On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau joined forces with the Westside Branch of the NAACP and hosted “Make King Day Count” at the Carey Tercentenary African Methodist Episcopalian Church, an event to honor the legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and raise awareness about the upcoming 2010 census.
Adults in attendance had the opportunity to take the census employment test in the basement of the church, and were then invited to take in an information seminar that was meshed with speeches and entertainment from performers of all ages.
Because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Vera G. Davis, NAACP West Side Branch Chair, opened the ceremony by commending King’s firm commitment to equality. Davis added that she felt some of the youth were unaware of exactly who Dr. King was.
She referenced King’s 1963 jailing in Birmingham, Ala., where he drafted the famous “Letter From Birmingham Jail” and his being struck in the head with a brick during a 1968 open housing march in Chicago as examples of his steadfast determination towards civil rights reform.
“Can you imagine not being able to drink from the same water fountains [as whites]?” Davis asked, referring to Jim Crow laws and directing her question to the youths in attendance, who stared in disbelief as she went on to describe additional tribulations endured by King and other civil rights activists at the time. The struggle, she said, has lessened, but still exists.
Davis explained that taking simple tasks such as filling out the census form can help to combat poverty where it exists. Census data is referenced when federal dollars are allocated for programs such as affordable housing as well as for the reapportioning of districts that elected officials represent. Both factors can financially benefit any area, if a proper count is collected.
What’s more, the Census Bureau will be allocating $400 billion to communities throughout the country for services such as road repair, hospitals, community and senior centers and emergency services in addition to those mentioned above.
Calvin Thomas, a former Chicago Bear and a member of the 1985 Super Bowl team, who is popularly known as the saxophone player in the “Super Bowl Shuffle” theme song, was in attendance in his capacity as a U.S. Census Bureau as a partnership specialist.
“Whatever data is collected, you’re stuck with it for the next 10 years,” Thomas said. “It’s not coming around again until 2020.”
In between speeches, spectators were dazzled with an array of performances, ranging from readings and poetry to dance, hip-hop and soul – many from the youths in attendance.
Ladasia Tollier made it very difficult for several audience members to sit idly in the pews when she performed a gut-wrenching, soulful number I Been Changed, invoking the styles of Big Mama Thornton and Gladys Knight.
Also entertaining were the Jones quartet, which consisted of Chicago rapper Tammaris Jones (“Corona Brone”) and his three small children, Rashaun, Destiny and Jammaris, who stood in as dancers.