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Bringing the World to Harlem

A new Harlem Renaissance is taking place via the Internet, and Bruce Lincoln, Manager of Community Outreach at TC's Institute for Learning Technologies, is co-director of the project.

The vision statement for the Harlem Renaissance 2001 (HR2K1) Web site reads:

"In 1919, Marcus Garvey said that, ‘We need to produce a premier class of scientists and engineers who can harness the science of capitalism for the economic benefit of those who have most recently been released from bondage.' If Marcus Garvey were alive today, the Black Star Line would be an Internet company, it would be publicly traded and it would have a valuation approaching a billion dollars."

According to Lincoln, the project, done in conjunction with The Abyssinian Development Corporation and several other organizations, builds on efforts begun in 1994 through the Harlem Environmental Access Project (HEAP). "HEAP put the Internet into schools and libraries," Lincoln said. "It was broadened into the Eiffel Project to do this throughout the city."

The Eiffel Project works to improve the educational experience of disadvantaged children by connecting an increasing number of K-12 schools to the Internet in communities of minority and economically disadvantaged families, developing new curricular strategies, and providing professional development for teachers. In addition, as part of the Eiffel Project, ILT has been involved in initiatives that will bring interactive multimedia technologies to schools and community-based organizations (CBOs) in Upper Manhattan and Harlem.

HR2K1 aims to give the Harlem community access to the benefits that new information technologies make possible. There is a need, he said, to get technology into the schools and libraries. "We wanted to begin to support CBOs to gain access to the Internet," he added. "That is where kids and parents go."

To do this, the HR2K1 project leaders put together a three-part strategy consisting of public access technology centers, a distance learning network, and a computer loan program.

Five out of six state-of-the-art public access technology centers are being established at existing community-based organizations. The sixth will be a large community technology center that will serve the entire Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone community.

"When all the centers are up and running, individuals who use the centers can apply for a home computer with Internet access free of charge," Lincoln noted. The computer loan program will place 50 computers in the homes of people who frequent the center and who live in the local housing projects. Subsidized financing is available if there is a need.

The third phase of the project is to provide educational opportunities to those using the computers. A distance learning network, done in collaboration with Horizon Live Distance Learning provides basic access to e-mail, office productivity software, the World Wide Web and desktop videoconferencing, as well as an integrated multimedia distance learning system through the Internet.

One program available through the distance learning environment is the Employment Channel. "Users can use this to find job opportunities," Lincoln said. "If they want to get a job, they can find out what it takes to get that job and see where their skills are and what they need to do to develop the skills necessary to get that job." Classes, seminars, and training sessions led by remote instructors will be accessible through this environment.

Another program, which was developed by Bryan Carter, a Virtual Reality Instructor from the University of Missouri at Columbia, is Virtual Harlem. This environment gives the user the experience of going back in time to the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance in 1927. Professor Carter will also teach an online Internet-based curriculum through this virtual reality environment.

Some of the goals the project is designed to achieve are, first, to increase the ability of members of the Harlem community to access a computer on a daily basis for free by the year 2001. As more members of the Harlem community use the computers and the Internet-based services, the project will document the figures showing that increased access to computers leads to more people using computers for specific personal use. Third, the project leaders hope to show that public access to computers and the Internet increase the likelihood of individuals purchasing home computer systems.

Harlem has historically been plagued by a number of social ills-economic hardship along with a lack of educational opportunities, jobs and adequate health services. These limitations often lead to higher incidences of crime, drug use, family dissolution and community instability. "These are some of the factors that contribute to the lack of technology in the community," Lincoln said.

The project is looking to close that widening gap created by socioeconomic status and access to technology.previous page