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COVID-19 is forcing African-American Central Valley residents to get internet-literate fast

By ONME Newswire

Fresno, CA--From virtual online graduations to Facebook town halls, COVID-19 has forced an undeniable change on everyone--most of the U.S. population is forced to go online using a smartphone or a computer to get access to online news updates and information affecting their lives daily. School are physically closed, but online communication is the new norm for students. Restaurants may still not be open, but curbside is ready for orders--online or by phone calls.

However the digital divide still remains as an issue that eventually needs equitable solutions for African-American and other minority communities who still do not have quality internet access.

Black and Hispanic adults remain less likely than whites to say they own a traditional computer or have high speed internet at home, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in early 2019. However smartphones are playing a role in helping to bridge these differences: About eight-in-ten whites, Blacks and Hispanics own a smartphone, said the research..

Mobile devices play a larger role for black and Hispanic people when it comes to their online access options. Some 25% of Hispanics and 23% of Blacks are “smartphone only” internet users – meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone. By comparison, 12% of whites fall into this category, according to the Pew Research Center.

With 53% of Americans, saying the internet has been essential during the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic has forced African-Americans to become literate in Internet use through their own trial and error to attend virtual classes for their children's schools or virtual local events online or on social media platforms.

The graduation, the funeral service, the community meeting--it's all online

Only time will tell just how well these independent, forced-crash courses are working for African-Americans residing in the Central Valley community; signs of progress are on the horizon as annual, physical events, are forced to become virtual online extravaganzas, such as the upcoming 2020 African-American Recognition Ceremony happening online May 31.

Even after registration was closed, organizers said that students and parents were clamoring to be a part of the online event happening in 19 days; they can't wait to see their graduate featured through the online websites and social media platforms.

The African-American Historical and Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley (AAHCMSJV) has been one of the first African-American organizations to immediately transform their physical events into virtual, online mass events with the grand help of census funding received earlier this year, and their ONME Network partnership to help with the technical aspects of live, online productions; two successful, town halls, which were meant to be physically done in Tulare County, still received a mass online audience, with thousands of viewers from throughout the Central Valley. The organization is doing the same strategy with their upcoming event June 13, 12:00 PM- 4:00 PM, A Virtual Juneteenth Jazz & Blues Exhibit & Concert, featuring jazz & blues artists, Juneteenth history and local Black history excerpts, and video messages from community advocates from throughout the Central Valley.

The AAHCMSJV has been able to easily simulcast their online events through their own social media platform, website and through the ONME News' online platforms and offline TV channels.

The Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce held a successful Virtual Census Drive Friday night through Zoom to reach Facebook viewers in regards to the 2020 Census; they were the first African-American organization in the Central Valley to immediately hold mass Zoom meetings for their membership and for the general Black business owners to deliver important information in regards to accessing emergency loan funds. They are now doing the same with their upcoming 2020 California census events.



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