Miami-Dade County

This group is pushing for more black political representation through a 'Black Census'

Website for the Black Census Project
Website for the Black Census Project

A group that has been surveying thousands of African Americans is expanding the project, hoping to reach 200,000 people in a push for greater political representation for black communities.

The group responsible for the project, Black Futures Lab, started reaching out to black Americans in February.

So far, they have collected 7,600 responses to the survey, called the Black Census Project.

As they reach more people, they will give the data to elected officials with the goal of better tailoring policies to interests in African American communities.

“I think oftentimes when people think of who is black in America, they think about those who are descendants of slaves,” said Alicia Garza, co-founder of both BFL and Black Lives Matter. “But I think it’s important to understand that’s a very unique part of the population.”

Last week, BFL released a version of the survey in Spanish in an effort to reach out Afro-Latino Americans. They worked with Mijente, a which calls itself a Latinx political organization. The group uses the word “Latinx,” — pronounced La-teen-ex — as a gender-neutral form of the word Latino.

The goal of the collaboration is to reach a swath of black Americans who are not typically thought of as a part of the black community.

“For the over 1.2 million Afro-Latinx people in this country, this survey provides them with a megaphone they are rarely given,” Mijente cofounder Marisa Franco said. “Providing an outlet to detail which issues matter most to them gives us a better understanding of what it means to be black in America.”

Black Americans — from descendants of American slavery to those from Haiti, Guatemala or Puerto Rico — are lumped into one homogenous group, Garza says. This thinking, she believes, leads politicians to treat black Americans as one voting bloc, making them less likely to consider different needs within black communities.

“Because our communities are misunderstood and misrepresented, that means we’re misunderstood and misrepresented in politics as well,” Garza said.

Garza hopes that by translating the survey to Spanish, BFL will get closer to their goal of 200,000 respondents. The group also has plans to translate their survey into six more languages spoken by black Americans, including French Creole, Haitian Creole and Somali.

In Miami, a city with large Afro-Latino and Haitian communities, this could mean more survey takers and more data. Garza emphasized that the Black Census Project is not meant as an alternative to the 2020 U.S. Census, which she said is key to distributing resources to black communities.It is something supplemental that will give officials a more nuanced view of black life. She mentioned questions about sexual orientation and gender identity as subjects that the U.S. Census would not bring up, but that the Black Census would.

The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. Towards the beginning, it asks survey-takers whether they identify as Black, African, Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, African-American or other. Another questions asks readers about their level of favorability to certain people or groups, including Barack Obama, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, President Donald Trump, and Black Lives Matter.

It also asks respondents to suggest ways to improve relations between black communities and the police. Once the survey reaches 200,000 people, Garza said the BFL will launch a policy group called “Black to the Future.” Using the collected data, the group would craft policies and meet with elected officials, turning data into action.

“From our perspective, we’re just getting started,” Garza said.

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