Beverly B. Allen 2014-09-29 11:45:37
The archival collection at Colorado State University–Pueblo initially was largely focused on the history of the institution. In the past seven years, we expanded the collections to more closely reflect the rich ethnic diversity of Southeastern Colorado. In 2008, CSU–Pueblo received a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to support this new endeavor. The archives began working with grassroots organizers to document the Colorado Chicano Movement, which was part of a greater national and international struggle challenging social injustice during the 1960s and ’70s. The movement triggered a powerful impetus for transformation in the public education system, electoral politics, labor practices, and law and order policies; the movement also nurtured a cultural renaissance in Chicano art and literature. As the archives began its work, a truly collaborative relationship with the Chicano community emerged, and the community took a leading role in determining the materials to be preserved. What’s in the Archives Once we announced our intention to collect materials related to ethnic diversity, the Chicano community was the first group to approach us. Many were aging community members who had been activists at the height of the movement, and they were worried about the materials not being preserved. It was a big leap of faith for them to entrust their records to a university— an institution they felt had betrayed them in the past. Not only were we academics, we also were mostly Anglos. With patience and perseverance, we earned their trust, and in return, they helped explain the archives’ mission to the community. Their trust has resulted in rich, engaging collections. The Colorado Chicano Movement Archives includes the papers of the Louis “Lugs” Garcia family, who worked to improve living conditions for families in Pueblo’s predominantly Chicano neighborhood of Salado (Salt Creek). The Garcias also advocated for reform In public schools, farm workers, and adequate health care. Other materials include: The Jose Esteban Ortega Papers and the “Freddie Freak” Trujillo Collection, which document the discriminations toward Chicanos in higher education The Pablo Gonzales Papers contain materials relating to Project Adelante, a barrio station in Pueblo, Colorado, formed for the purpose of drug abuse prevention and to host educational and recreational activities for Chicano youth The Deborah Martinez Papers, documenting Chicano leadership development in Colorado Voices of Protest Oral History Project Oral history also has proven to be an effective means of connecting the archives to the community. We partnered with the Chicano Studies program to offer a course called Voices of Protest. The idea behind the course is to give students a broad overview of multicultural US history and assign additional readings in Colorado history, the opportunity to do an oral interview with an individual involved in the Chicano Movement, and a project related to this interview. The oral history interview connects students to the archives in that the material they helped to create is part of their institutional experience at CSU–Pueblo and has a permanent place in the library. Voices of Protest has been so successful that it’s spawned related projects, including the Anti-Columbus Day project (which involved interviewing Chicanos and Italians about the Pueblo protests) and the Colorado Latino Veterans Project. Working with Stakeholders: It’s All about R*E*S*P*E*C*T As archivists and academics, we have learned some valuable lessons over the past seven years. Here are some tips to help build closer partnerships with ethnic communities: Establish an advisory/advocacy group for the archives that includes members of the community to help acquire donations, plan events, and steer clear of minefields. Attend/participate in community events. This shows respect for, and interest in, the community, its history, and culture. Cinco de Mayo is a huge celebration in Pueblo and an ideal opportunity for us to reach out to the community on its own terms. If you’re in a university context, hire students from the culture. They can be powerful liaisons and advocates for the archives. One of our donors once told me how happy he was that we had Chicano students working in the archives because they had corazón, a passion, for the work. Put aside the “archivist knows best” mentality. Respect the community’s knowledge of itself and allow the documentation that they think is important to help inform collection building. Create an outreach program based on the nature of the collection and on the interests of the community. Most recently, we partnered with our Chicano Studies students and the public library to do a program for the fortieth anniversary of Los Seis de Boulder, when two car bombings resulted in the deaths of six young Chicano activists. A Family Affair As we’ve shifted focus to the ethnic community, we’ve noted subtle and not-so-subtle changes both in ourselves and the community. For instance, in the last year, we’ve begun taking our video camera into the community more and filming everything from protests over the cuts to the Chicano Studies program at CSU–Pueblo to Cinco de Mayo celebrations. As we’ve taken on a more active role in documenting events in the community, we’ve become more invested in not only the community’s culture and history, but also its goals and aspirations. And, inevitably, we as archivists have become more visible and more relevant to that community. It often seems as though the Chicano community in Pueblo is an extended family. The connections among community members run deep—individuals have advocated alongside one another to clean up the Salt Creek barrio or integrate Chicano studies into Pueblo schools. Members have made tortillas or music together for community events—all things that build a community. And while the archives will always be, in some sense, the “other,” we’ve made significant inroads into the community and family. This information was shared during the Professional Poster Presentations at the 2014 CoSA/NAGARA/SAA Joint Annual Meeting.
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