Unpacking the Census

New Realities of Race, Class, and Jurisdiction

A panel discusses both government and grassroots initatives (Photo: Jan Franzon)

Hope in the Cities, in collaboration with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, has begun a public process to educate citizens about the facts of poverty in metropolitan Richmond, Virginia, and to mobilize community support for action.

The Unpacking the Census: The New Realities of Race, Economics, and Jurisdiction is a project conceived, researched and designed by Dr. John V. Moeser, renowned urban planning expert, Senior Fellow at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond, and a member of the Hope in the Cities Council. Now a DVD version of his presentation, accompanied by facilitated dialogue, has reached more than 700 people in the region at more than 40 presentations. The diverse facilitation teams include people from local faith organizations and advocacy groups as well as educators, small business owners, and government employees.

The project was first announced at a March 2011 VCU forum at which Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones also launched his Anti-Poverty Commission to focus on employment, education, transportation, and health.

Now the release of the preliminary report from the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission reveals some of the greatest disparities of income and wealth of any metropolitan region of comparable size.

Training for presenters and facilitators (Photo: Rob Corcoran)

Heroic efforts are being made by countless volunteers to address the consequences of our unequal systems, but up until now there has been no deliberate attempt to educate people on the underlying causes. The new approach of the Unpacking the 2010 Census project is unique in that it highlights the role that history has played in the current situation, and how we all have the power to take action now to address basic structures that would enable Richmond area residents to move out of poverty.

Dr. John Moeser says, “The evaluation of this project provides solid evidence that what we're doing makes a difference in people's knowledge and priorities. What is the purpose of our efforts? It's all about social change on a grand scale.”

Mayor Jones, addressing the May 2012 convocation of many who have been galvanized by these presentations, said “You will be the community that advocates for the ideas (of the Commission) to become reality.”

Phase II of the Unpacking the 2010 Census project will leverage the awareness raised about the new realities of race, class, and jurisdiction in metropolitan Richmond and move us toward personal and collective action.

The second phase:

  1. A  kick off event and further public presentations and forums
  2. Distribution of the DVD and dialogue guide to reach a wider audience
  3. Engagement of grassroots support and energy around each of the Commission’s sub-committees looking at housing, education, transportation, workforce readiness, etc.
  4. Creation of a collaborative network of non-profit representatives and a two-day strategy session to consider the application of the Commission's recommendations
  5. Continued dialogue with key stakeholders to consider policy options and initiatives to address poverty.

It will take an army of convinced citizens to empower our policy makers to take courageous and creative leadership to implement the recommendations of the Anti-Poverty Commission. “I am hopeful because there is a vision,” and “because we are part of the solution,” said one participant at the conclusion of the session. Another remarked, “If I can change then those out there can change!”

Special thanks to the Community Foundation for financial support of this project. Thank you also to the VCU Division of Community Engagement for hosting the public forums and to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation America Healing Project for their sponsorship.  

Read the report from the Unpacking the Census convocation at VCU Student Commons on May 18.

Watch the YouTube video made at the 2012 convocation

Unpacking the Census presentation

Intoduction - Part 1
The data - Part 2
History - Part 3
Intervention - Part 4