"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." - Marcus Garvey, founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League
I call myself a cultural archivist. I'm a Ph.D. student at Iowa State University. I started my journey in 2020, the year of Covid-19 and BLM protest). I look back on my reasons for wanting to go back to school; those reasons don't stand today. I found it a priority to center my people within research that represents the character, resilience, and resistance that has shaped our Black culture beyond the white supremacy guise.
My research is on Black Midwives' ways of knowing and the reclamation of cultural knowledge. There hasn't been a lot of research on 'how' black women learn and enact their knowledge within health since the late 80s. I'm a growing scholar, so I could be wrong, AND I could celebrate the fact that Black women have not had to wait for someone to capture their stories for them to share them with their community. I was curious about this learning process because a practicing Black midwife trained me. How she knew her shit was like listening to an old 90s song. So much passion. She was clear about who she was, and the broken woman in me recognized something I was searching for - that same light to exude into the world. I stepped out into the world as a doula that same year I started school, and it transformed me.
What is a cultural archivist?
"Cultural heritage archivists are often asked to provide guidance and training for preserving, safeguarding, and providing access to ethnographic materials. This effort involves mastering myriad and often complex areas of study. This session focuses on case studies of archival training models, collaborations, and examples that have worked or have not—to encourage the development of coordinated training for the archival treatment of cultural heritage materials." (Doug Boyd, Library of Congress)
My hope is to help shape our narratives by collecting our stories, preserving them, and sharing them with communities that need them the most. I spend a lot of time with young people, and I see what happens to them when they don't know who they are, where they come from, and how much they are running from their past. I spend time in communities that seem fractured, unwelcoming to their own, fighting to be the only ones, and steering from the communal nature that keeps us all sustained. I tell people operating only in what serves you will not protect you within an ivory tower for too long. I want to heal us. I know that is my purpose. So I do it through my writing.
Garvey said, "A people without the knowledge of their history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots." Only knowing diasporic Blackness from a deficit does not serve us. It does not move us forward, it doesn't protect us, and it does not allow us to exist in our authenticity. I want our roots to be what we celebrate, draw strength from, and find our place together.
Optimistic by Sounds of Blackness