"We cannot be hidden," says the Colombian Venezuelan actor and activist who just launched the campaign #BeCounted through his organization Harness, which targets communities that are undercounted in the U.S. census.

Neither rain, nor shine, not even the COVID-19 pandemic can stop Wilmer Valderrama and his fellow activists on their quest for a successful and inclusive 2020 census.

The Colombian American and his colleagues America Ferrera and Ryan Piers Williams and their organization Harness have just launched the initiative #BeCounted, a quest for social change which targets communities that are undercounted in the U.S. census, currently underway across the nation.

"Censuses are critical for the representation of our communities, especially for those funds allocated to hospitals, education, street repairing, and other services we need," the star, of Colombian Venezuelan descent, tells People en Español. "All generations of Latinos [and] Latinx, Arab Americans, Asian Americans ... all of them have to be represented," explains the 40 year-old, who recently got engaged to the model Amanda Pacheco.

Harness BeCounted
Credit: Courtesy Sunshine Sachs

The anti-immigration rhetoric that permeates certain communities and certain circles of power should not be a deterrent to participate: "There are many definitions in our grandparents' heads of what a census means," says the actor, who has been working as an activist for more than two decades. "But they need to know that there are no citizenship questions, no questions of that type, and [that] all our information will be kept private for the next 70 years. Nobody will have access to it."

"We cannot be hidden," Valderrama underlines. "For decades we have been told that we are hosts in our own home. But we haven't just arrived: We have fought in the wars, we are doctors, lawyers, we are everything! And it is very important that we are counted."

"I have traveled all across America and I have seen many of our communities," Valderrama continues with passion. "I see my dad, my mom, and my little sisters in all of them. This country has given us so much. It has given us the American Dream. It is important to protect that dream. ... In these two decades as an activist I have seen the spirit of our community awaken in a way that is undeniable."

About Harness:

Harness’s vision and mission are rooted in the beginnings of the organization — a simple house meeting held by America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama, and Ryan Piers Williams after the 2016 presidential election. They work to shift current dominant narratives about social issues by bringing grassroots leaders that work with communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and Muslims — as well as broader issues of racial equality — to the table with pop culture leaders and influencers to learn how they can change narratives together. This is accomplished through salons, retreats, and events featuring community partners, as well as specialized programming for entertainment, business, and technology industries, content creation, and strategic partnerships with media partners.