Three years ago, Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia released a statement in response to the murder of Michael Brown Jr. and the writings of scholar Jarrett Drake urging archivists to commit to anti-oppressive values and to break down the systems of white supremacy in which most archives operate.
On February 23, 2020, multiple white men, including a former police officer, murdered Ahmaud Arbery. The men were not arrested until May 2020. On March 13, 2020, the Louisville Police Department murdered Breonna Taylor. On May 25, 2020, the Minneapolis Police Department murdered George Floyd. These murders have sparked national protests and police violence against protesters and journalists. On May 27, 2020, the Tallahassee Police Department murdered Tony McDade. On May 31, 2020, Louisville police murdered David McAtee. Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia, again, condemns this state-sanctioned violence and the systemic racism that permeates our culture.
As racial terror against Black Americans continues, many cultural heritage associations and organizations have chosen to remain silent thus far. This is inexcusable, dangerous, and implies complicity on the part of those organizations. Archivists have a responsibility to combat racist practices in our profession and at large, particularly given the overwhelming whiteness of our profession. We therefore call on all cultural heritage organizations to publicly stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, to denounce police violence against Black people. We stand in solidarity with the statements released by the Society of American Archivists and others who have spoken out.
We also hold cultural heritage institutions that have made statements accountable to follow up with concrete actions that center Black lives over institutional reputations. We must pressure cultural heritage associations and archival organizations to mitigate the inherent harm of white supremacy in our profession. This means committing to job creation for Black residents which are not limited to service industry, security, and custodial positions. This means securing grant funding and fund-raising for Black cultural preservation groups in Philadelphia. This means paying Black grass-roots organizers to be involved in reviewing and creating programs with local special collections, libraries, and museums. This means divesting from sources of revenue that profit from prisons. This means holding our institutions accountable to advocate for community control of the police.
To archivists wishing to begin building collections related to recent events in an ethical manner that is safe for protestors and others, please note:
- Guidelines from Documenting the Now and their Twitter account
- Guidelines from Witness and their Twitter account
- Please be mindful of the privacy and safety of protesters. Using screenshots of digital pictures and hiding faces under clone stamps or emojis will help to erase metadata and prevent authorities from tracking and arresting demonstrators.
- Archivists can experience secondary trauma while processing such collections.
- It is wholly appropriate NOT to build collections at this time or at all if it cannot be done mindfully.
- It is also appropriate if archival collecting is not necessarily the priority at this time.
To those wanting to donate locally:
- Philadelphia Bail Fund
- Philadelphia Community Bail Fund
- BLM Philly
- Up Against the Law
- Amistad Law Project
- Decarcerate PA
- Philly Defenders
If you are protesting, please refer to these Protester Health and Safety Handouts.
To those unable to join protests in person, this Twitter thread has great suggestions.
We stand with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) archivists during this time.
Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia