Combining Latinx and student communities for the 2020 Atlanta Census campaign

Georgia State student Peter Pimentel addresses residents and representatives of Atlanta at the Capitol.

“All of my fellow students, young people, Latinx community members: Start posting, tweeting, get the word out that the 2020 census is coming and that you need to be a part of it.”

These words came from the steps of the City Hall in Atlanta and from the mouth of Peter Pimentel, a Georgia State student and community navigator for Welcoming Atlanta, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

Pimentel urged the 129,000 students living in the city of Atlanta to get counted in the campaign for ATL Counts announced by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms the morning of April 1, National Census day.

“The census is no joke,” Bottoms said. “There has to be a locally pushed effort, in partnership with the Census Bureau, to make sure that all of citizens, all of our communities are counted.”

Throughout the community rally event, this sentiment was echoed by representatives, supporting citizens and members of the newly created Atlanta Complete Count Committee.

But what is the census and why do these officials want student participation so badly?

Every ten years, the census is completed on the national level, the last being in 2010 and the next in 2020. As outlined by many on the announcement panel, the census is used to determine funding, district lines and number of representatives on all levels of government – national, state and local.

According to Bottoms’ counts, Atlanta has the opportunity to pull in $100 million extra in funding toward government programs, including anything from free-and-reduced lunch in schools to better paved roads.

Nationally, the census was brought to light by a tweet from President Donald Trump earlier that morning.

“Can you believe that the Radical Left Democrats want to do our new and very important Census Report without the all important Citizenship Question,” Trump said. “Report would be meaningless and a waste of the $Billions (ridiculous) that it costs to put together!”

The City of Atlanta panel didn’t hesitate from responding, specifically from Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) and founder of the Georgia Latino Complete Count Committee.

“We, as GALEO, are part of the litigation against the Trump administration to ensure that the citizenship question gets removed from this census,” Gonzalez said. “It’s untested, it’s unwarranted and it’s unnecessary.”

The 2020 census will be the first to be available digitally in an online format. Pimentel argues it’s the youths’ responsibility to guide the older generations in this process.

“We need to be sure that all of our younger brothers, sisters, cousins, tías, tíos and comadres are also counted by educating our families and communities,” he said.

In this, he sees an opportunity to reach not just one, but two communities.

“As youth, our future resources are dependent on the accurate count of the City of Atlanta census,” Pimentel said. “If you were born in Mexico, Germany or Timbuktu and you live in Atlanta: Tu cuentas, you count.”

As for Georgia State students specifically, Pimentel outlined the importance of participation after the event ended.

“Many students at Georgia State live in on campus and therefore, in the city of Atlanta,” he said. “[The 2020 census] data will determine how much money the city will receive in order to fix our roads and improve MARTA. As students, we use these things on a daily basis.”

Pimentel said that his passion for the topic is influenced by an intersectionality between being a voice for the Latinx community and for the youth.

“Being a member of the Latinx community, I know first hand how underrepresented our communities are,” Pimentel said. “At the end of the day it’s the people that keep me passionate. I push because I want them to have the lives they truly deserve.”

His message ends with this: “Mi gente, háganse contar,” which translates in English to, “My people, make yourself count.”