Bridging the Digital Divide Through Net Neutrality- FREE THE INTERNET!!

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Without a free internet, there would be no DIVAS for Social Justice. Period. Without a free internet I would not have a job. We would not exit. Almost 10 years ago, just shy of finishing graduate school, I co-founded a grassroots organization to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities. We had no investors, seed money or grant funding interested in DIVAS but we had the skills to create multimedia based projects and knew that we could utilize Web 2.0 applications that were available to us for free we could build DIVAS for Social Justice. We used applications like wordpress and still do to build and maintain our. We set up our first email account through gmail. Our newsletters were designed using mailchimp. We uploaded all of our video content using youtube and bliptv. All of these tools were accessible to us and led to the success of our organization. Because we were given the opportunity as young social entrepreneurs to showcase our potential we were able to secure funding and provide free STEAM based programming in Central Brooklyn and Southeast Queens.

The value of free internet tools is undeniable. While building DIVAS for Social Justice I worked as a facilitator and taught media literacy. I saw how Web 2.0 skills helped us grow the organization so I would train youth in creating student portfolio websites using free technology. It was two fold. I would get them excited about learning web design and show them immediate results since WordPress provided free templates to design with. The website would also serve as a portfolio site for the students to share with future employers and college recruiters. When a student would complete their site and go home and work on it more and show me their progress outside of the program I’d done my job. Building the sites would be the catalyst for our children to see themselves as the “makers”, not just the “users” of technology. That opportunity is in danger and being challenged by taking away net neutrality. Net Neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

The FCC will vote on December 14, 2017 to allow the destruction of net neutrality and allow online discrimination .According to an article published by Free Press.net here are seven steps you can take to save the internet:

1. Sign up to volunteer with Team Internet, a grassroots group of connected Net Neutrality supporters run by Demand Progress, Fight for the Future and Free Press Action Fund. It takes five minutes to sign up for a special volunteer text-team shift to message other open-internet supporters about the news and invite them to take action. Get texting from the comfort of your own home!

2. Call Congress and tell your lawmakers to save Net Neutrality. We need to do all we can to get as many members of Congress as possible to speak out against FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut the open internet. But we’re hearing from lawmakers who are on the fence that they need to hear from more constituents in order to act on this. Make their phones ring off the hook.

3. Attend a protest at a Verizon store near you on Dec 7. On that day — exactly a week before the FCC votes on Pai’s terrible plan — internet users will gather to highlight Verizon’s role in locking down and controlling our internet. (Did we mention Pai used to work for Verizon?)

4. Don’t see a protest near you? Set one up! It’s easy, fun and we’ll support you every step of the way by providing you with training, tools, recruitment … even signs!

5. If you’re on the East Coast, save the date and join us for a big Net Neutrality rally in Washington, D.C., on Dec 14, the day the FCC will vote on Pai’s plan. This event is organized by the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition — 18 Million Rising, the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Free Press Action Fund and the National Hispanic Media Coalition — which fights to protect the digital rights of communities of color.

6. Tell your friends! Send them to organizations like Free Press Action Fund, Center for Media Justice, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future and Color Of Change, which will give them everything they need to take action right now. Find all of these organizations on social and post using #NetNeutrality and #TeamInternet.

7. Don’t have time for any of that but still want to help? Donate! Every little bit helps, and at Free Press Action Fund, a generous donor will match every dollar you give by Dec. 31.

While Chairman Pai has been busy meeting with greedy industry lobbyists and executives, he shouldn’t ignore the tens of millions of people who are joining together to reject his Net Neutrality-killing plan.

People in almost every state across the country have been meeting with hundreds of lawmakers and their staffers, mobilizing people in their communities and speaking out on behalf of the open internet.

We know that Net Neutrality is essential to sharing and accessing information on absolutely everything, and it can even provide a crucial connection to life-saving conversations.

“As someone with social-anxiety disorder and depression, I rely on the internet for socialization and support,” wrote Heather from West Lafayette, Indiana, in a comment to the FCC. “I need a place to find people who share my struggles. I need a place to build a support network. I need a place to share my writing. Don’t ruin my freedom of speech (and my life) by getting rid of Net Neutrality.”

“As a small-business owner who does virtually all my business online,” wrote Tracy from Indianapolis, “ending Net Neutrality would kill my business.”

Check out what thousands of people have to say on why the open internet is essential to their everyday lives, work, businesses, family connections and activism.

For vulnerable communities, this moment is especially urgent. Net Neutrality makes the internet a place where people of color and religious minorities can organize for liberation while countering false narratives and harmful stereotypes.

Our message to Pai and companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon is clear: People everywhere will not sit idly by as you destroy the free and open internet.

Help ensure that our future technologists have access to the internet not based on their economic privilege but as a human right towards economic justice.

 

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Clarisa James
Clarisa James is the Co-Founder/Executive Director of DIVAS (Digital Interactive Visual Arts Sciences) for Social Justice. For the past seven years DIVAS has provided free or sliding scale technology training to youth in underserved communities in Central Brooklyn and Southeast Queens. Ms. James has been dedicated to youth development work for the past 15years in the roles of Teaching Artist, After School Director, Curriculum Specialist and artist. Her life's work encompasses empowering youth in underserved communities to use technology for social change and think critically about the issues that are affecting them most. For the past seven years Ms. James has facilitated workshops that help youth develop multimedia projects around environmental justice, housing, leadership development and reproductive justice. Ms. James holds an MFA in Integrated Media Arts from Hunter College's Film & Media Department. In addition to DIVAS for Social Justice, Ms. James currently serves on the advisory board of the Children’s Cabinet, Office of the Deputy Mayor Strategic Policy Initiatives at City Hall. Clarisa James is full of gratitude to her parents for providing such a wonderful upbringing and having the foresight to move into the community of Laurelton in the early 1970's. Clarisa is proud to be a daughter of Laurelton.

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