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100-year-old 'champion of the census' urges neighbors to fill out census forms

Posted at 12:04 PM, Sep 15, 2020

HARLEM, Manhattan — A 100-year-old woman in Harlem is serious about filling out the census. Heading to the streets with a bullhorn this week to celebrate her birthday, Katherine Nelms Nichson bellowed to her neighborhood to fill out the census.

“Be counted in the census," she said at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 135th Street. "Come up off your butt."

The deadline is weeks away. Officials around the country are worried the shortened timeline, impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, will mean fewer responses than normal.

Senator Brian Benjamin of Harlem said it’s not just on Nichson's birthday, but every day she's a political powerhouse.

Julie Menin, the director of NYC Census 2020, said Nichson’s message is especially critical right now because New York City is facing an economic crisis.

As of Friday, New York City had a response rate of 59.3 percent compared to the nationwide rate of 65.7 percent.

The census is a survey required by the U.S. Constitution. It takes just 10 minutes to fill out and can be done online.

Why is it so important? Its results are used to determine how much money municipalities gets from Washington for everything from housing to hospitals, roads, bridges, and schools. It is also used to determine the amount of representation a state has in Congress.

Keith Wright, the leader of the New York County Democrats, hopes Nichson’s energy and enthusiasm will inspire people to just do it.

The census deadline is Sept. 30.

Fill out your census here.

This story originally reported by Monica Morales on