About Talia Whyte

Posts by Talia Whyte:

Public Libraries: The New Innovation Districts?


Three years ago, we wrote a post on Global Wire’s blog about the future of American public libraries.  As print media dies a slow death, I think a lot about how this essential institution for free expression and intellectual stimulation can stay relevant in the digital age.

Previously we had mentioned that libraries could truly become community centers that offer a variety of social services, especially in traditionally underserved communities.

How about this idea: what if public libraries were turned into innovation districts.  It is a trendy term referring to, according to the Brookings Institution, “geographic areas where leading edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with startups, business incubators and accelerators.  They are also physically compact, transit-accessible and technically-wired and offer mixed use housing, offices and retail.”

Here are some ideas:

Housing startups and coworking spaces:  Most public libraries are struggling with limited budgets and resources. Maybe they should consider renting out spaces to local entrepreneurs and their staff who need a space to experiment new ideas for products and services.  Also, many freelancers already use their local libraries as a workspace for the free WiFi.  Maybe libraries could charge premium fees to freelancers for additional amenities like access to copy/print/scan/fax equipment, mail service, storage lockers and private meeting spaces.  The biggest barrier to this is many people probably don’t feel comfortable with libraries housed in taxpayer-funded public buildings taking rent money from private enterprise.  I would argue that if libraries were to rent out the space, it should be to businesses and freelancers who are creating products and services that directly serve and impact the library’s neighborhood, like a community service oriented, social enterprise.  For example, freelance web developers who build websites for local nonprofits or a company that offers entrepreneurship internships for local youth.

Professional development/training spaces for community members: In the previous post on libraries 2.0, we suggested turning libraries into community media centers, where people can come learn how to use their use e-readers, download free e-books and audiobooks and learn how to better use the Internet.  I would go one step further and suggest libraries offer both free and paid sessions on professional development issues like job search and interviewing skills and salary negotiation.  It would also offer vocational training like entrepreneurship, marketing, graphic design and web development.  Considering that unemployment is still pretty high in many communities, these services could offer great opportunities for those still looking for jobs or new careers.  Sessions could be taught by local entrepreneurs who want to share their skills with others and identify potential new hires.

Networking/Project Nights: I go to a lot of networking events to meet up with other like-minded professionals, but I have to go all the way downtown to attend them.  It would be nice to host such events at local libraries where I can meet up with people doing interesting things in my own neighborhood.  It would also be pretty cool to have project nights at the library and be able to present and receive feedback on a new idea I am working on.

Those are my new ideas for now.  I am sure I will have new ones to post very soon.

Why I Started Global Wire Design

Global Wire Design

As you may already know, my company Global Wire Associates, just launched a new brand in our family. Global Wire Design is a creative studio that will support GWA’s mission by providing high quality, accessible digital solutions for small businesses and nonprofits.  I have been approached by many entrepreneurs about wanting a website that meets their needs, but they are afraid of the cost.  My staff and I have been discussing for months how we can better serve our clients.

The decision was made to merge our web design and digital media services into one section.  Global Wire Design will not just focus on creating websites; we want to create an online experience that engages users while communicating the message and brand of the company or nonprofit.

Global Wire Design’s services include, brand identity development, content strategy, interactive design, multimedia integration, responsive design, search engine optimization, user experience strategy and web design and development.  Whether you want a website designed from scratch or use a content management system like Wordpress, we can create an online experience that meets your needs while saving you some money.

To find out more about Global Wire Design and to see a partial portfolio, go to globalwireonline.org/design

For a price quote or more information about us, email info (at) globalwireonline (dot) org.

How W.E.B. Du Bois Used Innovative Communication To Advance Social Justice

W.E.B Du Bois

I receive a lot of free books to review for this site, but I don’t always have the time to read them unless I find a book that really speaks to me.  I recently read A People’s Art History of the United States by Nicolas Lampert, which documents how art and visual communication shaped American social movements over the last four hundred years.

One chapter that caught my attention was one about civil rights activist and journalist W.E.B. Du Bois.  In 1910 when Du Bois became the director of publicity and research for the NAACP, he also became the editor for its monthly magazine The Crisis.  At the time, a growing number of lynchings were taking place throughout the South. According to the Tuskegee Institute, an estimated 4,724 people were lynched in the United States from 1882 to 1968, and two-thirds of them were African-American.  Blacks were lynched for pretty much any “suspected” reason.

Du Bois used his platform at The Crisis to speak out about the killings. Using photographs and eyewitness accounts, The Crisis became the leading publication in the country that regularly reported about lynchings.

a reply to mr holmes from alabama. cortesy of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

This postcard was published in the January 1912 edition of The Crisis.  As was common at the time, photographers present at lynchings would process their images and print postcards on site to sell to the crowd as “souvenirs”.  This particular postcard was sent to anti-lynching advocate Rev. John Haynes Holmes as a way to intimidate him.  Du Bois reprinted the postcard in The Crisis to show the world the reality and prevalence of this horrific practice.  At the time it wasn’t common to see images of lynchings, even in the black press.

