In 2013, the Black Lives Matter organization was established to bring to the forefront the excruciating injustices Black people around the world repeatedly experience. Eight years later, there has simultaneously been both wonderful progress, and a desperate need for continual education and empathy. On February 22nd, 2021, two members of A4BLiP, whose acronym stands for: Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia, discussed their ongoing efforts for the Black Lives Matter movement.
A4BLiP was born in 2017, and their mission is to stop the erasure and systematic oppression of Black lives within American archives. They are a volunteer-run group of information professionals fighting against racist systems and descriptions within archival work. Archivists Beaudry Allen (Villanova University) and Faith Charlton (Princeton University) gave SJSU students an important presentation, in hopes of spreading awareness, and advocating for better documentation and preservation of Black stories.
SAA (Society of American Archivists) surveys from 2004 and 2017 reveal that 90% of the archival profession is white. Allen explained that A4BLiP “largely seek[s] to push white archivists to deconstruct white supremacy in the archives and within the profession.” A4BLiP’s values statement, mission statement, and call to action can be found here: https://github.com/a4blip/A4BLiP. Their three core pillars involve collecting, supporting, and lifting up Black history narratives, working to make the archival space more inclusive, and increasing knowledge about police records.
To address issues in metadata, A4BLiP has created the Anti-Racist Description Resources document: https://archivesforblacklives.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/ardr_202010.pdf. As part of the resource development, the group sought out feedback from Black archivists, and compensated them for their work and time by raising funds through a GoFundMe campaign. Their recommendations include unlearning a “neutral” tone, expanding to a larger, more diverse audience, citing the correct names for records creators, making clear distinctions between the institution’s/archivist’s voice and the voice of the original records creator, avoiding terms that are harmful to the people they describe, and in general, being more transparent, honest, and compassionate when encountering Black records.
One does not have to be living in Philadelphia to participate in A4BLiP! As MLIS students and information professionals, we can all do more to elevate the often unacknowledged Black contributions in historical records, in addition to the contributions from other silenced and underrepresented groups. SJSU SAASC truly thanks Beaudry Allen and Faith Charlton for their edifying and informative discussion. Please check out this incredible team’s website at https://archivesforblacklives.wordpress.com/.
You can watch the presentation on our Event and Recordings Archive or on our YouTube channel.