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Archives for Black Lives in Philly was inspired by Jarrett Drake, Digital Archivist at Princeton University, and his work to end archives' erasure of Black lives. The group has been working on a statement about issues raised by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and our role as archives professionals since August of this year. The goal of the statem…

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#ArchivesForBlackLives in Philadelphia

Version released January 9, 2017. 40+ archivists, librarians, and information professionals in the Delaware Valley contributed to the creation of this document. Join the conversation at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/a4blinphilly

Three years after the #BlackLivesMatter movement began, we continue to be appalled by recurring incidents where killing of and police violence against Black citizens occur with impunity. In a talk at the 2016 American Library Association conference, our colleague Jarrett Drake called on archivists to engage the issues surrounding the #BlackLivesMatter movement and to do better to promote #ArchivesForBlackLives. As a community of Philadelphia-area archivists, we come together to discuss these critical concerns and identify areas for action.

Archivists appraise, collect, preserve, organize, and provide access to archives in adherence to international standards and a professional code of ethics.

Because we have the privilege of choosing what goes into the historical record, we also bear the responsibility to safeguard accurate representations of contemporaneous events. We believe archives exist to hold power to account; to speak truth to power. Because records serve as evidence for factual claims, it is archivists’ responsibility, as stewards of records, to stand against their exploitation or abuse.

As archivists, we are committed to anti-oppression values:

  • We condemn racist violence against Black people and other people of color.

  • We provide documentary evidence and context to counteract discourses which selectively use history to justify racism and racist violence.

  • We advocate for intersectional justice that recognizes overlapping or intersecting social identities and the related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.

  • We recognize that archives are located within systems of white supremacy, also known as structural racism, in the sense that:

    • Archives are often situated within institutions of power that historically have reinforced systemic oppression.
    • Archives have historically been inaccessible or unwelcoming to marginalized groups.
    • Archivists are an overwhelmingly white profession (approximately 93% white as of the 2004 A*CENSUS survey)
    • Archival collecting has enshrined dominant narratives of rich, white, heterosexual, cisgender men as the most deserving of attention and preservation, while ignoring or erasing narratives of marginalized communities.
    • Archival theory is rooted in concepts like provenance that promote social hierarchy and privilege document-creators (those who have the means to create and preserve records) over subjects.
  • We commit to critically examine archival theory and practice, to educate ourselves about the active relationship between archives and social justice, and to engage collaboratively with marginalized communities, bringing an open mindedness to learning and sharing authority.

  • We support and reaffirm the strength of Black colleagues in the Philadelphia area and beyond the region.

As archivists, we acknowledge our responsibility to defend these values:

  • We support policy recommendations and police contracts that retain records of past misconduct (both sustained and unsustained) from police disciplinary files for an adequate time period and ensure that disciplinary records may be released to the public via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

  • We advocate for appropriate policies and practices surrounding police and correctional records.

  • We support policy recommendations that promote entering police dashboard camera and body camera footage into the public record, with appropriate consideration given to documentation, retention, access, and citizens’ privacy rights.

  • We condemn the selective release of correctional records to smear victims of police violence.

  • As archivists, we position ourselves in solidarity and allyship with individuals facing oppression. We support community-based documentation and archiving work. Where traditional repositories collect archives from historically oppressed communities, we approach the work critically. We use our privilege as archivists to promote records retention, archival selection, and preservation decisions that affirm the importance of Black lives in the historical record.

  • We actively participate in trainings or facilitated dialogues on what a concept like transformative justice is, why it is important and relevant to what we do, how we can enact it in solidarity and allyship with our co-workers, colleagues, donors, patrons, and users.

##Suggested reading:

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Archives for Black Lives in Philly was inspired by Jarrett Drake, Digital Archivist at Princeton University, and his work to end archives' erasure of Black lives. The group has been working on a statement about issues raised by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and our role as archives professionals since August of this year. The goal of the statem…

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