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Black Filmmakers Teach Inner City Kids About Technology - 2004-02-11

Black filmmakers met with inner city students in New York Tuesday, in a corporate-sponsored session to encourage children in minority communities to learn about and use high technology.

"I want you to take a sheet of paper and fold it in half, this way," instructed film animator Tewodross Melchushua.

First the students learned about traditional movie animation drawn on paper. Then, Mr. Melchishua asked volunteers to create cartoons using cutting-edge technology.

"One of you is going to work the camera and one of you is going to work the computer," he explained. "You can animate people, that is a process called pixelation, you can animate objects, you can move things around, or you can do drawings."

Mr. Melchishua also teaches animation at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He gave the New York students at a diverse arts and technology school examples of African Americans working in the U.S. film industry. He urged the teenagers to consider careers in film - a field in which, he says, African Americans and women are still under-represented.

Ethiopian-born independent filmmaker, Haile Gerima, told the students that they can empower their communities by learning all the skills involved in filmmaking, from editing to lighting.

"The human story has a global market," he said. "When you come to film-making, the world is your market, it is not just America. The world will be your market, but you have to have a human story. It can not be the cliché of what they think we are. You have to have a story that is human, that is universal."

The session was sponsored by computer-company, IBM, as part of its week-long black family technology awareness campaign.

Director of IBM's global opportunity program Drew Valentine said the aim is to give inner city students an understanding of how they can use available technology to build future careers.

"Technology is a gateway to the American experience. We are out of the industrial age and everything we do involves technology and it is important that we make sure that the have-nots have as much opportunity when it comes to technology. It is not as expensive as we think," he said.

Nakita Paulson, 15, says the program is encouraging her to pursue an acting career in film.

"We need technology to make movies, to make videos," she said. "Most of us really do not understand how to make videos or cartoons so now they are telling us how to make it so now we understand it better."

Organizers of black family technology week are hosting nearly 100 programs throughout the United States.