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A catchy way to count Census noses

Post by Kris Sherman / The News Tribune on April 16, 2010 at 10:43 am with No Comments »
April 16, 2010 6:54 pm

It’s a 21st-century young adult twist on an old “Sesame Street” lesson.

A group of rappers and dancers makes counting American noses fun.

Using a catchy beat, lyrics infused with meaning and actors imbued with color, the “Count me in” music video aims to persuade young adults, ethnic minorities and the poor to answer the call of the 2010 census.

The song and video was written and performed by a group of Puget Sound-area young people. It was produced by Musica Entertainment of Seattle with the backing of Musica CEO and radio personality Tony Benton. Pacific Lutheran University graduate student Melannie Cunningham provided some of the inspiration.

Against a refrain of “Cen-sus, cen-sus, cen-sus,” you hear rap wisdom like this:

So you got alotta things on ya wish list

Health care


But it doesn’t stop there

That’s just a fraction of expenses

I always seem to hear

“We want government assistance”

But It all starts here

wit the 2010 census

One of the main rappers in this 4-minute, 46-second video is Roderic Peters, a 20-year-old Pierce College student and music artist who wrote many of the lyrics. Six Keithley Middle School eighth-graders, all members of the group BFL (Best For Last) “jerking crew,” dance in the video.

It can be seen on YouTube. Snippets have been aired locally on radio and TV.

Census Bureau officials are counting on lessons like this to deliver the message that billions of dollars for education, health care, roads and other services will be divvied up according to population.

Their target is the so-called “hard-to-count” populations – largely people of color, poverty and low education.

An analysis of 2000 census data showed that about 14 percent of Washington’s population lived in “hard-to-count areas,” according-to a group called The Census Project.

About 26.5 percent of Pierce County’s 785,600 residents are minorities and about 11.3 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to 2008 estimates from the Census Bureau.

Reaching these groups is important, Census officials say, because knowing where they live can help governments plan where to allocate social services and educational programs.

Peters thinks the local rap video will make a difference.

“I really like the whole song because I know it’s catching the attention of all different people – people of all races,” he said. “It’s almost like another language.”

Cunningham, who’s also a PLU administrator and owns her own public relations firm, enlisted the university for backing and got a small grant from the Census Bureau for the project.

Benton said he created the collaboration and provided the studio and other financial support, including the conceptualization, shooting and editing of the video.

“The point was to promote the Census,” and involve a number of minorities and viewpoints, he said. The singers auditioned for the parts, and a number of rappers worked on the lyrics.

“We wanted to produce a ‘We Are the World’ style song and video,” he said.

“It’s cool, hip, sexy and fun,” Benton said of the result. “And the great thing about it is that we’re finding that people are really learning something.” Before he could write any lyrics, Peters needed to do his own homework, he admitted.

“I knew it was about countin’, but I really didn’t know that results come from it,” he said.

Money targeted at hard-to-count populations because of the census “will really help the young people coming up,” he added.

“Count me in” and other videos – some done with grants, others with volunteer Internet efforts – are important tools in the decennial count of the nation’s population, local Census spokeswoman Cecilia Sorci said.

Eighth-grader ZeAyre Trimmings and his mom, Darlin Johnson, said his work on the video was a civics lesson for each.

“I knew of it, but I didn’t know how important it was,” said Johnson, a juvenile probation officer. “I know I didn’t fill out the one in 2000 because I was ignorant to the whole census thing.”

This year, when the 10-question form came in the mail, 14-year-old ZeAyre made sure it got filled out and mailed back, he said.

So go some of the lyrics:

This is far more than

Just logging and polls

A chance to make a difference

In the country as a whole

So it only makes sense

To do our part to lift the load

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659


The Census Bureau will accept mailed-in questionnaires after today, but the April 16 deadline was set to give officials time to figure out who’s left to count.

They’ll use that knowledge to plot the course for an army of census foot soldiers, who will deploy on a house-to-house mission to count the uncounted beginning May 1. Census officials estimate it will cost $57 per household to do that.

Here’s a look at the percentage of census questionnaires returned as of Thursday.

Nation: 68 percent

Washington: 69 percent

Pierce County: 68 percent

King County: 69 percent

Kitsap County: 71 percent

Mason County: 61 percent

Thurston County: 71 percent

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