N.J. Chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Meet at the State House
On May 23, 2019, approximately 100 members from various New Jersey chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. gathered for Delta Day at the State House (DDSH) in Trenton. This annual event supports one of the organization’s five point programmatic thrusts, political awareness and involvement. Members were updated on legislative initiatives and political issues of concern, discussed advocacy, and were addressed by members of the Legislature.
Delta Sigma Theta’s New Jersey Social Action Coordinator Patricia Williamson welcomed members and reviewed the day’s activities. Rev. Deborah Stapleton, Chair of the National Nominating Committee, also offered greetings and led attendees in prayer.
The day was divided into multiple sessions that addressed a variety of relevant topics. The first session titled Census 2020: Why Is it Important? was facilitated by Williamson and Assemblywoman and sorority member Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, who represents the 15th Legislative District. It was explained that the Census, a constitutionally required count of every person living in the U.S. conducted every 10 years, requires a complete and accurate count for communities to receive proper federal funding and political representation.
More than $700 billion dollars in federal dollars is given to state and local governments. New Jersey receives approximately $17.5 billion. Money is allocated for community development, workforce development, infrastructure/roads, Pell Grants/TAG and more. The Census is also used to determine where to put new schools, hospitals, homes, offices and stores. However, the proper funds are not allocated if there is no indication the people are there. This is why every person must be counted. Reynolds-Jackson and Williams pointed out that there are hard to count (HTC) populations that may not complete the Census, which will adversely impact the federal dollars their communities receive.
Reynolds-Jackson and Williamson explained that a HTC population is one in which 73% or more of a community has a high non-response rate on a census. Almost a quarter of New Jersey’s population falls into this category. This includes low-income residents, people of color, immigrants, and the homeless. These communities have the highest poverty rates and quite possibly, may not submit their Census questionnaires due to language difficulties, lack of trust in the government, or lack of understanding of why the Census is important and how it connects to dollars that impact their communities. Attendees gasped upon hearing that African-Americans are second to only Native Americans in being undercounted. Communities in New Jersey with the largest black populations in HTC areas include Newark, Jersey City, East Orange, Irvington, Paterson, Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth, Atlantic City, Plainfield, and New Brunswick.
Although there are HTC areas in 18 of 21 counties, Williamson pointed out that 17 of those counties have a Delta chapter servicing their area. As such, these chapters have work to do. Chapter members were encouraged to communicate to the community how the Census will be taken.
1. 80% of the population will receive a unique ID link to complete the Census online via the internet.
2. New for 2020, people will be able to complete the Census via telephone where it will be translated into 12 languages.
3. The traditional paper format will still be an option and is translated into 59 languages.
4. The census enumerator will physically go to homes if options 1-3 are not utilized.
Sorority members were encouraged to start or join Complete Count Committees (CCC). These are local people who act as census ambassadors for an area. They help ensure an accurate 2020 Census count through maximizing participation and response rates. They gain valuable knowledge about the census process at the local level and develop a plan to impart that knowledge to every household. The Central Jersey Alumnae Chapter is a CCC. Members were also asked to write their legislators to request that they advocate for additional state funding for census outreach (bills A5056 and S3478), which will allocate $9 million ($1.00/resident) to this cause.
The second session, Redistricting: Advocacy in Action, was facilitated by Jacquelyn Chapman member of the Morristown Alumnae Chapter. She emphasized the connection between redistricting, the Census, and elections. Chapman explained that redistricting is the process of redrawing boundaries for U.S. Congressional districts and state legislative districts every 10 years following the decennial Census.
“We want a fair distribution of federal funding, as it is critical for programs and services at the local level and distribution of political power at all levels of government,” Chapman said. She further explained that redistricting affects political power because how and where districts lines are drawn may determine who gets elected and who makes decisions about our communities. It also affects economic power relative to the allocation of federal funds.
Throughout the day, various legislators visited, introduced themselves and their platform and offered words of encouragement. They are noted below in the order in which they addressed the membership:
* Assemblywoman Linda Carter (District 22); Vice Chair – Law & Public Safety;
* Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and Deputy Majority Leader (District 11); Chair – Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee
* Assemblywoman Joann Downey and also the Parliamentarian (District 11) Chair – Human Services; was a primary sponsor on A10 on Medical Marijuana
* Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter (District 35); Vice Chair – State and Local Government
* Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey and Deputy Speaker (District 27) Chair – Education
* Assemblywoman Britnee D. Timberlake – (District 34) – sits on Science, Innovation and Technology; Education; and Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity. She took the time to speak against a proposed $160M bond to build three additional youth prisons with one planned location being across the street from a school. She commented that we have youth who make poor decisions, but other youth who also make poor decisions get out of their situations due to privilege/affluent means. Timberlake encouraged members to write letters to legislators and to call the Governor demanding that he say no to detention facilities.
* Assemblyman Jamel C. Holley (District 20); Vice Chair – Homeland Security and State Preparedness; he and his Chief of Staff and sorority member Aeisha Heyward, distributed DDSH totes to all attendees and thanked them for their advocacy
* Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly – (District 35); Chair – Housing and Community Development, Co-Chair – Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity
* Senator Ronald L. Rice (28th Legislative District) who also serves as the Chair of the NJ Legislative Black Caucus.
Members experienced a full day of political engagement and left Delta Day at the State House feeling invigorated, prepared, and ready to act.
On May 23, 2019, approximately 100 members from various New Jersey chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. gathered for Delta Day at the State House (DDSH) in Trenton. This annual event supports one of the organization’s five point programmatic thrusts, political awareness and involvement. Members were updated on legislative initiatives and political issues of …