Internet + Social Change: Building Culturally, Politically and Technologically Connected Communities
On a gloomy Saturday morning, I entered the Behailu Academy on 36th street, tucked neatly beside North Davidson storefronts. I walked into an open space with chart paper plastered across the walls and smiling faces greeting me with markers. I was instructed to create a name tag and record a message on their Technology Timeline. The theme of the day was connected communities.
The room, small and unassuming, filled with construction paper drawings and musical instruments shared by students of the Behailu Academy, would only take about ten seconds to cross front to back. But first, I’d have to stop and talk to all the familiar faces in there. Instead I took the first seat I spotted around the circle. Change agents in the room represented environmental sustainability, social justice and labor rights groups to name a few.
Throughout the day, I was pushed to think about my role in technology as it represents social and economic equality in Charlotte. At the end of the day, I would be able to offer my skills to drive the technology movement, connect with people at the forefront of social justice and be driven to action. Not your typical saturday workshop event.
I enjoyed the spectrum mapping exercise, during which a participant on Twitter describes the group as “Wonderfully intergenerational”
A panel discussion followed, featuring Brandi Collins or ColorofChange.org, Steven Renderos of the Center for Media Justice, Coworker.org’s Michelle Miller and Bryan Mercer of the Media Mobilizing Project.
The panel was followed by lunch in small group conversations. I dined with a group centered on economic justice. Issues around the wage gap dominated our conversation and how technology could more efficiently address those issues with more forward-thinking solutions. We were then asked to create a vision for our 2026 connected community
Why does this matter? Why are you reading about this when you clearly have an internet connection?
“the internet is not a replacement for offline organizing”- Brandi Collins
This group is intentionally taking back control of their message and driving the community to action to harness technology to level the playing field for the unheard. The group’s next course of action, led by Amalia Deloney, of the Media Democracy Fund, will be to present the Tree of Community Knowledge created at Saturday’s event, to City leadership at the February City Council Meeting public forum. Charlotte, are you ready to move forward? You can get involved by emailing Amalia Deloney at amalia [at] mediademocracyfund.org.
By Christine Edwards