In his State of the Urban League Address, NUL President Marc H. Morial observed:
Next month – on Aug. 28 – will be 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, organized in part by our own Whitney M. Young, Jr., and challenged this nation to live up to the founding ideals that were conceived in Philadelphia and engraved in that Liberty Bell.
The events, both good and bad, of 1963, awakened the conscience of this nation and sped up the wheels of progress. I mention these events, not to elicit tears or sadness, but to remind you of both the sacrifices and the progress that have been made over the past 50 years. These events directly led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Thank God, things ain’t what they used to be. As Morial noted:
Fifty years ago, 75% of black adults had not completed high school. Currently, 85% of black adults have a high school education. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more blacks enrolled, and five times as many blacks hold a college degree.
As part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Urban League and The Memorial Foundation will convene Drum Majors for Justice Summit: Redeem the Dream “to celebrate, renew our commitment, and equip young leaders to be drum majors into the future.”
What’s Going On is a mobile web app that curates information about after-school and summer programs in Philadelphia.
While there are a number of databases that aggregate information about out-of-school-time programs, the information is not current. Parents and students are frustrated in their efforts to find safe, productive activities. The demand for academic enrichment programs will increase in the wake of the “doomsday” budget approved by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
In addition to the school budget crisis, Philadelphia’s digital divide is a chasm. Nearly half of Philly households do not have access to the Internet. So, many parents and students will search for safe and productive out-of-school-time activities at the public library or Keyspot public computer center. While Internet access is free, there is a time limit. Philadelphians on the wrong side of the digital divide are not free to sit there as long as it takes to find a program.
What’s Going On is at the intersection of technology, education and civic engagement. Program providers, parents and community members are invited to submit a program. The information is verified before the program is added to Wikidelphia, Philly’s local wiki.
In recognition of our efforts to promote civic engagement, the What’s Going On team has been invited to the White House to participate in the Champions of Change event which will highlight “extraordinary leaders in transformative civic hacking and civic engagement.”
The invitation reads:
On July 23, White House officials will participate in a discussion with these Champions to learn more about extraordinary individuals who are taking innovative approaches to engage citizens and communities in the practice of open government, civic participation, and civic hacking.
As a longtime champion of civic engagement, it’s an honor to be included in the mix.
To get involved with What’s Going On, contact us via email or send us a tweet.
A new report by the Brookings Institution found that STEM is, well, everywhere. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.
Some key findings:
Workers in STEM fields play a direct role in driving economic growth. And it’s not just jobs in the innovation economy. As of 2011, 26 million U.S. jobs require a high level of knowledge in any one STEM field. The “hidden” STEM economy represents 20 percent of all jobs.
Half of all STEM jobs are available to workers without a four-year college degree, and these jobs pay $53,000 on average.
Half of all STEM jobs are in manufacturing, health care, or construction industries.
Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations constitute 12 percent of all STEM jobs, one of the largest occupational categories. Other blue-collar or technical jobs in fields such as construction and production also frequently demand STEM knowledge.
A new Gallup poll found that Americans want the U.S. to focus on developing domestic energy sources. In every region of the country, solar is the alternative energy source of choice. Seventy-six percent of all Americans want more emphasis on solar power. Randall Nixon of Nixon’s Farm is on it.
I interviewed the self-described “Ivy League redneck” in a 19th century Pennsylvania-style bank barn situated on the 163-acre farm purchased by his parents, Roosevelt and Mildred Nixon, in 1956. His parents’ contemporaries laughed and called the purchase “Nick’s Folly.” Randy is having the last laugh. He has entered into a lease agreement with BITHENERGY Inc., a black-owned innovative energy solutions company, to develop the largest privately-owned solar farm in Maryland.
Randy told me:
This is an opportunity to connect up people, to broker relationships, and to get cash moving that will empower the family to hold on to the land while generating wealth for their progeny. For once in history, we’re holding the cards.
The Nixon Farm Solar Project is arguably one of the most significant transformational events in Howard County’s history. Not only will this be the largest solar array in Howard County but it will also lead the way for a radical transformation and rethinking of the energy dynamics and renewable energy possibilities for the County.
The company is planning to build a solar array that will produce enough power for up to 2,000 homes at the historic Nixon’s Farm on Route 32. We partnered with BITHENERGY and BITHGROUP Technologies to amend zoning and facilitate other approvals to make this project a reality. BITHENERGY is showing leadership and vision, designing a project which will save agricultural land from development and produce renewable power.
Back in the day, Nixon’s Farm was “a play farm,” the Glenwood Country Club whose motto was “Keep the faith, baby.”
Over the years, there were some financial setbacks. But Randy kept faith that he would find a way to save the farm:
The energy revolution is providing opportunities for African Americans to restore the land that they’ve been holding onto in the hopes that it would somehow become productive; that it would no longer be a family burden. For once, we’re not at a disadvantage; don’t have to beg for a loan. We’re always looking for cash. The biggest issue we have is access to capital.
This is the beginning of what’s going to happen – solar, wind, geothermal. Environmentalists want to save the land. Entrepreneurs also want to save the land… Entrepreneurship helps pay for environmentalism. They can work together. Cash can save the environment. It’s called capitalism. Adam Smith was right.
Construction on the solar project will begin in June. In the meantime, Randy is looking for investors interested in creating a cooperative for African-American-owned farmland dedicated to alternative energy sources. For more information, contact Randy via email.