Just A Thought...Communications Is Not The Problem
by Rick Adams
AN often cited obstacle on the road to Black unity is often stated as "our failure to communicate" to paraphrase a line from the movie Cool Hand Luke. If those who utter such statements mean that Africans in these United States choose not to communicate or lack the imagination to employ useful dialogue then I can agree with them. However if those who lament "our failure to communicate" believe we lack the means or tools to communicate then they are sadly mistaken.
FIRST of all we have hundreds of major weekly newspapers, monthly magazines, journals, and periodicals. Thousands of community, civic, professional, educational, cultural and religious organizational newsletters are regularly distributed to millions of African Americans.
WE have about 300 Black owned radio stations throughout the country, a handful of television stations, and hundreds of audio and video production facilities. In just about every home in Black America there is a cassette tape recorder and microphone. Increasing numbers of African families in the USA possess a video camera.
BLACK people are rapidly becoming computer literate and Internet savvy. Tens of thousands of college students, and hundreds of thousands of public school age children are being exposed to the world of the computer. Many Black adults use a computer of some type in their work place. E-mail has opened up a new means of cheap, virtually instantaneous worldwide communications. Chat rooms provide real time communications vehicles for thousands. There are hundreds of web pages, web rings, e-mail newsletters, listservers, newspapers, magazines, broadcast and Internet radio stations on the web all sponsored by African people. There are thousands of informal e-mail networks circulating among friends, co-workers, colleagues, and strangers!
AFRICANS of all ages, male and female can be seen chatting away on cell phones. It is becoming the exception to the rule to find an adolescent anywhere who does not have a beeper. You can send now send text over most beepers and cell phones. Have you noticed lately how many homes don't have voice mail? Just about every business and increasing numbers of homes have fax machines today.
SO I put the question to you, is the problem that African people do not have the means to develop better communications? Is the problem we can not afford the means for better communications? The answer to both questions is an emphatic no!
ACCESS to the Internet is indeed predicated on ones economic status and educational attainment. Computer prices, although dropping, are formidable barriers to computer ownership in low-income households. The costs of purchasing software and of subscribing to an Internet provider are prohibitive to many. However the cost factor is not a major impediment to the other forms of communications outlined above.
WHO, in the good old US of A does not own a telephone? I have personally witnessed many times young people, working class adults, residents of public housing communities talking on their cell phones or hurrying to answer a signal from their pager. Evidently prices of equipment and service have dropped enough or personal choice has prevailed to make the ownership of cell phones and pages universal phenomena. Perhaps the relevant questions are why do we have these devices, to whom are we talking and about what?
USING cell phones and pagers to keep tabs on our children, to make contact in an emergency, to remind a love one of an obligation, or to just say I love you are all important uses of the technology. However to gossip about ones neighbors, make ill advised "booty calls", to spread untruths and misinformation, or to make a drug buy are inappropriate uses of the technology.
IMAGINE if more of the conversations African people were engaging in were; reminders to vote, to come to a demonstration against police brutality, to alert someone about an investment opportunity with a Black business, or a call to check on an elderly relative! With e-mail networks, fax trees, autodialers, and voice mail the African community has the capability to notify 95% of all our people within minutes and certainly within 24 hours. An oppressed people, with many life and death issues confronting us daily should be able to fill a city hall with thousands of people, have tens of thousands on a street to protest a wrong, or generate tens of thousands of phone calls, e-mails, letters, and faxes to any fortune 500 corporation within a day.
ALL it takes is the vision, the commitment, cooperation, and willingness to be organized by a people to struggling to be free. Hey it's JUST A THOUGHT...