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Census bingo game launched in Sonoma

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When Angie Sanchez, community engagement manager at La Luz Center in Sonoma, was thinking of ways to engage Latinos for the upcoming 2020 Census, she didn’t want to just create another presentation about the importance of the nationwide population survey – so she came up with something more unique. She created an educational game, called the “Censoteria.”

The game, which consists of 20 boards and 54 playing cards, is modeled after the traditional Mexican bingo game “Loteria,” which is often played in Latino communities during the holidays. Sanchez created the “Censoteria” to be played bilingually in Spanish and English.

“The Censoteria will play a critical role in census outreach in the Valley,” Sanchez said.

In her version of the game, each loteria card is printed with an image on the front related to the census and voter engagement. The backside of the boards are printed with educational information for the player. For example, she used the design of a megaphone to highlight “the campaign” to educate residents about the census.

The game is being used as a way to engage the Latino community in participating in the 2020 Census count and to demonstrate the significance of being counted.

The idea for the “Censoteria” came to Sanchez last April. She wanted to teach people about the census in a manner that was creative, fun and educational.

“I didn’t want to just do a PowerPoint presentation,” she said.

The project was funded by the Latino Community Foundation (LCF) of San Francisco. In the wake of the 2017 North Bay wildfires, LCF worked with La Luz Center and the North Bay Organizing Project in order to support undocumented residents impacted by the fires.

Those organizations later brought together a collective of local nonprofit partners to create and promote the “Censoteria” game throughout Sonoma County. Among those with which La Luz is collaborating include the Community Health Initiative of Napa County, Latino Community Foundation, KBBF 89.1 FM, Raices Collective, On the Move, UpValley Family Center, Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center and Movimiento Cultural de La Unión Indígena.

“It was a collective effort,” said Christian Arana, policy director of Latino Community Foundation.

Sanchez partnered with a design firm based in Oakland to create the Censoteria icons for the game. She took inspiration from Latino culture to create the cards, for example choosing to print the cards in colors that are used for papel picado, a Mexican folk art using tissue paper.

At a recent event hosted by La Luz Center, the “Censoteria” game was introduced to the partnering organizations, whose members strategized on how to implement the game in their communities and other ways Censoteria could be used to encourage Latinos to participate in the census.

The game has garnered so much interest that they are considering distributing it throughout California.

The importance of participation in the census can’t be understated, say La Luz officials. The population totals from the 2020 Census will determine how $115 billion in federal funds will be distributed. Funding will support programs like CalFresh, a service that according to La Luz Center, is used by more than 40 percent of Latinos in Sonoma County. They want people to know that every person counts, no matter their immigration status. And, perhaps more importantly, that census information won’t be used to identify undocumented residents. Arana notes how they are not only preparing for the census but the upcoming elections as well – registering voters and informing people of their closest polling location.

“The resources accessed by the census will have an important impact on Napa and Sonoma counties,” he said. “Our participation this year will determine the next decade of the region.”

La Luz Center is also focusing its efforts on reaching typically undercounted populations, such as homeless and elderly residents by collaborating with local organizations like Sonoma Overnight Support and Vintage House senior center to host events.

They want to normalize the census for all Sonoma Valley residents, including children.

“We plan on engaging both students and families,” said Juan Hernandez, executive director of La Luz Center.

Beginning in January of next year, La Luz hopes to stage pop-up census events in local schools to educate families.

The center also hopes to reach younger populations through social media and by hosting events like “Taco Tuesday” and happy hours. They are also using traditional media, collaborating with KBBF 89.1 FM to promote “Censoteria” events. Their goal is to make community members aware of how important the census is.

While census advocates hope the “Censoteria” will get more people to participate, they’re fully aware of concerns about confidentiality.

“We have a lot of families who are afraid to participate in the census because they don’t know if their information will be shared,” said Sanchez. “We were telling people not to open their doors (during 2017 fears about ICE raids) and now we are asking them to do that.”

Another challenge is the fact that for the first time in history, the census survey can be completed online. This could be an issue for people who don’t have access to computers or the internet, said Sanchez. They intend to counter this by setting up “census action” kiosks so that people have access to computers and in-person support. They will also be out in the community, conducting outreach and helping residents complete their census surveys on tablets.

Arana explained how they are largely using education to fight barriers that may arise.

“If people can understand that being counted is directly tied with money that goes to the community, like paying for more doctors and nurses. They will want to support it more,” he said. “Participating in the census is a constitutional right all people have.”

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