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Census Advisory Board Member Urges Caribbean Nationals To Learn From Hispanics

CaribWorldNews, ORLANO, FL, Fri. June 26, 2009: Dr. Linda Marc, vice-chair of the Race & Ethnicity Advisory Committee of the U.S. Census Bureau, is suggesting that the Caribbean community should learn from the Hispanic community. 

She pointed out that in 1976, a Public Law, (94-311), was approved by the 94th Congress as a joint resolution, which states that social and economic statistics should be collected for Americans of Spanish descent or origin, to ensure that there is a regular nationwide evaluation of their economic and social status.  Caribbean nationals, she said, can follow this lead.

Dr. Marc made the suggestion at a Census 2010 Caribbean Partnership Summit, held from June 23-24 at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel in Orlando, Florida, which was sponsored by the Census Bureau Atlanta Region Partnership Team. 

The Haitian-American doctor handed out a copy of the document to all meeting attendees and showed where the Public Law 94-311 explicitly states that, `Whereas a large number of Americans of Spanish origin or descent suffer from racial, social, economic and political discrimination, and are denied the basic opportunities they deserve as American citizens and which would enable them to begin to lift themselves out of this poverty they now endure; and Whereas improved evaluation of their social and economic status will assist State and Federal Governments and private organizations in the accurate determination of the urgent and special needs of Americans of Spanish origin or descent.`

Dr. Marc also provided attendees with a copy of the `Caribbean Count Bill` developed by Congresswoman Yvette Clark, and lobbied for by CaribID, a campaign to simply and forcefully urge the U.S. Census to allow Caribbean nationals/West Indians to be counted (www.caribID2010.com).  The bill has been introduced to the Senate as S. 1083 by Senators Chuck Schummer and Kristin Gillibrand.

When asked why it was important to provide attendees all this documentation, Dr. Marc replied, `I want my community to be informed.  Very often foreign-born persons are unaware of the documents that are public information.  I want to make sure that all the community leaders who were invited to participate at this Summit can discuss the issues with precision when they get back to their respective communities.`

Dr. Marc is a social epidemiologist and received her doctoral degree from the Harvard School of Public Health, and she uses the population statistics published by the Census to estimate the rate of disease in minority populations.  Her areas of specialty include HIV/AIDS and mental health, and she is presently a researcher with the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.

The goal of the event was to reach out to key segments of the hard-to-reach Caribbean populations living in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Attendees represented the diverse Caribbean communities, including but not limited to Indo-Caribbean, Dutch Caribbean, English Caribbean, French Caribbean, and Spanish Caribbean nations. 

Essentially, representatives from the Caribbean community expressed frustration that the Census 2010 Form could not capture their country of origin (e.g. Antigua, Barbados, Haiti), in the same manner that it does for persons of Hispanic origin. 

Meeting attendees raised this as the paramount issue because it has powerful financial ramifications for persons indentifying accurately as Black.  Meeting attendees also asked for guidance from representatives from the Census Bureau.  But George Grandy, the Director of the Atlanta Regional Office, presided over the meeting and indicated that `the Census Bureau can not advise persons on how to respond to the ethnicity and race categories.  Our job at the Census is to ensure that everyone fills out the form on April 1, 2010 and self-identifies their origin and/or race.`

Other concerns raised by meeting attendees from the diverse Caribbean community focused on adequate coverage in the Caribbean media,  assurance regarding confidentiality and privacy issues, recruitment of Caribbean staff for Census 2010 positions, and the availability of adequate resources for community based organizations to reduce the differential count and improve coverage of the hard-to-reach members of the Caribbean community. 

In particular, Kervin Clenance, an expert media consultant and descendent from the U.S. Virgin Islands, demanded more transparency in the media buys and advertising campaign.  Dr. Marc has taken his concerns back to the African-American Committee for review.

Also, members of the Haitian community voiced concern they would not receive enough Census Guides in the Haitian-Creole language in communities where Haitian immigrants lived.  The most prominent and outspoken leaders from several Haitian organizations and businesses were from Florida and Georgia.