Every spring, Iranians around the globe join with family and friends to invite the coming of a New Year or Nowruz. Nowruz is the first day of spring, historically rooted in Zoroastrianism but celebrated by Iranians of all religious persuasions as well as Afghans, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Azerbaijanis, Kurds, and many others.
The celebrations on and around Nowruz are rich with symbolism. They invite a spring cleaning, a reflection on the past year, and the wish for a better year to come; and they are marked by a time of family, community, and renewal.
This year’s Nowruz comes at a moment of deep distress for our communities here and abroad. There have been increased human rights concerns in Iran and a severe mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran exacerbated by years of sanctions. Threats of war and discrimination in the U.S. have been followed by ongoing efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus in New York City and across the country.
This Nowruz also happens to be during the 2020 decennial census. Many of our families came to the U.S. for better lives and opportunity, have given back to our communities in tremendous ways, and for various reasons may have never learned about or completed the census.
So what is the census and why does it matter?
The census is the time when all people in the U.S. can be counted. It determines the amount of money our localities receive for public education, healthcare, housing, roads and bridges, and so much more. It also helps to determine the amount of political representation in Congress for a given community.
Because of the pivotal role the census plays in determining each city’s rightful share of resources and representation, the census has at times over the course of history been subject to political manipulation, and the time leading up to the 2020 Census has been particularly rife with misinformation and disinformation about the census, both of which have generated fear around participation. The census is not only incredibly important, it is also both easy and safe to participate in. Combating fear about participation requires clear and consistent statements of facts, such as: there are NO questions about citizenship or immigration on the census.
It is more important than ever that our communities know they can get counted right at home by completing the census online at my2020census.gov. You can also complete the census over the phone by calling 844-330-2020. There are dedicated phone numbers in 13 languages that you can call to help you complete the form verbally, in addition to a Telecommunications Display Device option and an American Sign Language video guide for the hearing or speech impaired.
Additional resources are available in 59 languages. Some community organizations have even launched a campaign to encourage Iranian community members to write in “Iranian” as their origin/ethnicity.
Though we celebrate Nowruz at a physical distance from our families and loved ones this year, may our renewal begin with seizing our power as a community—one that deserves resources, representation, and recognition. It’s time we got counted.