African American History in the Archives: Part 4

Guest blogger: Mariecris

Paula Henry, “Spotlight on Alaska Artists.” Drum Beat.

Paula Henry

“I feel Kuumba is a funnel through which information, feelings, political climate, racial dilemmas can be acknowledged and resolved.  In order to achieve our highest potential we must recognize ourselves, our culture and values. It’s time that we name ourselves, understand ourselves and create for ourselves!”

Paula Henry, “Spotlight on Alaska Artists.” Drum Beat.

Kuumba Black Artists Network, Inc. was a non-profit organization founded in 1981 by Paula Henry and Norma Johnson.  Kuumba is Swahili for creativity and is one of the Seven Principles of Kwanza (Nguzo Saba).  Kuumba’s mission was to “maintain a positive creative educational force that seeks to help define, recreate, and interpret the Afro-American experience through artistic creation.”   Documentation of their efforts to do so can be found in the Kuumba Black Artists Network, Inc. records at A&SC. To prepare for this blog entry, I perused the collection.  The scrapbook was my favorite part because I got a glimpse into the passion that imbued the organization. From newspaper clippings, clippings from their newsletters, to photographs of events and meetings, I was able to decipher a story of activism, art, wisdom, and hope. What do you see?

As you flip through the first few pages of the album you can see how important the order is in providing context  about each individual item while creating an overarching story.  In addition, you may notice that the scrapbook was a magnetic photograph album.  I say “was” because the materials were removed from the scrapbook and placed in acid free folders and archival safe photo enclosures. The order the materials were placed in the scrapbook was preserved.  But in order to preserve both the order and the placement these photos in the scrapbook, these pictures were taken. So that the Kuumba’s overarching  story/context can also be preserved.