Globe article about METCO– B.E.A.T.

March 13, 2021 Boston Globe

In March, I got an email from the director of communications at METCO that said:

A bit more than a year ago, you played a crucial part in METCO’s pilot youth leadership program, B.E.A.T. You helped to shape the curriculum, you hosted a few high schoolers as they spelunked into your institutions’ treasures, and you met the students to share your stories and wisdom (in person or via Zoom).

The project that resulted has just been celebrated in the Sunday Boston Globe, and I wanted to make sure you saw it. You were a crucial part of their journey, which is now reaching a wider audience.

METCO (the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity), is a uniquely Boston institution. It started as a desegregation program in the 1960s whose aim was to invite predominantly white suburban schools to host Boston’s children of color– voluntarily. 55 years later, METCO’s programs still vibrant, largely because the 1974 decision only desegregated Boston _proper_, not the region, a fact often lamented by Boston’s education activists.

We love supporting youth programs including METCO and their aim to empower teens by promoting a better understanding of our City’s past.

Black Lives Matter

News at Northeatern ArticleNews at Northeastern profiled our work in the University Archives and Special Collections.  The following is the text of the article, but you can always read it directly here: https://news.northeastern.edu/2020/08/06/you-see-how-activism-is-done/


How did the Black Lives Matter movement get to where it is today?

The Northeastern archives renew stories that have been forgotten to history—including many that resonate today.

In 1970, Frank Lynch, a 24-year-old singer, was a patient at Boston City Hospital when he and another man in his room, Edward Crowley, were shot and killed by a white police officer. In spite of protests in Boston and an investigation by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the officer did not face charges.

The Lower Roxbury Black History Project blends compelling narratives with everyday efforts that were made by many people to bring justice to American society on the local level.

“You see how activism is done—the meetings of nonprofit community groups, the pamphlets, the internal conversations, the letters that they wrote to other civic institutions in the city,” Cohen says. “This kind of history shows that community efforts, and individual people brought together in a collaborative spirit, have made changes to American society.”

A secret to building upon the current momentum of Black Lives Matter can be found in these records, says Molly Brown, a reference and outreach archivist at Northeastern.

“It starts with meetings,” Brown says. “It continues with conversations. And it asks us to look at all of the institutions that we participate in.”

The Lower Roxbury Black History Project was funded in 2006 by Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern, based on a suggestion by Reverend Michael E. Haynes, a local leader who died in 2019. Haynes’s interview is a featured treasure among the archives.

“Today we can’t talk to Rev. Haynes in person, but we can go to his interview and keep learning from his wisdom,” says Giordana Mecagni, who heads the archives and special collections at Northeastern. “He was involved in almost every Black activist cause in Boston for many years.”

“People think about the civil rights movement as being exemplified by Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks,” says Mecagni, who also notes renowned Boston-based activists like Melnea Cass, Muriel Snowden, and Ruth Batson. “But it was also millions of individual people with jobs and families doing their part to make sure that there was change happening. We want the people out in the streets right now to understand that there were people like them in Boston whose efforts sparked real change.”The project includes references to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the 1965 civil rights march to the Boston Common from the William E. Carter Playground a decade after he had attended Boston University. His presence in the archives gives power to the actions that have been taken by people who weren’t so well known.

Another trove of perspective can be discovered at the Beyond Busing: Boston Public School Desegregation project, which provides thousands of digitized resources on desegregation, starting with Brown v. Board of Education, the unanimous 1954 Supreme Court ruling that found the segregation of public schools in Topeka, Kansas, to be unconstitutional.

In 1974, Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. issued a U.S. District Court ruling in Massachusetts that called for busing to desegregate Boston’s public schools, which set off a series of protests and riots.

“What was missing from this public narrative was the 40 years of Black activism in Boston that predated the Garrity decision,” Mecagni says. “There was a reason why the court had to intervene. It was because for years Black activists were saying, ‘Schools are not equal. This is not fair.’ And finally, Boston was forced to do something about it. But this didn’t happen in a vacuum. It took a lot of mostly unpaid volunteer work.”

“Boston’s civil rights movement is mostly remembered as being education-focused. But  Boston’s activists weren’t just looking at Boston schools,” Brown says. “They are protesting racial imbalance. They’re looking at housing. They’re looking at the ways that our political constructions affect and enact white supremacy.”

The Archives and Special Collections staff is also building the archives of Northeastern’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which was founded by Margaret Burnham, a lifelong civil rights activist and university distinguished professor of law at Northeastern. The justice project’s staff of Northeastern students investigates acts of racially motivated crimes that took place in the Jim Crow South from 1930 to 1970.

“What happened to George Floyd tragically happened to thousands of other African Americans,” Cohen says of Burnham’s efforts to tell those stories. “And so this goes back a long way and that makes it even more infuriating that it’s still going on in 2020. But it also shows the broader historical context of some of the economic, social, and cultural problems that have persisted in American society.”

