iSchool hosts INDABA featuring alumni leaders of color

Kate Williams
Kate Williams, Associate Professor

The iSchool is hosting a special three-day gathering, INDABA: Conquering Racism, from April 27-29. All are invited, and remote participants can join online. The event will be recorded (VIDEOS NOW AVAILABLE).

The Indaba, which is a Zulu word used in South Africa to describe an important conference or discussion to address a problem, will bring together alumni of color to talk with the iSchool community about their experiences as students, job seekers, and professionals. One of the goals is to develop recommendations for welcoming more African Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans into the School and related professions.

The event will include presentations, panels, and sessions on conquering racism in libraries and other professions as well as culturally responsive pedagogy—what it is, why it matters, and how to incorporate it into the classroom. It will begin with a conversation with Jessie Carney Smith (PhD '64), dean of the library and Camille Cosby Distinguished Chair in the Humanities at Fisk University. Smith, the first African American to earn a PhD in library science from Illinois, has been recognized for her work as a librarian, author, and educator by the Council on Library Resources, Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Women's National Book Association, and SAGE Magazine. Among her numerous awards, she received the iSchool Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990.

"How unfortunate it is that in 2018 we are still exploring ways to conquer racism," Smith said. "It is equally unfortunate that far too many people fail to understand the multitude of ways that racism manifests itself. How does one know that he/she is a racist? With this Indaba, the iSchool takes an important step toward addressing a critical problem, and all of us can be rewarded if the solutions that we propose actually work. The task is challenging, but one that must be addressed. I welcome the opportunity to become a part of a possible solution."

The organizers of the Indaba are the iSchool's Diversity Committee, chaired by Associate Professor Kate Williams, and Assistant Professor Nicole A. Cooke, who also serves as program director for the MS in library and information science.

"In a sense the Indaba has already begun, in small discussions and in classes," said Williams. "From this it's clear that we aren't so much conquering—which is itself a word of domination—as we are revealing, facing, and setting out to dismantle and end the racism that keeps our School and profession too white. In just two years, more than half of U.S. children will be other than 'non-Hispanic white.' How will we serve them if we aren't representative and don't understand?"

"I'm looking forward to sharing culturally responsive pedagogy with the iSchool community. I hope they will get as much inspiration from it as I have," Cooke said.

Other iSchool alumni—all from the near Midwest—who will be sharing their experiences and expertise at the Indaba include:

  • Chris Hamb (MS '04), owner of Chrisp Media
  • Kathryn Harris (MS '71), librarian for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
  • Héctor Hernández (MS '78), branch manager for the Chicago Public Library
  • Jerry Lewis (MS '99), acquisitions and systems librarian for the William J. Campbell Library of the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • Saundra Murray Nettles (MS '68), professor of education at the University of Illinois
  • Miguel Ruíz (MS '13), Latino engagement library for the Evanston Public Library
  • Robert Wedgeworth (MS '61), dean emeritus of the School of Library Service at Columbia University and university librarian emeritus at the University of Illinois
  • Kellee E. Warren (MS '15), instructor and special collections librarian for the Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago

The sessions on April 29 are sponsored by a Provost's Initiative on Teaching Advancement grant from Illinois. The Indaba is free and open to all. Registration is encouraged, as meals will be provided.

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