The Free Library of Philadelphia, PACSCL Inc., and many of its member institutions made commitments throughout 2020 to address institutional and systemic oppression, and interpersonal harm. In keeping with the social justice direction of our primary funder, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and with the diversity, equity, and inclusion goals of PACSCL, Inc. and the Free Library of Philadelphia, we have drafted the DEI Commitment Statement below. It currently includes our Guiding Principles and our Principles & Actions to Mitigate Harm and Build Community. It will be updated to include Steps Toward Accountability.
The purpose of this document is to establish mutual understanding of the expectations of those participating in the Chronicling Resistance project. Recognizing inherent inequities between the Fellows and the Archivists/ Librarians participating in the project, this statement aims to clarify how we can work in uncomfortable territory. The project team recognizes that archivists and librarians participating in Chronicling Resistance may be uncomfortable at times, and ask that each Archivist/Librarian recognize and reflect on the ways in which our “normal,” including policies, spaces, descriptions, and procedures, may be uncomfortable and even harmful to the Fellows.
We ask that the steering committee and archivist/ research librarian partners matched with Fellows acknowledge receipt of this document and affirm their commitment to these principles.
Revolution is fun!
Toni Cade Bambara once said in an interview, “As a culture worker who belongs to an oppressed people my job is to make revolution irresistible.” This project is full of people working at the intersections of activism, cultural organizing, curation, and archiving. There is so much joy to be had in an equitable society, and so much joy to experience on the way there. Friends of Toni Cade Bambara and scholars of her work remember her as someone who loved to “blow three or four choruses of just sheer energetic fun and optimism” into the face of oppressors.
Chronicling Resistance wouldn’t exist without fun and optimism and won’t be successful without them.
Information, especially that provided by libraries and archives, is part of the revolution.
That means our work as librarians, archivists, scholars, researchers, and administrators is fun, too!
We privilege, prioritize, center, and affirm the voices, lived experience, and perspectives of people who are Black, Indigenous, immigrants or children of immigrants, and/or whose sexual or gender identities have been marginalized.
Though they tend to live at the margins of U.S. society, these folks/x know what they’re talking about. Listen to them. Trust them.
Also, amplifying their histories and present-day work for equality is one of the points of this project. It would be weird and hypocritical if we didn’t do the same in every avenue of the project.
We are anti-racist.
Learning is part of our work and continuing education as professionals and as humans.
Everyone is at a different stage in their social consciousness and anti-racist journeys, and everyone can grow, especially in allyship.
We practice calling each other in, rather than calling each other out.
Impact on the offended party outweighs the offender’s intent, but the impact of an ignorant, uninformed, or otherwise unintentionally problematic statement or action should never be humiliation and doesn’t have to be expulsion. The impact could be learning and stronger group cohesiveness. We have fun, and we’re optimists, remember?
We practice accountability to achieve growth and build community.
Accountability is not synonymous with punishment but with responsibility. Everyone has some role in the success of this project. That’s why accountability is important.
PRINCIPLES & ACTIONS TO MITIGATE HARM AND BUILD COMMUNITY
- Recognize and accept what A4BLiP (Archives For Black Lives in Philadelphia) has stated about archives: “Archives are often situated within institutions of power that historically have reinforced systemic oppression.”
- Affirm and value the expertise and wisdom Fellows will bring with their lived experience and methods of working with and in their communities.
- Acknowledge that while the value of said knowledge to your institution may be immense, institutional acquisition is not the goal of Chronicling Resistance.
- Use your expertise to support post-custodial, community-based documentation and archiving work.
- Listen to and take seriously any issues or concerns Fellows voice about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or other forms of oppression, whether it’s institutional or interpersonal.
- Ask permission to use any individual Fellow’s image, likeness, or work for your institution, whatever the purpose of the usage might be. Please refer to the guidelines for use of Chronicling Resistance images adopted by the Free Library and PACSCL, Inc. Board.
- Be the primary contact for the fellow, checking in with them when they come in for research appointments (or after the appointment, if you’re not there).
- Let your coworkers know who the Fellow is and to expect them. (This is especially important at places with a large staff.)
- Be the one to vouch for the Fellow if another patron or staff person treats them rudely, disrespectfully, or with suspicion. (This is especially important at places with a large staff.)
- Get better at identifying your own biases.
- Attend anti-racism training for librarians and archivists, hosted by Chronicling Resistance, according to your availability.
- Know that if we ask you to step away from the project, it is because the Fellows and the Project Director have determined it to be in the best interest of the Fellow and the project.