Prepared by the AWE Fund Organizing Committee
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June 3, 2020
With broken hearts and furious souls we acknowledge the past week of protest actions in response to police brutality across the nation. While these protests are in immediate response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, George Floyd is only one of countless Black people killed through acts of state violence and white supremacist terrorism that have been a reality in the United States since its founding.
Black lives matter. The undersigned archival workers support protests against the ongoing state violence being unleashed against Black communities, and in particular support calls for the defunding and abolition of police forces and the prison-industrial complex that disproportionally criminalizes, exploits, and annihilates communities of color. Reforming a system designed to destroy Black lives will not result in justice. We must work to defund and ultimately abolish these structures that have become the New Jim Crow.
We acknowledge that archival workers, as recordmakers and recordkeepers, have been complicit in maintaining systemic white supremacy and must work daily to undo the harm we and our institutions have done. We acknowledge that the archives can be sites of trauma for our Black colleagues. We call on archival workers to join us in taking these specific anti-racist actions in their personal and work lives:
- Read “Identifying and Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives.” Content produced in Professor Michelle Caswell’s Archives, Records, and Memory class, Fall 2016, UCLA. Poster design by Gracen Brilmyer.
- Read “Truth and Reconciliation: Archivists as Reparations Activists” by Anna Robinson-Sweet (The American Archivist, Spring/Summer 2018, Vol. 81, No. 1, pp. 23-37). Determine one way your institution can take action toward reparations and advocate implementation.
- Learn about, support, and promote the work of Black colleagues in archives and public history. One example related specifically to police brutality is Documenting the Now, a project developed after the protests in Ferguson, and whose tools for archiving social media are now widely used.
- Critically examine your archival description, particularly for how Black subjects are described. Consult the Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia Anti-racist Description Resources to make your description more accurate and inclusive.
- If you are white, refuse to participate in archival events such as conference panels and workshops, or to serve on committees, boards, or in other professional contexts where all participants are white.
- Learn about, support, and promote restorative justice work like that being done by the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (Montgomery, Ala.), and associated Community Remembrance Project which document Black lives lost to racial terror violence, or the Human Rights Watch Call for Reparations in the Wake of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 which you can learn more about here.
- Learn about the ways in which your institution may exploit the labor of incarcerated people through external digitization initiatives, furniture procurement, investing in private prisons, and other, often obfuscated, aspects of institutional operations. Determine one way your institution can disinvest in prison labor and advocate for making that change.
- Donate to the Black Visions Collective of Minnesota or your local Black-led community group working for transformative justice.
- Donate to the Black Immigrant Collective, which amplifies the voices of Black immigrants in Minnesota. They highlight and make visible the impact of immigration policy and law enforcement on Black communities.
- Organize at your workplace — whether you are engaging in small batch solidarity, or in larger efforts to unionize your staff, you can help build a more just and equitable workplace. The group Labor Notes offers a book-length guide for people learning to organize as well as free online resources; libraryworkers.net is a developing hub for library and archives workers mobilizing in the context of covid-19.
- Create and support Black spaces — spaces like we here, a supportive community for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) library and archive workers or BlackSpace — where people of color feel safe to express, share, and/or perform without the fear of institutional intimidation (i.e. process, protocol, procedure, and standardization).
There is no shortcut to ending racism. As archivial workers, we have a responsibility to document — and labor to dismantle — the history of racism and white supremacy in the United States, including at our own institutions. The only path to racial justice is to keep on showing up, day after day, to do the work of building a more just and equitable present and future.
We must keep on moving forward,
Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook
shady R. Radical
Cory K. Lampert
Rachael Cristine Woody, Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC
Sarah Wade, Getty Research Institute
Kit Messick, Getty Research Institute
Sarah Jones, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Rosemary K. J. Davis, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Hannah O’Daniel McCallon
Ruth Kitchin Tillman
Jimmy Chang, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Emily Minehart, Henry Crown & Co.
Kathleen A. Marx
Alyssa V. Loera, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Emily Sulzer, Center for the Study of Political Graphics
Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, Center for the History of Medicine, Harvard Medical School / Medical Heritage Library, Inc.
Samantha Cross, CRTKL, Inc.
Molly Brown, Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections
Carrie Stewart, UNLV libraries
Mary Leah Dwan, Archivist
Jess Farrell, Educopia Institute
Jessica Jones, Archivist
Anne Jenner, Northwest Archivists
Christina Velazquez Fidler
Kristy Sorensen, Austin Seminary Archives
Melise L. Leech, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Gabrielle Dean, Johns Hopkins University
Steve Ammidown, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
Rachel M. Cohen
Rebecca Baumann, Lilly Library, Indiana University
Jessica Rayman, The University of Alabama
Natisha Harper, ARLIS Committee for Diversity and Inclusion
Maggie Hughes, Huntington Library
Crystal Rodgers, Labor Archives of Washington
Emily Hughes Dominick
Allee Monheim, MLIS
Liz C. Phillips, UC Davis
Brooke M. Black
Lynn Domingo, University of Washington
Alice Prael, Yale University
Burkely Hermann, Archivist
Michelle A. Shannon, University of Idaho
Valencia L. Johnson
Kathryn Dennett, Reversible Destiny Foundation
Tanya Hollis, San Francisco State University/Society of California Archivists
Natalia Fernández, Oregon Multicultural Archives and OSU Queer Archives
Gabrielle Bianca Visco, SJSU iSchool
Mathew Brock, Mazama Library & Historical Collections
Megan K. Friedel, University of Colorado Boulder Archives
Gwyn Hervochon, Boise State University
Those wishing to sign the letter may do so here.
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