For a few years, I worked to promote literacy at a library in the City of Monterey Park, which is in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. I don't miss that commute but I do miss the work and grant writing.

I was always astounded, in my research for the grants, at the low literacy rates in the United States. Just think, if it's bad here, what must it be like in Africa?!

Granted, literacy is likely low on the list of priorities when many nations in the continent are struggling with war, poverty, AIDS and disease, unemployment, widespread crime and other troubling problems that people in the United States--by and large--do not have to face.

Still, I can't help believing that the research is right--when literacy levels rise, crime levels fall.

Learning to read, write, speak, comprehend and apply critical analysis to a text is key in helping impoverished nations grow and thrive but how can literacy rates improve in places like Africa where the majority of people can't afford school and books for education?

My research shows that does not have a strong market in this continent. Book suppliers tend to be local and quite honestly, if people in the U.S. complain about buying a $24 hardcover, how must people in Africa feel about it?

All these questions are plaguing me because literacy is an important cause; it's a cause I know I'll support until the day I die. My contributions now have been small (raising $100k in grant writing at my old job, donating to various charities in my spare time) but in the future, once I've made a successful career out of writing and teaching, I'm hoping to use my skills and experience to fuel the literacy rates in developing nations.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1.) Research shows that in various African nations, broadband services are either slow or non-existent. Desktop computer usage is also low but there is hope! The research uses South Africa as an example: "While there are only 4.5 million web users there are 43 million mobile phones (80% of the population), a $2.4 billion market dominated by carriers Vodacom and MTN and manufacturers Nokia and Samsung." Broadband access is improving because cellphone usage has increased quite a bit in Africa and will continue to do so in the future.

2.) Given that devices like the Kindle or Sony eReader are relatively expensive, the next option would be to find a way to allow cellphone users in Africa to download content from allover the world such as stories, novels, articles, etc. through their cellphones; the idea being that digital content is often free or much less expensive than the printed content.

3.) There are several programs that offer basic netbooks to children in developing countries. Perhaps basic eReaders are not far behind?

4.) If artists and the publishing industry projected their efforts in the longterm and supported the digital age--developing nations would be greatly impacted. Information could be shared faster, freely (or close to free), and furiously. Literacy rates would begin to rise. As a result, I'm sure the walls of censorship in certain places would also take a hit, brick by brick.

This is my dream as an artist, to see literacy rates rise and watch the chains of those who have been denied the right to read fall and hope for their freedom through the sharing of art.

Imagine how many artists would be born, would rise out of this digital age in developing nations. Just take a moment to imagine.
scififanatic: (Dandelion)
( May. 19th, 2008 03:31 pm)
There comes a time when I just need to shut down my head and open up my heart, put down the fork and eat joyously with my fingers, take off my walking shoes and run on the sand, release the string and let the kite truly fly.

The boundaries I lock myself into can be frightening to unfasten but I'm reaching for the lock. I am the key.
scififanatic: (Heart)
( Feb. 16th, 2008 05:35 pm)
I had a conversation not long ago with my best friend, Charyl. What we were talking about, I can't exactly remember but I remember saying something like, "...because average women like us..." and that's where the conversation took a weird turn.

I've known Charyl since high school so there's not much I can't say to her, which is why the words came out with such ease. It wasn't an insult. In fact, I don't even think I gave what I was saying much thought (another thing you can do with a best friend--speak before thinking).

Before I could make my point, she abruptly interrupted me and said, "I'm not average. There's nothing average about me."

Her tone was the first clue. I had insulted her or hurt her feelings unintentionally.

"I didn't mean it that way," I sort of backpedaled. The weird thing is I had used that phrase before when referring to she and I or our entire circle of friends but at some point, Charyl had decided that she was not average and didn't want to be referred to in such general terms.

Since that conversation, I've thought about the word and how distasteful it really is. So many times, women think of themselves as not looking good enough as the models in magazines. We say things like, "the average women doesn't look like that!" without thinking that what we really mean is "stars/models/etc. look beautiful and the rest of us are just ordinary...average!"

This label isn't solely reserved for women. There's the Average Joe, the average person, the average size, the average salary, the average height, etc.

It seems to me that average is the place where so many people want to be, in a place of a middle where the expected happens. I guess it's not that different from people who say things like "normal." While I do think that there's nothing wrong with being normal in the sense that a person should strive for balance in life--peace, love, helpfulness, honesty, etc., I tend to take up my best friend's perspective. I don't want to be average. I'm not average and its taken me some time to learn that there's nothing wrong with that.
scififanatic: (purple flower--black woman)
( Dec. 11th, 2007 08:55 pm)
I have a big problem with these. It is particularly difficult for a person with no or very little publishing credits to write a concise yet meaningful bio. I say meaningful because the bios are supposed to summarize the writer's work and not the writer's interests because no one cares that I like to crochet in my spare time!

This brings me back to the dilemma: How does a person write a bio and summarize her writing history when she has no good credits to start with?!

Ugh. I say we banish ALL bios. It's all meaningless unless there's a good story behind it.


scififanatic: (Default)


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