IRVINGTON, NJ — In preparation for the 2020 census, the Irvington Interfaith Sub-Committee hosted a workshop at the First Congregational Church in Irvington on Thursday, Jan. 9, for the township’s faith leaders to get the word out and help ensure that everyone is aware of this huge event.
The first “Make Irvington Count 2020 Census” workshop was targeted toward faith leaders, because they are among the most trusted messengers in communities and are positioned to play a key role in ensuring that everyone is accounted for in the 2020 census.
For the two-hour event, the Irvington Interfaith Sub-Committee, consisting of members from the Irvington Chapter of the National Action Network, brought together religious leaders serving in Irvington, which has historically been undercounted, to work together to raise awareness about the importance of the census and to offer support to faith institutions in helping their community members complete the census during the 2020 self-response period, which falls between March and July.
Genia C. Philip, director of the Department of Economic Development and Grants Oversight and chairwoman of Make Irvington Count 2020 Committee, was there to give insight about the national movement and what it means for the township.
“The committee is organized to ensure that all residents in Irvington are counted in the 2020 census. Irvington residents should make being counted a major priority, because one of the key things that the census does is distribute and appropriate funds from the federal government, based on the number of people who reside in each state, each county, in each city,” Philip said to the Irvington Herald at the event on Thursday, Jan 9.
“Irvington has historically been identified as a hard-to-count population, and, since we have this opportunity to change that label in 2020, Mayor Tony Vauss saw that it was fitting to organize our own committee and to ensure that we’re able to count every resident in Irvington.. A good count ensures that the quality of life, eventually and overall, will be improved for all residents.”
“Churches are a place where people trust,” she continued. “The census is something traditionally that people in the hard-to-count communities are afraid to participate in. Also, because churches are a consistent place where you can find repeat attendees. We have a lot of churches in Irvington, which means there are a lot of people who we can possibly touch and it’s easy to organize pastors and have a conversation with them, so that they can go and speak to their congregation members.”
When asked if immigrants will be harmed by participating in the 2020 census, Philip ensured those who are here illegally not to be alarmed.
“Immigrants have never traditionally been, and we don’t anticipate they will be, affected by the census,” Philip said. “The Census is a separate department that, even though it is a part of the U.S. government, it operates independently and separate from everything else. Its only goal is to gather information about the demographics of the country and to give that information numerically, only so that we can facilitate appropriations to the state, as well as define voting districts. So it’s just a data-gathering tool.
“It is a federal crime for anyone in the Census or associated with it to communicate census information outside of the Census Bureau. That includes to any other departments,” she continued. “So, this information does not go to Homeland Security, does not go to the IRS, does not go to anything else. The only data that goes to other departments is data about demographics, so that the departments can use it to create programs and services to benefit the larger population.”
According to Philip, a positive benefit of having everyone accounted for in the 2020 census is Irvington getting an accurate count of its residents. Philip said the number on record is low because Irvington has populations that are traditionally hard to count. Vauss’ goal is to get the most accurate number as possible, so that the government will know the number of Irvington residents to whom services can be provided.
Another positive is Irvington keeping the federal funds to which it is entitled, as well as increased appropriations to New Jersey, Essex County and the township. Appropriation funds go toward services such as transportation, housing, education, food stamps and welfare. Every area of society is affected by how monies are appropriated by the federal government to local entities.
October Hudley, co-coordinator of the Irvington Interfaith Sub-Committee 2020 Census Count and vice president of the Municipal Council, said this workshop was something she’d wanted to see for a long time.
“Tonight, we’re actually hosting our first event, where we’ve invited all the interfaith sectors of Irvington to come and unite, to discuss and provide them with information on the importance of the 2020 census count in Irvington,” Hudley said to the Irvington Herald during the event on Thursday, Jan 9. “I am excited about tonight’s event. This workshop is a vision that came to pass, because this is something that I’ve wanted to see for a long time.
“To see all the interfaith sectors come together to network, to meet one another and to share all sorts of ideas is great,” she continued. “This interfaith sector is a very important factor in our community, because there are so many people that attend these different faiths, and this is how we can work together, as a community, to really build and expand Irvington and bring it to the next level.”
Everyone is competing for the money to better their communities. In New Jersey, there is the statewide “New Jersey Make Irvington Count” initiative. Most counties have their own initiatives. Essex County has its own count committee, as do most municipalities. Both Newark and East Orange have count initiatives, and Orange is working with Irvington to assist with theirs.
Lolita Kirby, co-coordinator of the Irvington Interfaith Sub-Committee “Make Irvington Count 2020 Census,” was also in attendance and said tonight was a great move.
“I am hosting with the Sub-Committee Interfaith for the ‘Make Irvington Count’ first workshop,” said Kirby to the Irvington Herald during the event on Thursday, Jan. 9. “I presented the importance of completing the census, bringing the interfaith community together and allowing them the opportunity to brainstorm on different ideas of how they can make it count. Tonight was a great move. It was our first planning session for the committee. We are collaborating with three organizations. We have the Urban League of Essex County Young Professionals, the Irvington Action Network, as well as the city of Irvington and the Interfaith Sub-Committee.
“We’re here to get a count and increase the numbers,” she continued. “The churches had great ideas to encourage their congregation and members with the food pantry, open mic, movie nights, paint and sips. Fun activities, where we can invite the community and the public to just have them come out and engage in worship and community engagement and understand that we are here together and work in unity. That’s the purpose of this. We all should be accounted for within our community, because, at the end of the day, we’re all going to need the resources for those individual churches and members.”
The next Make Irvington Count workshop by the Irvington Interfaith Sub-Committee will be Thursday, Feb. 6, at Transcend Worship Center, 971 Clinton Ave. in Irvington.
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman