state and how district lines will be drawn. Our political representation hinges on the Census.

Regrettably, in the 1990 Census, 8.4 million people were missed. A disproportionate number of those missed in 1990 were the poor, people of color and children. The African-American undercount registered 4.5%, or one in twenty-two persons, and half of those missed were children. Several reasons explain why the African-American undercount was so high. (housing infrastructure, population mobility, etc.) We can do better come Census Day 2000. We must do better. We won't have another opportunity for another ten years.

In our hearts we know that collective participation in Census 2000 is vitally important. The question is, can we collectively transfer what we feel into action? Can we empower ourselves to participate? I think the answer is yes, and there is no better time to begin drawing on our spirit of the 1960s and re-visiting our impulse toward activism than now. So spread the word at church, at work, school and in your neighborhood.

Let's look at the New Millennium as an opportunity to identify ways to improve the condition of our community. Why not get involved publicly with something that will shape our destiny and have a direct impact on our lives for years to come? Participate in Census 2000! It will make a difference, ideally even set the course for broader, sustained public involvement of our people.

Lorraine A. Green is a Presidential Appointee of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board and the Corporate Vice President for Human Resources at Amtrak. For additional information visit www.cmbp.gov. For a photo of Lorraine Green call (202) 722-6035.

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