Lae'l Hughes-Watkins | Movers & Shakers 2019 – Advocates

For as long as she can remember, says Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, she has had an interest in combating “the silencing of black voices, the invisibility of blackness in the public square, the tradition of shaming, and stereotyping blackness.” Her awareness of social justice began as a youngster, driven largely by library books she discovered by authors such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Maya Angelou. An undergraduate focus on the history of the black press led her to archival work.

Lae'l Hughes-Watkins

CURRENT POSITION

University Archivist, Special Collections and University Archives

DEGREE

MLIS, Kent State University, 2010; MA, English, Youngstown State University, 2008

FOLLOW

@blkgrlarchivist; laelhugheswatkins.info;
standarchives.com

Photo by Trevor Watkins

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Taking a STAND

For as long as she can remember, says Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, she has had an interest in combating “the silencing of black voices, the invisibility of blackness in the public square, the tradition of shaming, and stereotyping blackness.” Her awareness of social justice began as a youngster, driven largely by library books she discovered by authors such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Maya Angelou. An undergraduate focus on the history of the black press led her to archival work. “I [realized] I could use this [research] to help folks learn, advocate, and bring attention to those who have been oppressed, forgotten, overlooked,” says Hughes-Watkins. “I wanted to be part of a process that made the invisible visible.”

As university archivist at Kent State University, OH, she oversaw the institution’s archives and managed the Kent State Shootings May 4 Collection and Oral History project. There was one question she was asked constantly: “Where are the black students in this documentation?” A deeper dive into the Black Campus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s led Hughes-Watkins to organize a coalition of Ohio academic archivists in 2017 to create Project STAND (Student Activism Now Documented), a digital resource centralizing access to archives on activism within marginalized student populations.

Since Project STAND’s launch, it has brought together nearly 50 institutions, including a number beyond Ohio, to build the database, which includes primary manuscripts, publications, photographs, and born-digital content. Some are branching out regionally to engage more members through conferences and workshops, as well as reaching out to their own student organizations that may be holding on to artifacts. A $92,000 Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant will enable Project STAND to publicize the project further through four symposia spotlighting student voices; the first, at Atlanta University Center’s Robert W. Woodruff Library, was held in February.

Now working with the University of Maryland’s (UMD) archives and special collections, where she started a new job in January, Hughes-Watkins hopes to bring in missing narratives from UMD’s rich history and draw on a growing campus interest in underrepresented communities. Occasionally, she says, people misread her archivist name tag and ask, “So you’re the university activist?” That’s about right, she notes—it may not be her official title, but it’s not far off. “I genuinely believe the work of archivist/librarians can and has led to social change,” Hughes-Watkins says. “I wouldn’t do this labor if it didn’t hold that kind of gravity.”

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Folasade Adepoju

Go sister, Go!!! I STAND with you on this. This is worth emulating . Congratulation!!!!!!

Posted : Mar 31, 2019 07:30


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