[Marxism] Fwd: [Freedom archives news] The Freedom Archives and Decolonizing the Past

Ron Jacobs ronj1955 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 11 10:09:25 MST 2019

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From: Freedom Archives Events <freedomarchivesnews at freedomarchives.org>
Date: Fri, Jan 11, 2019, 10:04 AM
Subject: [Freedom archives news] The Freedom Archives and Decolonizing the


*The Freedom Archives and Decolonizing the Past*
Oral History Association - January 11, 2019

The Freedom Archives <https://freedomarchives.org/> is a non-profit
educational archive located in San Francisco dedicated to the preservation
and dissemination of historical audio, video, and print materials
documenting progressive movements and culture from the 1960s to the 1990s.
We’ve asked Nathaniel Moore and Claude Marks to discuss the expansive
project. Here, they reflect on the role that oral histories within the
archive play in creating deeper understandings and decolonizing the past.

*How did the Freedom Archives begin?*

During the mid-1960s, many young people in the San Francisco Bay Area were
involved in producing radio programming dedicated to documenting people’s
history, anti-colonial struggles, and social movements of the era. This
programming often combined in-depth interviews and reports on social and
cultural issues; activist voices from a number of social justice movements;
and original and recorded music, poetry, and sound collages. They were
broadcast over KPFA <https://kpfa.org/> and the Pacifica Network
<https://pacificanetwork.org/>, as well as on KPOO <http://www.kpoo.com/>
radio based in San Francisco.  The vast majority of these programs were
independently produced by collective groupings, all with a commitment to
anti-imperialism, human rights, internationalism, and highlighting
marginalized voices and movements unheard in or distorted by the
establishment media.

In the late 1990s, this diverse core of original radio producers and
cultural workers organized a working group to restore and catalog these
historical tapes, saving them from further deterioration and loss, and
making their historical value and lessons accessible to future
generations—thus launching The Freedom Archives.

*How has the Freedom Archives project changed or developed since then?*

Over the past twenty years, the Freedom Archives has become a national and
international source of media of great interest to young people and
students, but also to teachers, diverse community organizations, media
outlets, filmmakers, activists, historians, artists and researchers.  We
regularly produce original documentaries and educational media for use
within schools and as tools for community building. We’ve also designed and
launched a digital search engine that allows for increased access to our
holdings through a less academic and more user friendly exploration of our
materials. This site is media-sample-driven; advanced users can still use
Boolean search logic but all users can now use keywords, or simply explore
our site by using visual or other media-based cues.

We also maintain an active youth development program that encourages
engagement with historical materials and provides media production training
as well as fostering a love for progressive history. We have developed
strong, cooperative, and effective partnerships and project based
connections with a number of youth organizations, local high schools,
community colleges, and 4 year colleges and universities. Since 2003,
hundreds of young people have passed through the archives as a result of
our program.

*In what ways can the oral histories and historic audio in this archive
either supplement or change understandings about the past? Can you share an
example of how this occurs?*

In August 2017 we released a documentary titled *Symbols of Resistance*
<https://www.freedomarchives.org/Symbols.html>which focuses on the
emergence of the Chican@ Movement in Colorado and New Mexico in the 1970s
through stories around the struggle for land,  the student movement, and
community resistance against police repression. These stories are largely
absent from official histories of the period and had previously been shared
and passed down primarily through the oral remembrances of friends and
family members who knew the martyrs. Thus, this film is an important step
in preserving these important narratives for generations to come.

These stories also represent an important component of the Chican@ struggle
that is often not well understood—that the movement was not limited to
organizing agricultural workers. By uplifting perspectives of urban Chican at s
challenging police violence; issues of land rights, colonialism, and the
legitimacy of the US-Mexico border; and situating the movement in the
context of other 1960s social movements, it expands how we understand the
significance of Chican at s in this country and globally. By deepening
people’s understanding of the roots of struggle, we’ll be able to amplify
how this history can inform and strengthen current organizing efforts and
movement building.

*How has the role of the stories saved in the archive changed in response
to today’s political moment?*

In many ways the stories are even more important today given how knowledge
is being erased to reinforce and justify colonial history. We have also
brought many historical stories to light over the years through our
website, social media, and documentaries, allowing the stories themselves
to regain life and importance and showing the richness of primary sources
when studying the history of resistance.

*What is the importance of preserving these marginalized voices as well as
the importance of making them available to the public?*

There is an overwhelming need for young people to have access to
educational resources that assist them in unearthing lessons of the recent
past and lifting up voices intentionally removed from the dominant views of
history. This “subjugated history” is the history of resistance, the
history as told by the colonized and not by the conquerors. We see our role
as preserving the voices of liberation and concepts supporting freedom and
justice—not the voices of the powerful that gained land and riches through
the violence and brutality of genocide, slavery, and oppression. By
preserving, creating access, and disseminating alternative stories to those
normally taught in text books, we help people to understand and challenge
the oppressive structures around them.

*Now that the organization is approaching its 20 year anniversary, is there
anything that the Freedom Archives would like to reflect on or look forward

We’re appreciative of all the people who have contributed to making the
Freedom Archives what it is today. We hope to continue our collaborative
work with other small and independent collections and continue to build a
space that embraces alternative histories. Our ongoing focus is expressed
in our mission statement—to preserve the past, illuminate the present, and
shape the future.

*This contribution was co-written by one of the Freedom Archives Founders,
Claude Marks, and archivist Nathaniel Moore. Marks has been involved in all
of the CD and video productions of the Archives, and has continued his
activism, especially in support of political prisoners. **Moore has worked
with the Freedom Archives since 2012. He holds degrees in African Studies,
African-American Studies, and Library and Information Science.*

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 863.9977
Questions and comments may be sent to info at freedomarchives.org

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