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Black Lives Matter. Archivists must do better. Statement from the New England Archivists Board

2020-06-06 1:50 PM | Kelli Bogan

Black Lives Matter. Archivists must do better. 
Statement from the New England Archivists Board
June 6, 2020

The Executive Board of the New England Archivists (NEA) unequivocally states that Black Lives Matter. We condemn the police brutality that violently ended the lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and innumerable others. We condemn the racist individuals and corrupt systems that continually inflict violence and death upon people of color like Ahmaud Arbery and Nina Pop. We recognize that the history of the United States--and the history of so many archival collections that we steward--is rooted in slavery, genocide, and oppression. We stand in solidarity with all Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as their communities. 

We acknowledge not only that structural racism exists, but specifically that archivists and archival work have played a role in perpetuating many oppressive systems. We recognize that archivists can be agents for change, but that reparative and diversity-focused efforts cannot be the sole responsibility of our BIPOC colleagues. Anti-racist actions must be taken by all archivists. NEA affirms its commitment to cultivating a more inclusive archival profession: one that values and preserves the evidence of human experiences, while also working to dismantle damaging archival practices that compound historical erasure and harm. 

While the current political and social climates are immensely challenging for most of us, to Black Americans and people of color, these circumstances are yet another deadly escalation in a history full of hateful violence. We hope that NEA can serve as a source of opportunities for serious introspection, positive actions, and continued professional engagement that prioritizes the lives, experiences, and safety of BIPOC.

To that end, the NEA Inclusion and Diversity Committee has compiled a list of readings, resources, and guidelines to support all of us in learning how we can work towards a more just society and more transparent, accountable archival practices. Included in this list are ideas for specific actions archivists can take in our work to create a truly representative historical record and provide better access to collections for all.

Archivists must apply a critical lens to the work we do, identifying the power and privilege informing so many of our practices. In the coming days, the NEA board will develop concrete action items: progressive steps both to improve equity within our own organization and to assist our members in deconstructing oppressive environments within their workplaces. Likewise, we encourage our members to share resources they have found helpful, and to participate in ongoing dialogues about race, justice, and oppression. Discussing these issues and taking thoughtful action is the way forward. Silence is complicit.

The New England Archivists Executive Board

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