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December 20, 2014

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Fraternity promoting awareness of census among minorities

Beyond the Sun

The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity has teamed up with the United States Census Bureau to raise awareness among minorities about the importance of participating in the 2010 count.

The fraternity and bureau held a news conference at the Las Vegas Hilton on Saturday as part of the fraternity’s annual leadership conference.

“Our goal is to partner with the Census and educate the African-American community about the importance of the count,” said Warren Lee Jr., the international president of the fraternity.

“We know there is a special concern about minority group participation, which are traditionally hard to count. Omega men will encourage our friends, colleagues, neighbors and families to make sure they are counted,” Lee said.

The historically black organization has 750 chapters with approximately 20,000 active members. Locally, two chapters are active in Las Vegas and the surrounding area.

“The work right now is in the field preparing our local communities to be counted,” said U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., at the conference.

“It’s important that they (minorities) are counted so that we’ll know who’s in the household,” he said. “But it goes far beyond that. It goes toward federal appropriations, state appropriations and statistical data.”

Dorsey Miller, a former president of the fraternity who served on the minority advisory board to the Census Bureau until last year, said some people don’t understand the role of the Census Bureau and distrust it.

“Many people, especially the many immigrants ... feel that the Census Bureau is tied to the customs office and they don’t see it as a help, but they see it as a tool that’s used to send them back from where they came from.”

Those people still need to be counted, Miller said, because they receive benefits from being included.

“Anything that you can think of where money’s involved, the census is involved. It determines how much money comes in to help in your community and in your state. It controls how much money comes in for education. And so when we hide our numbers, we’re only hurting our communities.”

The partnership between the fraternity and the Census Bureau began in Cleveland, Ohio.

Bureau employee Ben Holbert approached a local chapter there about working together to promote awareness of the importance of being counted. The program quickly spread to the state and was then selected to be one of three focus areas of the national leadership conference.

“The census needs minority organizations to reach minorities,” Holbert said.

“One of the big challenges that the census has currently is that they have to reach populations that don’t necessarily want to be counted,” he said. “So, therefore, they need people to be advocates, and Omega Psi Phi can be an advocate by putting together programs, putting together awareness campaigns and just carrying the message that everyone needs to be counted in the census.”

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