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Unpacking the Census

Examining Intersectional Realities of Race, Class, Education & Jurisdiction

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Seven years ago, Hope in the Cities, in collaboration with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, began a public process to educate citizens about how resource-restricted communities have been historically shaped within metropolitan Richmond and to mobilize multi-faceted community support for action to change these conditions.

Unpacking the Census: The New Realities of Race, Economics, and Jurisdiction is a project conceived, researched and designed by Dr. John V. Moeser, a 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. A DVD version of his presentation, accompanied by facilitated dialogue, has reached more than 700 people in the central region of Virginia through more than 40 presentations. A diverse facilitation team has developed to unpack the census publicly and includes members from local faith-based organizations, advocacy groups as well as educators, small business owners, and government employees.

The project was first announced at a Virginia Commonwealth University forum in 2011 during which Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones also launched an Anti-Poverty Commission to develop racial equity strategies in the sectors of employment, education, transportation, and health.

The release of the 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 in the U.S.

Exciting efforts are being made by countless citizens volunteering their energy and time to address the consequences of our unequal systems, but there has been a real reluctance on the part of government officials to publicly create spaces to learn more transparently about the conditions enabling these systems. The conceptual approach of the Unpacking the 2010 Census project is unique because it highlights how history is constructed by those who possess access to critical resources, legislation, and decision-making platforms. By unearthing the mechanisms producing unequal relations of power, the project focuses on how Richmond can take collective action to challenge structural racism and remove the barriers experienced by resource-restricted communities.  

As 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.” Subsequently, Mayor Jones, addressed the May 2012 convocation where many were galvanized to greater action, stating,“you will be the community that advocates for the ideas (of the Commission) to become reality.”


Check out these resources below on Unpacking the Census:

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

  • Unpacking the Census presentation

Intoduction - Part 1

The data - Part 2

History - Part 3

Intervention - Part 4


Watch the Unpacking the Census video where Hope in the Cities facilitators share their experiences using regional census data to raise community awareness of the historical impact of policy decisions on the dynamics of race, class, and jurisdiction. Facilitators also propose suggestions for future actions to better address resource suppression affecting marginalized communities.


Phase II of the Unpacking the 2010 Census project leverages the awareness raised about the intersectional realities of race, class, education, transportation and jurisdiction in metropolitan Richmond by developing the following actions:

  • Development of an informational launch event and an ongoing series of public presentations and forums

  • Distribution of the DVD presentation and follow-up dialogue guide to engaged audiences across Virginia, the U.S. and globe for local contextualization and replication

  • Inclusion of grassroots individuals and organizations as critical decision makers in each of the Commission’s sub-committees exploring best racial equity practices in housing, education, transportation, employment, and urban planning

  • Creation of a collaborative network of nonprofit representatives working in a two-day strategy session to consider the best application of the Commission's recommendations

  • Persistent dialogue with key stakeholders to consider policy options and initiatives to generate equal practices in resource mobilization and distribution


Special thanks to the Community Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation America Healing Project for financial support of this project. We also recognize with gratitude the support of the VCU Division of Community Engagement for hosting the public forums.