Activist Archivists

I attended some really great sessions at JCLC, but one session in particular, “Your Book is not Done Yet: Writing and Telling your Community’s Story,” was really inspiring to me. The passion and drive of the speakers in the session was contagious. The session focused on the speakers’ personal experiences in collaborating together to tell their community’s story to publish as a book. Their story was quite interesting because it focused on the history of Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas. This school  was not only the first established school for African Americans west of the Mississippi, but also a very successful school with many graduates who went on to become highly esteemed in their profession. Without the work of the speakers, the history and community stories surrounding this school would have been lost.

Although this community has a rich history with a story that is very unique, I believe, as did the speakers, that every community has a story that needs to be told, collected, and remembered. The speakers called themselves “Activists Archivists”. Activist Archivists are not passive collectors and preservers; they are archivists who go and seek out the stories that would be lost in mainstream history. The idea of true history and representing everyone who was a participant in history was exemplified by a proverb that the one of the speakers exclaimed to the audience— “Until the lions tell their own story, tales of hunting will always glorify the lions.”  It is now the lions turn. Hunter’s have a seat.

So what does that mean for us, or how can I apply the theme of this session to what I do on a general daily basis. The key for me is to recognize that passivity and neutrality does not lead to action or change; it leads to complacency and a weak impact. Having a meaningful purpose and doing my work with passion will drive me to continually push myself to be challenged and to reach higher goals. I may not be an Activist Archivist yet, but I will not let passivity stifle my drive to serve and work with all types of people. I would love to continue this conversation with anyone who is willing to talk to me. If you see me around, chat me up. If you aren’t in the area, send me an email (

For more information about The Sumner Story, click here.



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