The Freedom Rings Partnership, a $25 million federally-funded initiative led by the Urban Affairs Coalition and the City of Philadelphia, with Drexel University as a major partner, officially launched on Monday, January 17 at the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service at Girard College.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has praised the project and its alignment with Dr. King’s vision.
“The computer is your passport not only to the future, but to knowing what’s going on around you,” said Mayor Nutter. “This is what freedom is all about. It’s about access.”
The Freedom Rings Partnership is made up of grassroots organizations, government, and universities that will bring Internet access, training and technology to residents in low-income communities. This multi-year initiative officially kicked off on January 17, by sponsoring the signature project of the MLK Day of Service – refurbishing used computers to be distributed back into the community, assembling digital literacy kits, and hosting a high-tech scavenger hunt called “Race to Connect.”
“The goal of the Freedom Rings Partnership is to help eliminate the digital divide by enhancing and expanding underserved communities’ knowledge of and access to the Internet so they can acquire information about employment, education, health, and community and economic development, said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition. “This project will open doors, enhance lives and create access and job opportunities through technology.”
The Freedom Rings Partnership will reach over 100,000 Philadelphians with information about the importance of broadband to their daily lives; provide hands-on training to 15,000 people at over 130 locations citywide, including 77 public computer centers; and distribute 5,000 “netbooks” to public housing residents who complete technology skills training. Public Computer Centers (PCC) will be located across Philadelphia, primarily in north, south and west Philadelphia. Locations will include a variety of recreation centers, health and social service organizations, workforce development agencies, and nonprofits. In addition, 4 mobile computer labs will travel throughout the city to provide training and Internet access to underserved communities.
Freedom Rings Partnership MLK Day Event Activities
More than one hundred volunteers from Non-Profit Technology Resources and Digital Service Fellows’ (DSF) AmeriCorps Program refurbished used computers, which will be donated to organizations in need throughout the city for Internet access and computer training.
Race to Connect
A fun-filled team event that ties together the legacy of Dr. King with the importance of getting connected via the Internet. The race was a scavenger hunt where 5 teams completed a mini service activity that brought them to 14 stops in the Girard College area. Teams were asked to conduct a volunteer activity or answer a trivia question related to Dr. King or the civil rights movement. They Tweeted their progress in the race at each stop. Volunteers were from the YouthBuild Charter School and Core Scholars.
Digital Access Kits
Volunteers from AT&T assembled thousands of digital literacy information packets to be distributed citywide.
Social media and digital inclusion is an important focus of this year’s King Day of Service. Freedom Rings Partnership and Drexel University have developed a free King Day of Service iPhone application—PhillyKingDay.
Website and Hotline
Throughout the length of the project, information on the activities of the Freedom Rings Partnership are available to the public through the City’s Philly311 Hotline, by calling the Freedom Rings Hotline at 215-851-1990, or by visiting www.FreedomRingsPartnership.com.