By Brandi Collins, Center for Media Justice
“Our goal as we gather here this week and beyond is to start the process of developing a new national and multi-regional generation of social justice advocates connected to this shared vision of Internet freedom – we are building a coalition of digital literate civil rights leaders.”
amalia deloney, Center for Media Justice – 2011 Knowledge Exchange
Representatives from several social justice and community-based organizations across the country are in Washington D.C. for the 2011 Knowledge Exchange. These leaders are putting their heads together and digging into the issues of Internet freedom and mobile communications. For some organizations Internet freedom and mobile communication issues are ones that they instinctively recognized as being deeply connected to their work and the communities they serve.
But for many community-based organizations, and people in general, this is a radically new conversation. Many people are used to thinking of “essential” social justice issues being issues such as education, food, and housing. On the other hand, technology, Internet, Broadband and mobile phones are viewed negatively and seen as luxuries as opposed to necessities or tools for building power.
But the reality is that we live in a world increasingly dependent on Internet broadband, and mobile communications. Beyond a means to connect with loved ones or contact people in case of emergencies, it’s how people pay bills, apply and respond to jobs, access critical information, dispense important information. It’s incorporated into every aspect of human life – 87% percent of blacks and Latinos own a cell phone as of 2010, and nearly two thirds of blacks and Latinos are wireless Internet users.
It’s also a powerful tool for advocating change.
Recent political uprisings, the use of mobile technology in Tunisia and Egypt, and the attempted shutdown of such technology by governments prompted the United Nations to declare Internet access a “human right.” The UN further called the Internet “one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies.”
Though media access and Internet freedom for all remains a struggle and human rights issue, with advancements in technology we have also been presented with an amazing opportunity. Social justice advocates are able to galvanize within and across their respective regions in the United States. We’re able to come together and develop messaging that embodies a shared vision and collective movement that ultimately moves all of our struggles forward. The information we capture in this week’s Knowledge Exchange will add to a blueprint for creating and forwarding an exciting new vision in social justice movement building.