eBlack Project: Online and In The Community

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The history of African-Americans
in Champaign-Urbana
has gone virtual! A new project,
called eBlackChampaign-
Urbana, is working to bring
together the documentation
of this important history
online to find new ways to
celebrate, remember and use
it into the present and future.
The eBlackChampaign-
Urbana website (www.eBlack-
CU.net) features digitized
newspaper clippings, photographs,
church programs,
obituaries, research papers,
scrapbooks, maps and more on the local African-American
experience. All are welcome to add to this database and use
whatever content is in it for whatever purposes they wish.
Why a website? By 2012 most homes in the historic
“North End” of Champaign and Urbana will have access to
low-cost high-speed broadband internet connectivity
through the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) initiative,
http://uc2b.net. At the eBlackCU project we want to
create the digital infrastructure to enable all past, present and
future residents of Champaign-Urbana to become inspired by
the rich heritage of the local African-American community
and its struggles for equality in housing, education, employment,
financing, as well as for an end to discrimination and
racism. Through this project and others we hope to involve
and engage everyone in the use of digital technology for lifelong
learning. The technology enables us to share this history
across Champaign-Urbana,
and across the globe, but
everyone has to be an active
participant in the technology
for the project to matter.
The eBlackCU project is
experimenting with the best
ways to animate this archive
of local history. Projects so far
have included creating bibliographies/
webliographies of
local African-American history;
creating research guides to
primary source documentation
in area archives, libraries,
and museums; using social
media platforms like Facebook to advertise the collections
we have brought together; digitizing and bringing together
source material; creating oral histories; and creating curriculum
guides for local educators to use in the classroom.
Future projects will focus on addressing campus-community
issues in Champaign-Urbana. In October look for a publication
tentatively entitled “Opening Up the University,”
which will bring together documentation of the University’s
impact, through research and engagement, in the African-
American communities of Champaign-Urbana. For November
5-6 mark your calendars for the eBlackCU project’s campus-
community symposium, which will focus especially on
technology and its impacts, actual and potential, on civic life,
but will also include other issues of interest to local African-
American residents. All are welcome to join the steering committee
for this symposium. Our goal in these activities is to
change the way the University reports to, and makes itself
accountable for, its actions in the community. In the process
of building the eBlackCU database we have found that the
Univerisity has been an engine for creating documentation on
local African-American life through theses, dissertations,
papers and more, yet this documentation rarely intersects
with community life in constructive ways.
Everyone is encouraged and welcomed to participate in
the eBlackCU project. The project is organized by Abdul
Alkalimat (Gerald McWorter) and Noah Lenstra from the
Department of African-American Studies and the Graduate
School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. Partners include the Champaign County Historical
Archives, Urbana Free Library; Early American Museum,
Champaign County Forest Preserve District; Salem Baptist
Church and the Community Informatics Initiative, UIUC.
We encourage everyone to add to our database with your
personal archives of local history. If you would like assistance
digitizing your pieces or memories of African-American history
in Champaign-Urbana, the project team, which includes
six African-American high school and community college
youth interns this Summer, will be happy to work with you to
share your history with others. We also welcome volunteers
of all ages, and all abilities, to join our effort. Inquiries should
be directed to Noah Lenstra at: Graduate School of Library
and Information Science, c/o Noah Lenstra, 501 East Daniel,
Champaign, IL 61820, by e-mail at nlenstr2(at)illinois.edu,
or phone at 244-0263 or 815-275-0268.

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