While hosting her syndicated radio program in 1999, “Gospel Entertainment News” Daphne Bradford had the opportunity to interview Rosa Parks shortly before Parks’ 86th birthday. In her conversation with Parks, who is considered the mother of the modern civil rights movement, Bradford says that she was impressed with Parks’ grasp of technology.
“She learned how to use email when she was in her 80s at a community center,” says Bradford. “We talked about what she would like to see young people do and she expressed a few things there. She had the desire to see youth and elders work together.”
Bradford was able to bring about such a project. As an Apple Distinguished Educator, she prepares students at Los Angeles high schools to teach computer skills with the Developing Digital Media Geniuses Program. Last spring, she provided the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at California State University, Dominguez Hills with young instructors from Crenshaw High School who taught senior learners to use Mac programs that helped them not only email and surf the Web, but create short films and digitally maintain cherished photos of family and friends.
For this and her various community projects, Bradford was honored as a “Southern California Freedom’s Sister” by the Museum of Tolerance on Oct. 23. Bradford is one of 44 women from the Southern California region being highlighted as part of the Museum of Tolerance’s presentation of the Smithsonian Institution’s national traveling exhibit, “Freedom’s Sisters,” which features 20 women who were key figures in the history of civil rights, such as Parks, Harriet Tubman and Shirley Chisholm.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be on a list with all of these prestigious women,” she says. “It’s a reflection of my work and dedication to the national legacy of women from the civil rights movement.”
Bradford says that for the students from Crenshaw High, the chance to be OLLI instructors allowed them to demonstrate what they learned in the Developing Digital Media Geniuses Program.
“To be able to teach others, specifically their elders, allows them to communicate effectively and learn what it takes to plan a lesson,” she says. “But most importantly, it allowed them to use the skills that they learned in class outside of the classroom.”
“Some of them thought about teaching, they thought it was really cool. It built their confidence immensely but they also understand all the work it takes to teach.”
Bradford says that the Developing Digital Media Geniuses Program, which she also teaches at Dorsey High School and Hamilton High School, has been an impactful way to introduce inner city youth to computers and in many cases, internships and potential careers.
“It bridges the digital divide,” says Bradford. “A lot of them are economically disadvantaged… and did not know much about computers. … The simple exposure to the technology has really opened their eyes to various career and college opportunities. Some of them were college-bound anyway, but for the others, this was the path to higher education.”
Bradford established a nonprofit, Mother of Many, in 2000, to support education and college preparation for youth in her Los Angeles community. She says that seeing the tangible results of her work as an educator is “very fulfilling.”
“When others tell you how good your students are doing, [it] is a reflection of you, the educator,” she says. “It’s the best feeling that a teacher can have.”
Bradford is a 2011 Microsoft Innovative Educator and presented her work with youth at the Innovative Education Forum at Microsoft’s main campus last summer. She is also a Microsoft Partner in Learning and a certified AFI Screen Educator. She is currently working with Microsoft to bring STEM-based video game design into high school classrooms.
The traveling exhibition of “Freedom’s Sisters” will be on display at the Museum of Tolerance through Jan. 8, 2012. CSU Dominguez Hills alumnae Congresswoman Karen Bass and Inglewood police chief Jacqueline Seabrooks are also honored as Southern California Freedom’s Sisters in the exhibition.