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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Chiusano: Bringing the census to colorful, creative life

Credit: Patchogue Complete Count Coalition

Patchogue community organizer Jen Brady Cotter was trying to think of a way to spread word about the census, the all-important decennial count of all people living in the United States. 

Rather than a dry pamphlet quickly discarded, she and a collection of local groups called the Patchogue Complete Count Coalition landed on a comic book: a colorful eight-page document with both Spanish and English versions released this week and making the rounds on social media. 

“It’s not a pamphlet,” said Cotter, who wrote the script. “It’s a story.”

The narrative, illustrated by artist Anu Annam, follows a bright young girl named Rosita who hears about the census on a visit to the library and convinces her family to begrudgingly attend a meeting about the count. 

“We don’t talk to anyone from the government,” a father-type character says. But he and the rest of the crowd are won over by arguments like how the census underlies funding for food assistance and Medicaid. 

The comic provides information through panels. One balding man at the meeting wonders about counting tenants who have “um, zoning issues.” (“Data on individuals isn’t shared with law enforcement,” the comic says.)

Of course there’s a happy ending: the final panels show the good civic outcomes that come from accurate census data, from the grand opening of a toy store to road work being completed.

Cotter said she volunteered to do the writing and The Greater Patchogue Foundation paid for the art. She said the document is being shared digitally by Long Island groups given the coronavirus’ spread, but might be mailed out in the future. 

“It’s a fun resource to get everybody starting to talk about the census,” she said. For those stuck at home and social distancing, the census is waiting for you: “Why not do it today?”