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VOICES Another Perspective

Blacks Surge Overcome Race Based Digital Divide

By Dr. Leon D. Finney Jr. T

“The end is reconciliation; the end is redemp- tion; the end is creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

he term digital divide was first used in the 1990s referring to the gap between those who have access to information technology com- munication and those who do not. A rehash of the often retold story of the haves versus have not’s. The data then showed that blacks were on the side of the have not’s as whites dominated the use of the new information technology. In less than two decades major efforts were engaged to overcome the apparent race and poverty based gap. The first effort was in public schools, where comput- ers were introduced to grammar and high school students. Author Janaye Ingram’s “African Americans and the Digital Divide” argued that school based programs have measurably helped to close the gap, though still is not enough total- ly eradicate the disparity.

Rev. Dr. Leon Finney

technology) during the Civil Rights era between 1955 and 1964. The 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the use of mass media introduced the world to the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement and capturing the brutal and violent images of white racist police beating Black demonstrators with billy clubs, attacking them with police dogs and water powered fire hoses. It was through the new technology of television that the Civil Rights Movement gained support for the campaign for social justice. Media's influence over the out- come of the Civil Rights move- ment can be partially attributable to the new technology of that day. Between 1950 and 1968, home tel- evision jumped from 9 percent to 94.6 percent. The new technology of the 21st century is social media and its focus is increasingly direct-

In the real world to become proficient in infor- mation technology and social media; individual time on task is crucial. One needs to spend hours upon hours at the computer. Aaron Smith, a Pew Foundation research specialist notes, black stu- dents are about as likely as white students to go online-but white students are much more likely to do so at home, while minority students are much more likely to rely on access at school or public libraries. In response to this challenge and while serving as Chairman of the Chicago State University Board of Trustees; the Board authorized the issuance of free ipads to every incoming freshman student to use at school and home.

By 2009 the gap separating African-American households from white households had grown to 20.1 according to the Pew Research Center not- ing, “It is not a coincidence that the citizens who are on the other side of the digital divide are the ones who cannot afford a computer, or who access the Internet using their smart phones out of necessity, rather than choice are the same cit- izens who on the other side of the racial wealth gap. Wealth is a direct factor in determining the level of digital access you are able to purchase.” To understand the impact a new technology can have on American life one needs only to be reminded of the influence of television (new

ed towards addressing economic disparities. The challenge is to overcome the wealth gap between the haves and the have not's. Dr. King often preached that he believed that it was God's intention that everyone should have the physical and spiritual necessities of life. In Dr. King's view, an economic system that withheld the necessities of life from the masses heaping luxu- ries on the few was condemnable. Dr. King fought to bridge the gap between the poor (99 percent) and the wealthy (1 percent). In yester- year, marches, civil disobedience and even riots were expressions of discontent among the have not's but now people are fighting back with a new weapon information technology and social media. Thus the surge! These days the first thing unemployed Blacks are asked is “Do You Blog?” This question is a search for knowledge about tens of different social media platforms and networking sites from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the list goes on. As unemployed Blacks search for jobs they have surged ahead of whites in using the Internet, 53 to 47 percent respectively. However their lack of wealth con- tinues to causes a lag in home based computer accessibility delaying proficiency.

According to a January 2012 report by the Minority Media and Technology Council, the creation of Dr. King’s Digital Beloved Community is and will be for the fore seeable future the agenda for Blacks in America. Noting the Internet has emerged as the most powerful tool for mass communication. Without unneces- sary restrictions, the Internet has the potential to do what no other communications service has been able to do before-to close the digital divide, based on race, income, wealth, geography, edu- cation and age. Digital equal opportunity is the principle that no person should experience a dis- parate impact from lack of access to or produc- tive use of the Internet. NOW RUN AND TELL THAT!



I t is official! The

Smithsonian National Museum of


American History and Culture on the National Mall will be about Blacks, designed by Blacks and the construction managed by Blacks.

This $500 million

project will be totally unlike the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monument which was

Harry C. Alford

manipulated and profited by behind the scenes white interests. I am so proud I get “choked up” every time I dwell on the beau- tiful process. Let’s first look at the Design/Architectural Team.

The Lead

Designer is David Adjaye. This brother is a native of Tanzania and now lives in London. He is arguably the best major designer in the world. His portfolio is full of popular buildings from around the world. Some of the work includes the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, Norway, and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management in Russia. Mr. Adjaye is giving the muse- um a classic Yoruba (West African) design. They picked one of the best through a com- petitive process and he happens to be one of us.

Next is the Architect of Record. That dis- tinction belongs to Philip Freelon, CEO of the Freelon Group - a Black architectural firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Some of the projects the firm has performed are the Center for Civil & Human Rights, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture and the Museum of the African Diaspora. The other principal in the Design/Architectural component of the project is Max Bond who worked with the firm of Davis Brody Bond. Unfortunately, Max Bond died of cancer shortly after receiving the award. However, his firm continues to be active in the major under- taking.

The above reality is proof positive that the age old tradition of architecture and design that began with the erection of the pyramids (which still stand today) contin- ues on as a fine African tradition.


couldn't take it away from us and we just keep getting stronger. Now, let's look at the Construction Management side. Here, too, we find actu- al bona fide and qualified African American participation.

The Sherman R. Smoot

Construction Co. is one of the three partners on the Construction Management Team. Smoot is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio with satellite offices in several locations

A National Project Filled with Black Pride

throughout the nation. Another partner is the H.J. Russell & Company based in Atlanta, Georgia with various offices throughout the nation. These two Black and family owned giants are teaming up Clark Construction, based in Bethesda, MD. This isn’t “window dress-

ing”. These two firms have put up the bonds for the proj- ect and bring their financing to it. It is a “real deal” and we should be so proud. The

National Black Chamber of Commerce has had a very positive and enjoyable relation- ship with these two firms and is absolutely confident that Black contractors will get at least their fair share in the building of this giant project provided they bring their “A” game to the competitive table. They will! The engineering, contracting, sub-con- tracting opportunities for the project are immense and transparent. Interested up and running businesses should go to this web- site:

This web-

site is established for this project and there is a very sincere effort to include small businesses including minority owned firms who are bona fide and qualified. There will be no “fronting” like on the Dr. King mon- ument. This is the biggest single project in terms of Black participation. That is fitting in that the subject matter is our history. The funding for the project will be pro- vided via 50% from the federal government (secured by President George W. Bush) and 50% by private donations.

That is where

we come in. I encourage all of you to become Charter Members of the National museum of African American History and Culture. Membership levels are: $25, $40, $100, $250 and $1,000. Please go to: or email for a membership form at Please give and spread the word to all your friends. Special thanks and recognition should go to the Honorable John Lewis (D - Georgia). Congressman Lewis was the “Most Valuable Player” in getting this project accepted and funded. He was there at the beginning and he drove it to the finish line with daily devotion and commitment. His proud face was a beautiful sight as he held a shovel at the Official Groundbreaking on Feb. 22. The NBCC is so thankful for his successful efforts that we plan to formally recognize him for that devotion. You know, we ought to build a statue of him right in front of the museum.

Our children and grandchildren will read about this powerful fact of Black business acumen taking place day to day. They will see our legacy and fill their “chests” with pride. God is great!

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