Baltimore Turns to DuBois Institute For Digital Divide Program
Less than two years after officials launched an after school computer academy in Boston in partnership with Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for Afro American Research, Baltimore officials have opened the first of three computer academies, expanding the Harvard-affiliated initiative to the inner city of predominantly Black Baltimore.
The centers, which will be known as the Martin Luther King Jr. After-School Academies, are seen as resources to help bridge the digital divide for African American school kids and to educate them about African and African American history.
The first Martin Luther King Jr. After-School Academy is located at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Outreach Center in the city’s struggling west side, and it serves 60 students in middle and high school. Several Baltimore-based nonprofit organizations sponsor the program. The academy runs from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and is open on Saturdays.
In a newly furnished computer lab on the third floor of the Bethel outreach center, students learn from a computer-based curriculum that uses the Encarta Africana as its central reference. Developed under the direction of Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and colleague Dr. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Encarta Africana is the highly regarded CD-ROM encyclopedia that charts Black history from 4 million B.C. to the present day. In addition to the Black history lessons, academy participants learn a range of computer skills, from handling spreadsheets to creating computer graphics.
Gates attended the academy’s launching in early March along with Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley. “With this program, we’ll take our people not ‘back to the future’ but ‘Black to the future,’ ” Gates told the Baltimore Sun during a news conference highlighting the academy’s opening.
Gates added that the King after-school program would provide children a safe place to study outside their school. The partners in Bethel’s after-school program include the Family League of Baltimore, which donated $87,000, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which has provided $69,000. Baltimore city spokesman Tony White said the city received $85,000 in state and federal grants, and it contributed $36,000 for the Encarta Africana software.
City officials say they plan to use the software at as many as 100 additional locations across Baltimore, which include libraries, schools and recreational centers.
The DuBois Institute is part of the Afro-American studies department of Harvard. Since 1991, when Gates became chair of the Afro-American studies department, the DuBois Institute has benefited from the fundraising campaigns led by Gates to endow the institute and the department.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com