MALDEF and Voto Latino Build Momentum for 2010 Census

March 11, 2010

Rosario Dawson and Wilmer Valderrama join the launch of an interactive, multimedia campaign targeting Los Angeles Latinos

LOS ANGELES, CA – Young California Latinos will be able to act as viral marketers, encouraging their friends to participate in the U.S. Census, as part of a multimedia campaign that includes an interactive mobile application, MALDEF and Voto Latino, partners in the project, announced today.

Students from the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex Center joined community leaders and celebrity and activist Rosario Dawson to learn more about this innovative partnership to promote the 2010 Census and the web and mobile applications in place to spread the word. The partnership combines Voto Latino’s award-winning web platform and peer-to-peer mobile campaigns, and MALDEF’s trusted brand and longtime service to the community to employ a multi-platform grassroots, mobile, and web campaign to reach Latinos of all ages. The partnership is made possible by the California Community Foundation (CCF) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“Everyone counts in the census and using partnerships to reach young people by communicating with them in ways they are most comfortable is necessary to getting an accurate count,” said CCF President and CEO Antonia Hernández. “If young people understand how important it is to participate in the census, they will urge their families to get involved as well. An accurate count is vital because it will mean more resources for the neediest people in our community.”

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said, “Because being counted in the Census is so critical to all Latinos and to the communities in which they live, MALDEF is grateful for its strong partners – including the California Community Foundation, Voto Latino, Eva Longoria Parker, and so many others – in working to reach all residents of our nation. The dedication of these partners is testament to their dedication and to the singular importance of having all Latinos be counted.”

The project was a winner in the second Knight Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million contest that helps community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged.

“This innovative project will provide accurate, instant and bilingual information about the importance of participating in the Census, and target Latino youth to take an online pledge to be counted,” said Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation’s vice president for communities, who leads the challenge. “As a result, they will have the opportunity to become virtual 2010 Census recruiters by tapping others in their social networks to do the same.”

School-based organizing forms the core of the partnership. MALDEF and Voto Latino are visiting high schools in hard-to-count areas of Los Angeles County during the month of March to inform students about the importance of the Census and provide them with new media tools to empower themselves and their families.

“Studies show that Latino youth display leadership qualities within their households – they help make household decisions, translate for their parents, and help them navigate American life,” said Voto Latino Executive Director Maria Teresa Kumar. "Thus in jointly targeting Latinos across all generations, Voto Latino and MALDEF can have a ripple effect in empowering not just our core youth audience but indeed the entire community.”

While at schools, MALDEF and Voto Latino will: 1) present educational information about the Census, 2) jointly distribute 25,000 Census-themed iTunes cards that allow recipients to download 25 free songs from major artists such as Pitbull, Mos Def, and Morrissey, and 3) invite students to text “LA” to 738674 in order to participate in Voto Latino's “Text 2 Represent” campaign and download Voto Latino's first-ever mobile application built specifically for this initiative.

The mobile application features a fun quiz about Census facts, video content, and a share feature that allows users to forward it to their friends and become viral marketers of pro-Census data. The more the user shares the application, the higher the users' chances are of attending a secret concert to be held in Los Angeles in April.

The news conference culminated in the unveiling of MALDEF’s and Voto Latino's Census video PSAs. MALDEF's !Cuéntate…Porque Tú Vales! (Get Counted… Because You Count!) PSAs will feature famed actresses and civil rights activists, Eva Longoria-Parker and Lupe Ontiveros. Voto Latino will also show their “Be Counted, Represent!” PSAs featuring an all-star ensemble cast, including Rosario Dawson, Luis Gúzman, Demi Lovato (Disney's “Camp Rock” franchise), Ana Ortiz (“Ugly Betty”), Wilmer Valderrama (“That Seventies Show”), Jorge Garcia (“Lost”), and more.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund