Special to the Bakersfield News Observer

Over the next few weeks leading up to the official Census Day April 1st we here at the Observer will look to showcase different organizations within our community who are doing great work to insure we are all accurately counted. This week we here at the Bakersfield News Observer (BNO) spoke to Darlene Williams, Pastor of The Vibrant City Church (TVCC).

BNO: What is your organizations role in helping to educate the public on the 2020 Census?

Answer: The Vibrant City Church (TVCC) is making sure that the people we are in contact with understand the importance of being counted in the Census and how that being counted can bring so many life-changing resources back into our various communities. We are out actively canvassing the 39 hotels, motels, and trailer parks located on Union and South Union Avenue, one of the Hard to Count (HTC) areas in Kern County.

We have gone to one of the hotels, barbequed burgers onsite, fed 150 people including children, informed and passed out Census flyers and swag.

The Kern County Public Health Department Mobile Clinic and Waste Hunger Not Food (WHNF) have partnered with TVCC to provide the community with access to monthly medical services and food supplement every Tuesday. TVCC uses this unique opportunity, not only serve the people who benefit from these resources, but also to shed light on the Census requirements as well.

We realize that we cannot educate this HTC community about the Census on empty stomachs. The Vibrant City staff is onsite at all these events to serve, and to raise awareness about Census 2020.

BNO: What key obstacles do you face in reaching Kern County’s African American Community?

Answer: Poverty is the key obstacle we face. We are dealing with poverty, homelessness, addiction, mental illness and innocent children mixed in the middle. There is fear of the government, lack of knowledge about the Census in general, and a sense of hopelessness.

BNO: What unique strategies will your partners or your organization use to convince the African American community to self respond to the Census?

Answer: We are taking the necessary steps to explain the details of the Census and exactly what the African American community can expect and what not to expect on the Census questionnaire. We are using food, honesty, and the resources provided by the Kern County Health Department as part of our strategy to convince this community to self-respond.

BNO: Who are the key partners working to support African American efforts?

Answer: TVCC is aware of several entities and/or organizations working to support African Americans, however, our key partners have been Faith in the Valley and The Bakersfield News Observer.

BNO: What events should people know about to get more information reaching African Americans in Kern County? 

Answer: TVCC has contacted several African American churches and have tentative dates set to conduct Census presentations.

Upcoming events: March- April 2020 (varying dates)—Canvassing hotels on Union Ave.

March 17, 2020— Kern County Health Department Mobile Clinic (9am-4pm)

March 17, 24,31,2020 (Every Tuesday) Waste Food Not Hunger (10:30 am-2:00 pm)

Both events will be held in the parking lot of The Vibrant City Church 712 Union Ave. Bakersfield, Ca. 93307

For more information on information and events for the 2020 Census efforts in Kern County please visit kern counts.org