The Black Family Technology Project

From 1998 - 2000, your MSK host, Sheila D. Gatling had the privilege of serving as one of the coordinators of the Black Family Technology Awareness Project in Nassau County.

Keenly aware of the need to educate low- income community parents in Nassau County about the importance and benefits of technological literacy for themselves and their children, Ms. Gatling was one of four project coordinators who obtained funding for and conducted the successful regional Black Family Technology Awareness Project (BFTAP).

About BFTAP:
The Black Family Technology Awareness Project was established as a 2-year community collaborative public awareness campaign to kindle technology enthusiasm within the local Nassau County, Long Island minority community. The BFTAP coordinators conducted public awareness events within the Long Island minority community (High Tech Sundays, Family Tech Nights) at "non-traditional" sites as described above (e.g. community churches, youth centers, workforce training centers, day care centers, senior citizens centers, and schools, etc.) that would make ideal public ACCESS POINTS for the Internet.

BFTAP was jointly coordinated by Sheila D. Gatling (Teacher, Amityville Public Schools), Kenneth Johnson (Computer Consultant), Alicia Evans (Publicist, Total Image Communications), Rev. Joseph D. Jenkins (Minister, Bethel AME Church), and Gina M. Stevens (Management Consultant, GRS Associates), with Miss Shelley's Upward Prep School serving as fiscal sponsor (a Long Island based, school-linked child care and family support program serving low- and middle- income minority families).

Planning for the project commences when the team first met in mid-1998 to discuss a Vanderbilt University study published in Science Magazine in April 1998. This study found white students use the Web far more than Black students, even when income differences were taken into account. The differences in Net use were most pronounced among students who did not have their own home computers. White students without their own PCs were more than three times as likely to have gone online within a week of being surveyed than their black counterparts, the study says.

The gap was underscored by findings that 73% of white students own their own home computers, compared with only 32% of Blacks. This difference remained even after income differences between the two groups were accounted for, the authors said. "The policy implication is obvious," the authors wrote, "to insure the participation of all African Americans in the information revolution, it is critical to improve educational opportunities for African Americans."

The study's results add fuel to the fears of a growing divide between high-tech haves and have-nots. "The consequences… of a persistent racial divide on the Internet may be severe. If a significant segment of our society is denied equal access to the Internet, US firms will lack the technological skills to remain competitive."

The study concluded that "It is important to create ACCESS POINTS for African-Americans in community schools, community centers, senior citizen centers, churches, libraries, and other non-traditional places where individuals may access the Internet, and to encourage and support use at these locations."

The objectives of the BFTAP were to conduct a minimum of 6 public awareness events at non-traditional Internet access points using the established collaborative to kindle enthusiasm for technology in the Roosevelt community.

  • acquire (or develop) a Roosevelt community organization database
  • send project introduction letters to all agencies in the database soliciting host sites for the public awareness events
  • have attendees complete the Technology Survey.
  • solicit a sponsor ($500-$1,000) to cover the cost incentives: product give-aways for all attendees and to cover the cost of computer to be given away via random blind drawing to an attendee completing the survey.

The kick-off for the Black Family Technology Awareness Project consisted of two major FREE events: High Tech Sunday on Sunday, February 21, 1999 from 1:00-3:00pm at Bethel AME Church and Family Tech Night on February 25, 1999 from 7:00-9:00pm at Miss Shelley's Upward Prep School (West Campus). During both events attendees were treated to seminars, workshops, demonstrations and product give-aways facilitated by minority information technology/computer professionals including:

  • why Black families MUST become computer literate and
    purchase computers for their home
  • how to purchase a computer
  • what is the internet and how do I get on it
  • Y2K Preparedness
  • careers in computers/information technology
  • using the internet for work, play, and school
  • how Senior Citizens can benefit from owning a computer
  • website design and development
  • technology training opportunities
  • improving and Increasing Computer Technology/internet accessibility in our Community
  • developing and utilizing effective Computer Learning Centers in community agencies and churches, etc.

Over 500 families participated in BFTAP activities at churches, day care and youth centers, employment training centers, and schools over the duration of the 2-year project. This successful project served as a regional model in community collaboration bringing together the support from numerous supporters including $10,000 in direct grant funding from Chase Manhattan Bank and Federal Dept of Justice Weed and Seed funding from Roosevelt Assistance Corp. (as the major benefactors).

  • AHA Communications (Noted African-American Website Developers: Harlem Week)
  • Black Data Processing Associates of NYC
  • Bethel AME Church
  • Nassau County - Office of Minority Affairs
  • Community Journal
  • CMP Media
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Nassau Alumnae Chapter)
  • Miss Shelley's Upward Prep School
  • Newsday
  • Roosevelt Public Schools
  • Yahoo Magazine
  • and the project coordinators.