Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hey Harlem, Nayer Here

I left Harlem in '98. As a third generation Harlemite, my soul, on a daily basis, reminds me where home is. Her art, the people, the hope on the streets are still a source of joy in my life. Her parties, politics, accomplishments and beat make Harlem's magic reach me all the way to Arizona. The problems, the solutions, the possibilities, though I'm not there, are still important to me.

I left so many people I deeply love in Harlem.

My brother, Albert Davis, has with the creation of the Harlem Blogosphere given me a back door into the hood.

So, though I have not even visited Harlem, or New York for that matter where I lived for 25 years, I'm taking advantage of this space to get back to addressing the issues that I believe will make Harlem, my homeland, free to be the place of dreams my grandparents came to in the 1920's from Daytona Beach, FL.

I'm talking computerization, the environment, education, health empowerment, community safety, spirit, prosperity, beauty, etc.

So let's start with my main problem with Harlem when I left. A total lack of computerization in the 90's.

Back in '98 Harlem didn't even have one computer super store, and the folks in charge were not going to let one come in, as they demonstrated in the Dis-Empowerment Zone meetings. Not only was there not a computer super store, I'd walked down 125th & 145th Streets and not see one PC in a business or a window.

Members of the 'in charge' team had their own agenda. Even Al Gore came to the Apollo to tell us that though we won the designation for the marketing term "Empowerment Zone," our businesses would not be getting a penny.

The computer training my friends and I were doing at Minisink Townhouse was shut down without warning, computers taken away, and poverty pimps closed ranks, though they were ever so nice about it.

What to do to get more folks on computers in Harlem? Help someone become computer literate or cyber enabled. If you know someone who is not yet computer literate, or are a person who I helped train with the cost of passing the training onto at least two other people, I've posted the training notes HOW TO COMPUTE updated for Windows XP and Word 2003.

Instead of (or in addition to) buying the multi-hundred dollar pair of SNEAKERS, buy a computer and programs. Set up a Technology Club at the bank (or stash savings)to stay on the cutting edge in the same way you set up a Christmas Club.

For example, I'm getting into video on the web and the extra change I had stashed came in handy when I needed a video camera and Adobe Premiere. I have my first few pieces posted on my book page. Technology changes fast, and even personal computers are becoming obsolete.

Key to fixing the problem of a lack of adequate computerization is to computerize. So let's see where we are.

  1. Did Harlem ever get a computer super store? (Staples, bless their hearts, is not a computer super store. Consider a web search for "Staples" "Harlem")
  2. Did Harlem ever re-establish an effective, free, community based training for computers and other technology?
  3. Are the politicians and business folks adequately computerized?
  4. Are the senior centers and independent seniors adequately computerized?
  5. Are the community boards adequately computerized?
  6. What's the computer/student ratio in the schools and how are the children using them?
  7. Are the residents getting skills to set up on line businesses to supplement other income, share their art, reunite with family, research passions, worship and pray, build stronger multi-generational bridges, etc?
  8. What do the people see, feel, hear, taste and smell when they consider a computerized Harlem?
  9. If the level of the ocean rose quickly, as what happened during Tsunami '04 and Katrina '05, or the projected impact of global warming on coastal cities (the ice caps are melting in chunks the size of small states), how could computers be used to help folks get out alive?
I pray the answers are yes, Harlem is now adequately computerized, because computers have information folks can use to save their lives in this, the Information Age.

Like many, I watched in horror last year as Katrina come into NOLA. Harlem is a low-lying area at the edge of the ocean at the beginning of global warming, like NOLA. I noticed, among the folks caught in Katrina, not one lap top.

Web access provided supporting documentation to understand the meaning of a storm going from at Cat 2 to a Cat 5 overnight. The cloudy eye was another clue.

During Katrina, people were trapped without a way to find food, water or medical attention. Many were re-united with family and friends on line. Tearful stories.

Katrina my ass. Those without the information and the means were left to suffer. Even though the government acted like they did not know the folks were there, they did, and did nothing.

Information helps folks take care of themselves. Lack of information can leave one stranded at the Superdome (or on Sugar Hill) chanting "HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!"

If a Katrina style storm happens in New York, and it can, Harlem folks should be pretty certain that the rescue helicopters will not be on 110th, 125th or 145th Streets. They will be at Wall Street and Midtown...maybe the Upper East Side.

Consider 9/11. While the government was telling folks that the dust from the WTC was not toxic and that it stayed in lower Manhattan, information on the web painted an entirely different picture. As I read about paper from the exploded World Trade Center buildings reaching Long Island (yes, they were exploded, see Loose Change, Second Edition) I asked, 'if a piece of paper traveled that far, how far did the toxic dust travel? Where did it land? OMG!!!!!!!! "

I'm still concerned about how much of the toxic dust reached Harlem (and throughout the tri-state area), and what will be the health consequences to her under-insured population. Did anybody ever test for the toxic material from the WTC in Harlem? Did it land on the buildings and streets? Was in inhaled, eaten and drank as dust on the food? Did any of the asbestos in the buildings land in the curtains, furniture and clothes uptown? What are the health effects of breathing both treated sewer air from the 5 open sewers and WTC dust?

Computers have their limitations. When 9/11 happened I emailed Clinton, Schumer and others about my concerns. They had policies in place where they don't answer emails from folks not in their district. They said to contact my senators, Kyl and McCain. Both offices told me there was no problem according to the EPA and I should mind my own business. So I put up a site, with a lot of help from World Trade Center Volunteer Albert Davis on the subject.

Second hand information in the information age is the new slavery. With computer access and skills, I find information way before the traditional broadcast and cable media can fit the story into their show line, if they think it's worth mentioning.

Those of us who are computerized have a sacred knowledge that it's imperative that we share. We never know where the next great idea, or salvation piece, will come from.

Please post your thoughts on the subject.

Happy Computing.

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