The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This week’s blog is from Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson. A life-long community activist, Mayor Jackson is proudly waving the flag for all corners of Savannah. Read on for some questions from the Mayor which will make you stop and think about life’s priorities…
As a young woman coming of age in the 60s, I was a dedicated participant in the Civil Rights Movement. My life was forever changed by this experience. I learned the power of passionate ideals and unwavering commitment to the greater good. Today as Mayor of Savannah, I believe Savannah is again at an historic crossroads, where the choices we make and the actions we take will shape our community’s social and economic prospects far into the future.
We’ve made great progress toward positioning Savannah as a leader in the new economy. From cutting-edge design, to sustainable industry, to advanced technology, we are competing at an international level. Our reputation as a hub for creative and tech innovation only continues to grow.
But despite this, many of our citizens struggle to meet their most basic needs. In a world focused on information, convenience, productivity and entertainment, we face a new kind of challenge: equal access to technology needed to drive our future prosperity.
Recognizing this widening gap, the City of Savannah a few years ago began a program called The Digital Divide. Using a grant from the State, we installed fiber infrastructure along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, then partnered with the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority, the Housing Authority, and Internet service provider Seimitsu to offer low-cost, high-speed Internet access and computer training to citizens and businesses along MLK and Montgomery Street, from Bay to 52nd Street. The wonderful nonprofit All Walks of Life (AWOL) stepped in to offer free, refurbished computers to these citizens.
The Digital Divide Program is not the silver bullet, but it’s a start. We must not quietly accept a splintered community. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past.
In the 1960s, without a single Tweet or status update, my generation fought the good fight and we won. Today, young people around the world can spark social and cultural change through something as simple as creating a Facebook page. So I look to our innovators, our artists, and our entrepreneurs to play an integral role in a new revolution.
Consider your work within the landscape of our entire community. How can you use your skills to improve the lives within the larger Savannah community?
Challenge yourself to have broader professional reach. How do we attract and retain international talent while also cultivating a dynamic local workforce?
Create lofty expectations of your local government and social service agencies, and help us meet each and every one. What role do the resources of an engaged government play?
And perhaps most importantly to a United Savannah: redefine your peer group and your target market. How can you step outside of every bubble, circle or box you may currently exist within? Stretch yourself. Engage people who don’t look, talk or think like you.
I look forward to participating in this sort of open and frank dialogue. I believe the ideas and inspiration that come will be of tremendous benefit to Savannah economically and socially, ensuring our community is a place where all residents and industries can thrive.