Du Bois also published lynching images of Jesse Washington (below), a mentally disabled black teenager in Waco, Texas who was found guilty for raping and murdering a white woman.  While Washington did confess to the murder, there was never any evidence that a rape had taken place.  Following his conviction, Washington was castrated, mutilated, stabbed and beaten before he was lynched.  His body was then lowered into a fire, cut into pieces and distributed as “souvenirs” to the crowd.  As a finale, his torso was dragged through the streets.

Jesse Washington. Image credit: Library of Congress

The images are truly shocking, to say the least.  But what is even more shocking is that photographers took pictures of the lynchings for profit, and then people would buy them to mail to friends like they were postcards from an exotic travel destination.  This practice became so popular that in 1908 the U.S. Postmaster General put a ban on mailing lynching postcards.  It also speaks volumes to the low value African-Americans had at the time.

This is why Du Bois was determined to publish and reappropriate the images.  This was truly a case where images speak louder than words.  “Let everyone read this and act,” Du Bois once said.

A Man Was Lynched Yesterday. Image Credit: Library of Congress

Du Bois also took his anti-lynching activism to the streets – literally.  This flag hung outside the New York NAACP offices on Fifth Avenue.  I think this image was the first thing that introduced me to the organization while learning about black history as a younger student.  It was a brilliant way to bring attention to the crime to those in the North, as well as establish an advocacy brand for the organization.

While he made a name for himself and The Crisis with the anti-lynching campaign, Du Bois also knew that in order to fight racism, he had to counter it with positive images of successful African-Americans as well.  This was largely driven by his controversial theory that the “talented tenth” percent of educated, middle-class blacks will guide the 90 percent of working class blacks.  He was also an early supporter of the Harlem Renaissance and frequently published work of the Langston Hughes, Laura Wheeler Waring, Alan LockeCountee Cullen, Claude McKay and Romare Bearden.

Whether he was publishing images of an affluent black couple that just got married or putting on a silent march in solidarity with the victims of the East St. Louis race riots, Du Bois not only helped to change the way whites viewed blacks but also how blacks viewed themselves.  Du Bois’ work at The Crisis is a major milestone for racial uplift for African-Americans and advocacy journalism.

Can Legalized Marijuana Save Jamaica’s Economy?

Authentic Jamaican Product

Last month the Jamaican parliament moved closer to decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. This move also highlights the Caribbean island’s troubled economy and the now desperate measures to save it.

Contrary to common belief, marijuana use is illegal in Jamaica and has been since 1913.  There are a few factors that may have caused the change of heart among Jamaica’s political establishment, which is heavily swayed by the island’s religious lobby.

For one, earlier this year Uruguay moved to legalize the drug, being the first country to do so.  This was done largely to prevent the kind of organized drug violence happening in other Latin American countries.  However, marijuana use will be heavily regulated. Users have to be over 18 years old, can only buy 40 grams of it a month and no tourists will be allowed to buy and use it.

Secondly, Jamaica has pretty much exhausted all the IMF lending programs, and the island is on the brink of a real economic disaster.  The Jamaican government is now facing the new reality that it needs to be more creative and take better advantage of potential economic opportunities.  Jamaica is strategically located in the Caribbean and is closer to the United States than its competitors in Central and South America as far as food agribusiness is concerned.  This is particularly important as the Panama Canal expansion is completed next year.

Also, as more American businesses are moving their outsourcing (especially telemarketing) ventures out of Asia for locations closer to home, Jamaica, with the third largest English speaking population in the Western hemisphere, should be poised to be a hotspot for new opportunities.

But back to the issue of weed.

Over the weekend I had a discussion with some family members about legalizing marijuana on the island.  I am a first generation Jamaican-American. My father came to the United States in the early 1970s, while my brother-in-law came here in 1998 to marry my sister.  When I brought up the topic of legalizing marijuana to them, and they both objected on moral and health reasons.  My brother-in-law was especially concerned that legalized marijuana could actually create more violence.

Personally, I have never smoked marijuana and I am not really religious, so I can’t speak about the moral and health objections. But I will say that decriminalizing marijuana would take away the fear of getting a criminal record, while reducing police bribery and corruption. Less people with criminal records means more able bodied people who can work and contribute to the economy.  Of course, if regulated properly, legalized marijuana would be great for the economy.  Unlike Uruguay, allowing tourists to smoke weed while on holiday would bring in billions of dollars and put Jamaica on a positive financial path.