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Your Nation Is Counting On You

The U.S. Census matters, let us count the ways.

Every ten years, the government takes a snapshot of the people who live in the U.S. When those snapshots are put together, they become a slow-moving movie of a changing nation.

The data determines the shape of election districts, the allocation of state and federal representatives and city council members, and directs some $800 billion in annual federal spend.

To miss even one frame of that movie by undercounting people can impact how communities access the education, health care, financial, and justice services they need and deserve.

When services fall short, it puts increased pressure on the nonprofit sector and their donors to fill the gaps.

In addition to counting people, the bureau conducts ongoing surveys that determine the effectiveness of government programs.

In many cases, census data aids businesses looking for special tax treatment for their work in low-income communities – think lenders and real estate developers.

Federal budget cuts have put this vital effort at risk, says Robert Shapiro, the former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, who worked on the 2000 Census.

In this piece published by The Brookings Institution, he explains how the 2014 budget cuts forced the bureau to eliminate key staff but also abandon tests of essential improvements, like Spanish-language surveys and new ways to count people in rural areas. Recent budget battles have only worsened the readiness of the bureau under the current administration, he says. It’s now a crisis. “It is no surprise that the Government Accountability Office recently designated the 2020 Census as one of a handful of federal programs at “High Risk” of failure.”

This week, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams launched a new nonprofit called Fair Count, which aims to make sure hard-to-count Georgians will be reflected in the census. According to census estimates, some 20 percent of Georgians live in hard-to-count areas and include “minorities,” non-English speakers, and people without access to the internet or permanent addresses.

She’s right to be concerned.

The bureau said it missed more than 1.5 million people in 2010, primarily black, Hispanic, and Native American citizens, along with renters, young men and the elderly. The District of Columbia, Texas, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida were most likely to have undercounted populations.

Now the bureau is looking to Silicon Valley help stave off “fake news” stories and related campaigns that may frighten vulnerable populations and impact their data collection efforts, according to this report from Reuters.

While few details are known about these efforts – chatter from 4chan and other online groups got a shoutout – Reuters says that the bureau has gotten commitments from Twitter, Google, and Facebook to help combat online disinformation campaigns.

So, fingers crossed on that.

In the meantime, individual executives might consider joining the bureau’s Complete Count Committee Program, which creates targeted outreach efforts in communities across the country.

For broader company-wide efforts, check out the Census Partners program, for ideas on how big business can play a role in making sure the populations they touch – employees, customers, vendors, grant recipients, mentees, and related communities can be encouraged to get counted.

According to the Council For A Strong America, a nonpartisan group of five organizations including retired military leaders, the Census Bureau worked with more than 267,000 public and private enterprises during the 2010 count including NASCAR, NBC, Best Buy, Target, 3M, and Walgreens.

Speaking of the Council For A Strong America, they’ve put together a detailed guide on how businesses of all sizes can make a difference. You can check it out here.

And feel free to forward this newsletter to the CEO of your choice – including your favorite tech titan – and ask them how they might help the effort. Tell them raceAhead is counting on them.

On Point

“Us” had the biggest opening weekend for a film led by a black womanThanks to the good people at Shadow and Act, we have more Jordan Peele milestones to celebrate. According to their math (and a tip from a community member), Us had the highest domestic opening weekend gross for a film starring a black woman. The previous winner was Sanaa Lathan, who starred in Alien vPredator, which earned over $38.2 million its first weekend. Click through for the rest of top five, which includes some very bold-faced names.Shadow and Act

Fortune’s #MeToo investigation wins an award
All hail my extraordinary colleagues, Beth Kowitt and Kristen Bellstrom, for their SABEW award-winning investigative story which revealed credible allegations of sexual assault against former Tronc chairman and investor Michael Ferro. The piece outlined accusations from two women, who were brave enough to share their stories while Ferro was still in a position of real influence. It also painted a broad picture of the toxic, bro-centered workplace he’d fostered for years. “He operates under the assumption that women are meant to be looked at, that boys will be boys,” one male employee told them. Ferro retired shortly after the story was published. Much respect to all.