Additionally, the library’s Teaching with Archives Program offers an array of opportunities for experiential learning with archival records, such as documents, photographs, local newspapers, and architectural plans related to the history of Boston’s social justice organizing as well as Northeastern’s history.  The program encourages reflection about the participants’ own role in history, and how their neighborhood, school, and beyond are part of the story of Boston’s past and present. Teachers may access a variety of digitized community collections, including:

Northeastern’s archivists have used the Boston Public School Desegregation collection to teach hundreds of Boston Public School students about the education history of their city.

The library’s archives are an important resource for understanding racial injustice during this polarized time, says Cohen. Northeastern’s library is home to the Boston Research Center, a digital community history and archive lab that aims to bring Boston’s deep neighborhood and community histories to light through the creation and use of new technologies.

“The key service that we provide is knitting all of this together,” Cohen says. “Obviously, there are people who are interested in history. There are researchers who work with maps and data. There are social justice activists; there are community historical societies.

“The library is the institution that can synthesize the wide variety of materials that are created by human beings in a city like Boston, and present that in a coherent way so that audiences can come to understand their world better.”

For media inquiries, please contact media@northeastern.edu

Teaching with Archives

 

The 2020 Northeastern University Library Supporter’s newsletter is chock full of things that the University Archives and Special Collections have been involved in over the past year;  the Boston Research Center, The Holocaust Awareness Committee digital collections online, the COVID-19 Archive, the Boston Globe photo archive display tours, but what I am most proud of is our community-embedded Teaching with Archives program, stewarded by the fabulous Molly Brown. Here is the article from the newsletter. The whole newsletter is attached as a pdf at the end.


On any given day in the Northeastern University Library Archives and Special Collections, you could find a Northeastern student, a National Parks Service Ranger, a Boston Public Schools high schooler, or a Greater Boston community member visiting for a class using primary sources. The classes, workshops, and experiences offered by the Archives are a result of the Teaching with Archives program led by Molly Brown, the Reference and Outreach Archivist, and Regina Pagani, the Arts, Humanities, and Experiential Learning Librarian. Teaching with Archives classes equip participants to locate, read, and engage with primary sources such as meeting minutes, correspondence, photographs, local newspapers, and more related to the history of Boston’s social justice organizations as well as Northeastern University’s history. The Boston Public Schools (BPS) continue to include the Teaching with Archives program in their curriculum educating high school juniors about Boston’s school desegregation history. The BPS students visit the Archives to learn more about the long history of education activism and find primary sources to incorporate in a chapter they are writing about an activist. Students are asked to consider their chapter as a way of contributing to popular historical records about desegregation, and expanding it by embedding community informed archival records in their telling of an activist’s life. The sessions taught by Brown and Pagani emphasize experiential learning and encourage reflection about the participants’ own role in history, how their neighborhood, school, and beyond are part of the story of Boston’s past and present. They welcome anyone interested in learning from the Archives and Special Collections’ records. Find more about the Teaching With Archives program at https://library.northeastern.edu/archives-special-collections/services/teaching-with-archives 


For the third year this summer, the National Parks Service’s youth program “Historias de Boston” will return to the Archives and Special Collections to kick off their Latinx cultural heritage documentation project. Historias de Boston is a new youth employment program from the National Parks of Boston designed to engage youth in exploring the connections of the Latinx communities of Boston throughout the city’s history. At their sessions with Reference and Outreach Archivist Molly Brown, the Historias de Boston team listens to oral histories from the Archives as a group and explores materials from the Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción records and the Carmen Pola papers to think creatively about what Latinx history in Boston looks like in archival records, and how they could contribute to our understanding of the past. The session in the Archives and Special Collections helps direct and empower the students as they go out to begin collecting their own history. During the 6-week program, students research and gather stories within the three different sites of the National Parks of Boston and the Boston Latinx Community. Their final

project results in a group video project as well as personal video reflection which are all deposited and preserved in the archives. You can find the past two years of Historias de Boston stories deposited to the Archives at https://latinxhistory.library.northeastern.edu/historias-de-boston

2020_supporters_newsletter_-_web_optimized_file

People Before Highways event at the State House

On January 25th 2019 Karilyn Crockett, author of People before Highways, led a group of the original activists from across the region to the Massachusetts State House to commemorate the 50thanniversary of the pivotal 1969 fight to stop I-95 and the Inner Belt.  Chris Lisinski captured the populist legacy of the anti-highway movement organizers in the following article for the State House News Service. 

The event had everything:  it brought history out of the Archives/off the pages and into the State House, included activists sharing lessons learned and anecdotes, elected officials took the time to learn and understand, linked Boston’s public transit/traffic woes to past struggles and successes, and was wrapped with elements of art/music (drumming and trees and laundry lines full of wishes.)  So happy to have played a tiny supporting role in this event.

