NCNW Announces Initiative to Increase Broadband Access In Rural Mississippi
Also Donates $10,000 to Tornado Relief in Humphreys Co., Miss.
Washington, D.C., June 22, 2023 – Today, the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) announced a strategic initiative to increase broadband and internet connectivity in 22 rural counties across the state of Mississippi, as part of a broader plan to provide holistic support to the citizens of the Magnolia State in their quest for a higher standard of living. Through the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program, NCNW seeks to enroll thousands eligible residents in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides access to broadband and connectivity devices at a low or no cost, based on income eligibility.
“It’s about an investment – an investment in supplies that are needed for families especially for mothers and children, and investment in access through connectivity.” said Shavon Arline-Bradley, NCNW president and CEO. “We’re talking about broadband discrimination and the resources that are needed to support families in their time of need right now. This investment is our opportunity to help connect families. As you know, when you experience disasters, it’s difficult to remain connected to the community. The ACP is an opportunity to help families sustain their healthcare, telehealth, and education. Think about what it means to have affordable connectivity in your homes, and post disaster, it’s extremely important.”
NCNW’s participation in the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program is designed to combat these barriers by providing low or no cost access to broadband in 22 counties in rural Mississippi, reaching over 70 percent of residents by the end of the performance period. As of October 2022, there are 158,000 ACP eligible residents, yet less than 30 percent were enrolled in the program. NCNW will conduct culturally specific program of awareness and engagement, including a community survey, leadership listening session, monthly community of practice sessions, neighborhood canvassing, email, social, radio and cable messages.
Acting on its four-pronged approach to advocating for and empowering women of African descent, NCNW promotes the usage, research and adoption of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) within the Black community. As more evidence presents itself that broadband in the 21st century is a necessity and not a luxury, it is also clear that federal assistance is vital. In modern society, citizens use the internet for critical services such as healthcare access, ordering prescriptions, searching for jobs, as seen during the pandemic obtaining secondary and higher education, and maintaining vital social connections, among other uses. As the digital divide continues to persist, those without consistent access to broadband are relegated to a lower quality of life.
“There might have been a time where we thought about broadband as a luxury item, but it’s no longer a luxury item if you think about jobs, if you think about healthcare, if you think about access to education,” said Janice L. Mathis Esq., NCNW general counsel. “When children were not able to go to their classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband became a necessity, which is why we expect to help expand accessibility to that necessity in communities across the state of Mississippi.”
Outreach will be targeted to 22 counties in Mississippi. The Mississippi counties are: Hinds, Jeff Davis, Adams, Kemper, Tunica, Noxubee, Pike, Washington, Yazoo, Jefferson, Wilkinson, Claiborne, Humphreys, Tallahatchie, Quitman, Bolivar, Sharkey, Leflore, Holmes, Coahoma, Sunflower and Issaquena. Each of these counties had a poverty rate ranging from 25.2 to 43.9 percent in 2021.
The targeted counties are in what is called Black Belt, originally named for the color of the rich soil, but also descriptive of the people who inhabit the region. There is research on the profound lack of economic mobility in the Black Belt, and there are myriad reasons that the targeted counties suffer disproportionately from poor health, rural hospital closings, medical provider shortages, poor education outcomes, poverty, and lower life expectancy at birth. In today’s tech-driven society, lack of access to broadband Internet is more than an inconvenience. It is a social determinant of health.
As part of NCNW’s holistic approach to serving the greater Mississippi community, NCNW donated $10,000 in gift cards to Humphreys County Emergency Services to assist with relief efforts after the 2023 tornados that took the lives of several citizens and destroyed necessary infrastructure. While Silver City, Miss., located in Humphreys County, Miss. experienced devastating effects of the tornados, little aid was provided to the small rural community. After in-depth conversations with representatives from the area, NCNW officials, led by Rev. Arline-Bradley, drove from Jackson, Miss. to Humphreys County, Miss. to meet the residents, fellowship with the community, and provide financial relief.
“We chose Silver City [Miss.] because we knew there was a need, and we know that this is a community that has been impacted by the tornado. It is because of our relationship with Mississippi that we knew we had the ability and infrastructure to really make a difference,” said Dr. A. Lois Keith, NCNW national chair. “We have 10 Sections in Mississippi who were all ready and willing to help as soon as the tornadoes touched down. Our presence is strong in the state, and we look forward to continuing to work with citizens to provide the assistance they need the most.”
NCNW has consistently maintained a strong presence in Mississippi. President Emerita Dr. Dorothy Irene Height created the program Wednesdays in Mississippi, implemented to address pressing civil rights issues, encourage political participation, and send much needed aid and materials to community centers.
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ABOUT National Council of Negro Women
NCNW is an “organization of organizations,” comprised of 330 campus and community-based sections and 32 national women’s organizations that enlightens, inspires, and connects more than 2,000,000 women and men. Its mission is to lead, advocate for, and empower women of African descent, their families, and communities. It was founded in 1935 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, an influential educator and activist, and for more than fifty years, the iconic Dr. Dorothy Height was president of NCNW.
Today, the NCNW programs are grounded on a foundation of critical concerns known as “Four for the Future.” It promotes education with a special focus on: science, technology, engineering, and math (STEAM); encourages entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and economic stability; educates women about good health and HIV/AIDS, and promotes civic engagement and advocates for sound public policy and social justice. To learn more, visit www.ncnw.org
|Tonita Perry, APR
|Eaddy Perry & Associates, Inc.