Malik Shabazz is a member of a church in a neighborhood where only 40 percent of the people were counted in the last census. The Community Action Agency’s Sandra McKinnie is so determined to change this that she led his congregation in a hymn on the crucial importance of participation in 2010.
McKinnie brought her crusade—to get low-income people working for the census, and participating in the count—to three New Haven congregations Sunday.
At George Street’s Way of the Cross Church, McKinnie’s message to Shabazz and 25 other members was twofold: Abandon the don’t-talk to-outsiders code that has resulted in severe undercounting in the city’s poorest areas. She called that attitude self-destructive “nonsense”: For every person counted, $9,000 in potential federal dollars for after-school programs, elder-care services, pothole repair and much else could be forthcoming.
McKinnie called on the churches to get not only that word out, but also this additional good news for hard-pressed neighborhoods: 700 to 800 jobs are available for enumerators, supervisors, and staffers at the local census’s One Long Wharf headquarters. Only a high school diploma is required. The census office trains. The salary for the six-week gig in April and May is $18 per hour. Click here for info on the jobs.
Despite the recession, those jobs are not being applied for in sufficient numbers, McKinnie reported. “We cannot be so disenfranchised that we remove ourselves from jobs,” she added. She brought along tote bags and coffee mugs to help the marketing effort.
The daughter of a preacher, McKinnie riffed on the Mahalia Jackson gospel song “He’s Got The Whole World in his Hands. That’s because the motto of Census 2010 is “It’s in our hands.”
She got some immediate results: Shabazz committed himself to distribute information about the census. His friend Denise McCarter had just graduated from training as a paralegal; McKinnie said she’d be an ideal census worker. They exchanged phone numbers.
Then McKinnie hurried off to Beulah Heights First Pentecostal Church where, she said, 500 people were worshipping. Churches were not used ten years ago to get out the census word. Low-income people go to churches for help with all kinds of reasons, she said. She called doing her pulpit pitches a no-brainer, and she vowed to continue her crusade at two to three churches a weekend through the spring.
Click here for a previous article on becoming census workers in New Haven.