From One Black Home…
Since my father (unlike many of my OTHER family members) does not read this blog or any blog and hates the internet, I can tell all his biz’ness here with impunity. I will use him here to think about digital archiving and its implications for my classroom.
As I seem to always stress, my father’s working class status and disposition have never meant intimidation or lack of confidence, as many seem to associate with working class folk of color. As a heating and A/C specialist, he works in many homes/churches/companies to install heating ducts, central air, etc. If it has a motor, engine, or some such, he can fix it …BUT if you start telling him what he should do when it is obvious that you have NO knowledge or scientific background with the task at hand, he will nod, tell you to do it yo-damn-self since you know so much, pack up his stuff, and walk right back out the door. If you can’t see that he has knowledge and a skillset that you NEED and do NOT have, he ain’t dealin with you. Ever. If you don’t know how to talk or respect someone like him, well then he ain’t gon give you the time of day. He will watch you freeze to death, quite literally, without a morsel of regret. It should go without saying: I think this is one of my father’s greatest attributes. I aspire to be like him each and every day!
And this is where technology comes in. Just so he won’t forget your dumb behind, my father will add you to his archive, a routinely UPDATED database (names and all possible phone numbers) of people who shouldn’t get any answer when they call. He prints these out and posts them by the phone and at other strategic locations. He has other uses for technology like keeping up with sports stats and staying in touch with his 14 brothers and sisters, but maintaining his database is a main priority. I love to dig through the database rather than just read the posted lists because it gives so much more detail. I am wildly entertained by the new names and the things folk have pissed off my father about. I even like to issue warnings: “watch out now— you bout to get on the list.” Hours of entertainment right there! I don’t have a database like my father’s, but these days, I am certainly considering it and have plenty names and attributes ready.
…to Other Black Homes
As a child, I often went on jobs with my father. Yes, I enjoyed when he would get mad and leave because, then, I could do my special dance on the walk to car: a bop to match our walk, quick pause every now-and-then for an “in yo face” side-to-side head bap, and then bop to the car door some more. On the occasions where we stayed, I loved that too. I got to sit down and read Ebony, Essence, and Jet magazines and, since I was appreciative of the content, I was always given access to the stash of back issues that were always stored somewhere close by. No one threw these out— they were archived as data of our lives. And, yes, I consider these archives, NOT collections, ones that were freely accessible. What was the point of collecting black wisdom if you weren’t going to share it? I loved flipping through the well-worn pages and seeing which articles were the most read. That’s where I would sink in. Of course, those times do not match the politics of these magazines now, but they once offered dynamic polemics of and representations into black life.
With every fix-it job that my father did, I was immersed in some kind of an archive. It is a memory that I would like to carry with me as I imagine how to re-frame the annotated bibliography that is part of the freshman comp curriculum in my program. While the digital component of my assignment was clear enough (students had to create e-pages for different kinds of websites, articles, videos, etc), I didn’t make the scope and purpose critical enough. Archives help you live your daily life; they are not just the purview of privileged digital scholars who use the newest tools to (re)center the same white actors of history and aesthetics. I needed to offer my students the opportunity to create their own archive of knowing and I needed to allow them more control of what that should look like and do. Once again, it is a black framework that gives me this new approach and disposition. I am never without a model in this newly technologically automated world, even for alternative archives.