Pachinko slated to be among Apple’s new shows
One of the big winners of Apple’s new content play, announced yesterday, are fans of Pachinko, Min Jin Lee’s New York Times best-selling novel. The property landed at Apple last summer and was slated to be an eight-episode series. The book chronicles four generations of a Korean immigrant family and has all the ingredients that epic sagas must have: forbidden love, generational conflict, world war, loss, and reconciliation. According to insiders, it has one of the biggest budgets of anything Apple has on the docket and will be filmed in Korean, Japanese, and English languages.
Hollywood Reporter

Education chief under fire after announcing cuts to the Special Olympics
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed a budget yesterday that would cut nearly 10 percent, or $7 billion, from the department. Cuts include funding for the Special Olympics and special education state grants. “I believe this budget is cruel, and I believe that it is reckless. I believe that it will hurt the middle class and working, low-income families that most need our help,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on education. The Trump administration’s 2019 budget request eliminated some $12.5 million for the Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with disabilities; earlier in her tenure, DeVos had verbally committed to donate part of her salary to the Special Olympics organization.
Detroit News


On Background

The Bitter Southerner quietly turned six a few months back
It’s good news for the niche literary, member-driven site. The site has published thoughtful commentary from a variety of perspectives on the complex legacy of the U.S. South, nuanced takes that focus on stories of transformation and truth, culture and family, with an aim to address the terrible history that still spurts from censored textbooks. “Still, the tension — the strain between pride and shame, that eternal duality of the Southern thing — remains,” they write. Check out the Folklore Project, a collection of personal essays, and the one that turned me into a fan, a short reverie by Greenville, South Carolina’s Brad Willis. A moment in a candy store and a text about the Charlottesville riot triggered an epiphany. “For all the ways I’d convinced myself that I was too privileged to speak, for all the ways I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t write words that mattered to the most important of causes, for all the ways I’d decided my silence would let others be better heard, I’d gone too far. I’d disengaged.”
The Bitter Southerner

The lesson of Elizabeth Holmes
The true devil in the recent HBO documentary about the entrepreneur behind the now-defunct blood testing start-up, Theranos, is in the details, suggests Tanya Tarr, a writer and consultant who focuses on equal pay, power, and inclusion. While much of public critique is focused on her looks and how she dazzled otherwise serious male investors, the truth is she singled out investors with money, confidence and no health care expertise. This is not the experience of most women founders in the healthcare space, she reports.“The downside to having these kinds of investors is expectations. The investors wanted our companies to grow like a pure tech company or an app, like Twitter. And that’s just not how healthcare works,” one company founder told her. And then there was the embarrassingly homogeneous board – a guaranteed way to insure blind spots.“If a product isn’t particularly useful to a demographic that you aren’t a part of, it’s hard to understand the context in which it isn’t useful,” says another. But the part about managing conflict really got me. Enjoy.

Lupita Nyong’o doesn’t know how to make ugali, and it’s hilarious
I’d run this item shortly after the Academy Award winner drew ire from her fellow Kenyans when she admitted in this charming interview that she didn’t know how to make ugali, a Kenyan national staple made from maize flour. But it seems like now that she’s the creepiest woman on earth, it would be a welcome reminder of her human sweetness. In this short video, she visits her parent’s farm in Kenya for a lesson. “It’s like an abdominal workout!” she declares as she stirs the floury mass over a cookstove. It’s also a dramatic departure from most “let’s go visit the folks of famous people” videos, if you get my drift. Nice work, Vogue.
Vogue on YouTube


The way I look at it, I get to cast black people in my movies. I feel fortunate to be in this position where I can say to Universal, ‘I want to make a $20 million horror movie with a black family.’ And they say yes…I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes, but I’ve seen that movie.
—Jordan Peele