Our Census Ride this coming Monday, September 28th, from the Broadway Theatre (512 Broadway, 6:30pm start, see below for many pandemic-induced changes to Slow Roll), is presented in partnership with Open Buffalo, whose mission is “to advance racial, economic, and ecological justice…through skill building, network connecting, and activating leadership opportunities.”

Open Buffalo has been pounding the pavement and working connections to get Buffalonians counted in the 2020 United States Census – to learn more about this work, read below from Open Buffalo’s Director of Development and Communications, Todd Geise.

How does the census relate to the mission of Open Buffalo?

Given that our mission is to advance racial, economic, and ecological justice, the census relates very specifically to understanding the demographics of our service territory. More importantly, our goal is to educate and encourage census participation to ensure accurate representation in congress and that the federal dollars that are allocated to Buffalo based on population numbers are accurate. Every person counted equates to $2,600 of federal investment, with those investments supporting healthcare, education, and programs and services vital to people’s lives.

What has Open Buffalo been doing to promote participation in the census?

We began this civic initiative early in 2020, and then COVID-19 hit. As part of our responsibility to provide a rapid response to the pandemic, Open Buffalo distributed 15,000 reusable masks in hard-hit areas. We included in that initiative literature about the 2020 census, and we were able to discuss the importance of the census. Through various partnerships, we included census information in food giveaways, outside of grocery stores, and at various NFTA MetroRail stations.

From the middle of July through the end of August, we hosted 14 youth from the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Urban League. They were trained in the census, its constitutional origins and amendments, and the youth workers were then able to do census text and phone banking, canvass and distribute literature throughout the City of Buffalo, and also, conduct tabling with tablets to conduct census participation on the spot. Their efforts helped get 75 households counted.

We also promoted significantly on our social media sites and most recently, sponsored a PSA featuring Franchelle Parker with Thomas Beauford, Buffalo Urban League’s new President and CEO.

What else is Open Buffalo currently involved with?

Open Buffalo is currently in its fifth class of Emerging Leaders, working with 30 up-and-coming leaders from the community. Each leader brings a different background, and the skills they are learning will empower them to be even more active and intentional with social justice issues that they are passionate about.

We are also focused on voter registration and getting out the vote for the upcoming general election. While this is a broad initiative, we are also heavily focused on a segment of the potential voting population – the youth vote. In partnership with Opportunity Youth United, Open Buffalo has created a Community Action Team, which is a coalition of organizations that also work with youth and have a shared interest in helping youth realize their potential, help lift out of poverty through training and advocacy, and help them understand their civic rights and responsibilities. From this we also created a youth advisory council, geared towards ages 16-25, and who are playing an integral role in communicating with their peers all that they are learning and encouraging civic participation.

How can folks get involved with Open Buffalo?

If people believe in our work, we encourage getting involved through funding support or signing up for volunteer opportunities. We also welcome new visitors to our social media sites, where we post regularly on topics that are relevant to them and the community as a whole.