Center/Clark Library Statement in Response to the Killing of George Floyd and the Movement for Racial Justice

Published: July 16, 2020

The Clark Library stands proudly within a community that, like most neighborhoods in Los Angeles, is made up of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. This community has recently seen rapid changes that emphasize long-standing inequalities for marginalized communities. As librarians, our duty is to make sure there is room for everyone.

The Clark’s mission to preserve and share the cultural record means supporting, too, the work of reflecting upon, learning and moving forward from the histories of oppression, injustice and inequity that our collections both represent and document. It also means creating space in the cultural record for new voices, including those obscured, under-told, or excluded from our library in the past. And it means being cognizant of the agency that collecting gives us over the historical record, and of how to use that agency proactively in the discourse of what has value and how that value is defined. While we are closed and cannot do this work in person, we will amplify these voices on our digital platforms, and listen to and learn from them. “We must reflect on the brutal history that got us to this point – and where we go from here. We must examine our own biases and find a way to eliminate the systemic racial inequities that pervade our country in order to effect real and lasting change.” —UC President, Janet Napolitano

The Center and the Clark share a common purpose.  Just as we strive to diversify our collections in the service of challenging established and exclusionary ideas of history and value, so our programming illuminates the historical roots of racism and imperialism that distinguish the Center’s period of study, two centuries marked by the institution of slavery and the slave trade, and the expansion of settler colonialism, yet characterized by an ongoing spirit of critique and revolution. Both of these intertwined legacies endure today. Last year’s core program on 1619, organized by historians Brenda Stevenson (UCLA) and Sharla Fett (Occidental), was exemplary in this regard: we found it both fitting and inspiring that the last conference of the year, held as a webinar this past April, foregrounded the “the problems and possibilities of a colonial archive that has traditionally been constructed by, and centered on, a white, elite patriarchy to the exclusion and/or marginality of the voices and divergent experiences of women, Africans, native peoples, and non-elite whites.” The Center and the Clark are passionately committed to increasing access to the archive, to opening conversations that redefine the archive’s values and limits, to fostering the alternative histories such conversations enable, and to showcasing a diversity of scholarly perspectives that allows new stories to emerge, and with them the possibility of change.