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7567: Census results (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Increase in multi-race census figures follows Haitian campaign to be counted


A thin fraction of South Florida's population -- about 3 percent -- called 
itself multiracial in the 2000 Census. But in a few pockets of Miami-Dade 
and Broward counties, the percentage skyrocketed.

In two Fort Lauderdale tracts, between 15 and 17 percent of the people 
marked more than one race; and in two Miami tracts, the numbers were even 
higher: 20 and 30 percent.

These four tracts have one thing in common, which may explain the surge: 
They are in Haitian communities where activists participated in a national 
push to have Haitians mark two boxes: ``black'' and ``other.''

In the blank space below ``other,'' they were urged to write ``Haitian.''

The campaign was propelled by a widely held belief among South Florida's 
Haitian leaders that their numbers have been grossly undercounted in the 
past, and by anger over the Census Bureau's refusal to include ``Haitian'' 
as a separate ethnic category on the most widely distributed census form.

``We don't want to be classified only as black. Something has to be done to 
represent those blacks from the Caribbean as well as from Africa,'' said 
Jean-Robert Lafortune, president of the Miami-based Haitian American Grass 
Roots Coalition. ``By putting Haitian on the census form it's like we're 
sending a message to the bureau that there is a dire need for a Haitian 
classification in the future.''

More Haitians identified by the census can mean increased funding for 
Haitian communities and greater political clout, said Lafortune and others.

Haitians were able to mark ``black'' and ``other'' in 2000 because, for the 
first time, the census allowed people to choose more than one race. Seven 
million people did exactly that.

Census Bureau officials said that both boxes were tallied by the computer 
regardless of the fact that Haitian is not a race.

``It's just like if that person checked black and Asian. That person would 
be multiracial,'' said Jesse McKinnon, a statistician and demographer with 
the Census Bureau.

In the four tracts where multiracial percentages soared, the categories 
``black'' and ``other'' were by far the most popular.


The Fort Lauderdale tracts lie next to each other along Sunrise Boulevard, 
between Northeast Ninth Avenue and Flagler Drive -- in the heart of 
Broward's Haitian community. Seventy-first Street bisects the neighboring 
Miami tracts, which sit just east of I-95 in the heart of Little Haiti.

Ninety-four percent of the nearly 4,500 multiracial people in those four 
tracts chose ``black,'' and 92 percent of them chose ``other.'' The 
remaining racial categories reaped far smaller percentages.

``I want for the Haitian community to be identified,'' said Lyvie Fatal, 36, 
a health coordinator counselor for the Haitian American Community 
Association of Dade, who checked ``black'' and then wrote ``Haitian'' next 
to ``other.''

``Most of us did that because we want to be included and identified.''

Haitian groups secured grant funding from the Census Bureau after testifying 
before the bureau's congressional committee in 1998 about the need for 
increased census education.

The push was prompted by a study published by Florida International 
University professor Alex Stepick, which argued that between 25 and 50 
percent of Haitians in Miami-Dade were uncounted in the 1990 census.

``This became a national issue for us,'' Lafortune said.

Six months before the Census Bureau distributed its form, Lafortune and 
Haitian activists from Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and parts 
of New York and New Jersey began encouraging Haitians to fill out the census 
form, and specifically, the two boxes.

``We know that by putting Haitian, the community will benefit somehow,'' 
said Henry Frank, executive director of the Haitian Centers Council in 
Brooklyn, where an estimated 450,000 Haitians live.

In Orlando, Edwige Romulus, chairman of the Haitian American Support Group 
of Central Florida, sounded out the message to ``put Haitian'' from his two 
radio programs.

In Broward and Miami-Dade, activists spread the message via radio, churches, 
adult education schools, and by handing out audio and video tapes in Creole.

In late March 2000, 200 Haitian families gathered in the Toussaint 
Louverture Community School in Little Haiti, where Lafortune and others 
explained that the census could help combat problems in their community be 
increasing funding for ailing schools and services.

``Once we explained all of those problems, they became very eager to fill 
out those forms,'' said Lafortune. He estimated that 90 percent of them 
checked ``other'' as well as ``black.''


Marvin Dejean of the Haitian Community Center in Fort Lauderdale is 
encouraged by the high percentage of multiracial statistics in the two 
tracts where his office is located.

Multiracial, to him, means Haitian.

``There would be no reason for them to check anything other than black. The 
only explanation would be that they put black and then put their country of 
origin, like we kept telling them,'' said Dejean, senior vice president of 
economic development and marketing for the center.

``We're just throwing a monkey wrench into the idea of people being 
categorized between black and white,'' he added. ``I rely incredibly on 
census tract information. So if I have a census tract that tells people to 
just sign off as black and I don't capture ethnicity or country of origin, 
I'm pretty much dead in the water.''

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