MLK service day to focus on bridging the digital divide

Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy students show off their part of a civil-rights mural.
Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy students show off their part of a civil-rights mural.
Posted: January 06, 2011

The new civil-rights movement involves bridging the gap in technology, something that will be the major theme of this month's 16th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, organizers said yesterday.

Social media and digital inclusion will be the focus of this year's event, which is expected to draw a record 75,000 volunteers to more than 1,200 community-service projects on Jan. 17, the 25th anniversary of the King federal holiday.

"If Dr. King were here today he would see that 41 percent of all Philadelphians don't have any access to the Internet," Todd Bernstein, founder and director of the event, said at a news conference yesterday at Girard College. "[King] would see the digital divide which has shuttered out many, particularly people of color and from lower-income communities."

Bernstein added that the digital realm is the gateway to lifesaving information including employment and educational opportunities, and it promotes civic engagement.

Among the many service projects, volunteers will refurbish used computers to donate to organizations in need throughout the city. They'll also assemble digital-access kits and provide workshops and training at Girard College.

"This has been said in the past, but it really is a day on and not a day off," said Mayor Nutter. "It is an incredible opportunity to do something yourself in your community."

Also yesterday, Nutter presented the Fire Department with the 13th annual King Day of Service Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award for its outstanding service.

The Urban Affairs Coalition is accepting donated computers for the refurbishing project at Girard College. Computers must be from 2001 or newer and be Pentium 4/Apple G4 or better. Donated computers can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service in City Hall, Room 112. For more information call 215-686-0317.

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