Article:  https://www.statehousenews.com/?login=yes&trial=yes&path=cms/news.aspx&yr=2019&select=2019162 

 

“Community Engaged” projects

community-engagement
Gross corporate “community engagement” image from the internet. Who wears a suit while gardening?

During the #d4d Design for Diversity Conference, Case study presenters talked about developing DH projects that are ethically embedded in the community.  Wanting to learn a little more about the topic, I googled around and found guidelines for both “Community Engaged”  and “Ethically Community Engaged” projects. Both had similar types of mild suggestions, such as ‘humility,’ ‘mitigating harm,’ ‘engaging across boundaries’ and ‘respecting self-determination.’ Obvious, right?

What was missing from the reports and guidelines I skimmed was any perspective from the impacted community ‘partner.’   Are they not asked for feedback?

The exception was in this “Characteristics of quality Community-Engaged Scholarship” from Pepperdine (this report is worth reading), but is just a citation.Ethical

It looks like this book  “Service-Learning Through Community Engagement:What Community Partners and Members Gain, Lose, and Learn From Campus Collaborations”
by Lori Gardinier might shed some light on the community’s perspective, so I will put it on my list of books to read at some point.

#d4d case study presenters and conference attendees had some interesting ideas about forming an ethical community engagment certification (like LEED!) program.  I have collated them and will post later.

 

 

SAA Panel on Radical Empathy

My Presentation, “The Colonizing Gaze: Digitized Collections, Radical Communities and Paywalls (featuring Rhianna)”. Click on “tools” and “speaker notes” for more.

radempathy-minizine-final

— the minizine that @kellywooten put together for a panel we presented at the Society of American Archivists’ 2018 annual meeting.

Boston, Race, and Resilience

Mel King, Harry Dow, Jean McGuire, Tent City

For the past nearly two years, I have been a member of the Race Equity Working Group of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Race Equity. The MORRE Office’s primary mission is to help build resilience for all Bostonians by addressing and and challenging social and racial inequities.  The Racial Equity working group (an advisory group for the office) consisted of incredible warriors– smart, experienced, passionate people who do battle every day but still are able to laugh, breathe, and do it all over again the next day.  Although I felt like I really belonged at the #kidstable instead of in this group, it was a brain-expanding experience and I am thankful I was able to participate.

The Chief Resilience Officer leading the charge to create Boston’s Resiliency Plan, Atyia Martin, and her staff allowed me to assist the effort by convening a group of historians and archivists  (‘history holders’ she called us) and Race Equity Working Group members to strategize how we could showcase the lesser known/understood aspects of Boston’s history across race and ethnicity, including immigrants, from a personal and policy perspective. As Donna Bivens and co. write in the Boston Busing/Desegregation Project’s 7 Lessons “Access to a more complete picture of this history is access to knowledge about how power works to enable and limit us. That access allows us to focus our individual and collective efforts to make real social change.”

One of the results of this convening was POLICY, PLACE, and POWER in an evolving city: BOSTON’S RACIAL EQUITY HISTORY PROJECT, a map and timeline that describes flashpoints, battlegrounds, and structures of inequity in the City of Boston. You can view that timeline at http://socialjustice.library.northeastern.edu/

From the website:

History is everywhere in Boston. Every neighborhood, street corner, and building embodies the people, communities that have occupied those spaces previously. The history of Boston’s systemic racism and communities’ acts of community building, activism and resistance are baked into both our understanding of our city, as well as its physical geography.

This timeline represents policies, events, and projects to the map and timeline that describe flashpoints, battlegrounds, and structures of inequity in the City of Boston.

  • BATTLEGROUNDS: Places where communities and institutions collide over resources, spaces, and neighborhood visions. ie. Tent City, The Southwest Corridor, Villa Victoria, The West End.
  • FLASHPOINTS: Trigger events that exposes inequity and leads the city to a better understanding of itself. ie. School Desegregation, the Henry
    Louis Gates arrest, the Charles Stuart Case.
  • STRUCTURES OF INEQUITY: Government and private sector policies and practices that are racially biased. ie. Chinese Exclusion Act, Redlining, Urban Renewal.

PROJECT GOALS

  • Our goal is to illustrate. To identify histories of racial injustice and celebrate communities’ acts of social resilience through community involvement and activism that moved spaces and institutions and policies toward justice and equity.
  • Our goal is also to learn. The combination of policies and citizen actions over time define our city and our current state equity/inequality. What are the key elements in each campaign or event that have made forward momentum toward racial equity successful?
  • Our goal is also to apply. What are the equity projects you are involved in that define Boston’s current social resilience? Are there elements missing in your current constellation of support? Help create a foundation for new insight as we assess current and future projects.