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Reclaiming what’s rightfully ours: community leaders discuss the mental state of Black Tulare County

By Christopher Washington

On April 30, The African-American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) hosted the second town hall meeting to discuss methods to count African Americans in the 2020 Census equally, with an emphasis on guest perspectives, stats, and health.

Local celebrity host of the Ken McCoy Entertainment Report, Ken McCoy, and local historian and census information specialist, Gregory Melancon continued to moderate the panel discussion.

“It is so important that we are counted because we lose $20,000 per person every year when we are not counted in the census,” said Melancon, “the biggest problem is that we do not have the information. We really didn’t understand how important the census really is.”

Ms. Kelly Baker is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Certified Trauma-Informed Yoga Instructor, and owner of the Onyx Trauma Healing Center, a mental health and wellness group practice in Hanford, CA.

Social work and health administrator expert Grady Dodson said, “If you had issues with filing for Medi-Cal insurance, section 8 housing, or any other type of aid programs, that is one hundred percent connected to the Census and the count itself.”

Dodson continued, “Where the numbers are, is exactly where the money flows.”

The Senior Pastor of New Life Ministries of Tulare County, Bishop Larry M. Dodson Sr. discussed the problem of lack of communication.

“There is a disconnect in our black communities, and there has been in Tulare County," said Bishop Dodson. "Information doesn’t flow from the top all the way down. But to the credit of the county administration of the mental health department, we in this particular department have bridged the gap.”

Dodson, Sr. continued, “We are about building bridges. We are building bridges between African American people and low-income people to understand what is available to them.”

The panelists were asked to share some actionable insights. Baker touched heavily on being involved in our local education.

“We don’t always hold schools accountable for how they spend their funding. And the LCAP process was created for us to be more involved in the stakeholder process.”

Baker elaborated that Title 1 funding is for students who need additional support based on standardized testing. The LCAP is how schools are funded in entirety, including programs, safety, and more.

“If you simply show up, you don’t have to say anything,” said Dodson who also mentioned that all board meetings require is for residents to show up and ask questions about budgets, which holds people accountable.

“The difference between a movement and a moment is a sacrifice,” Dodson said. “Your vote is so powerful, and your vote is so valuable. We want to make sure we get what is rightfully ours.”

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