Racial Justice: A Collection of Books and Print Ephemera from Brooklyn’s Interference Archive
by The Night Library
originally published at: http://www.artslant.com/ew/articles/show/45503
At our request, the Interference Archive, based in Gowanus, Brooklyn, kindly agreed to curate a collection on the theme of “Racial Justice” to present on ArtSlant. In keeping with the spirit of the project, this “volunteer-run library, gallery, and archive of historical materials related to social and political activism and movements” put a list together collectively, with members of the organization’s volunteer archivist community selecting items they thought most accurately represented the Archive’s holdings.
Pamphlet :: “On Trial: Angela Davis or America” (1972)
Abernathy, Rev. Ralph; Abt, John J.; Miller, Paul E., eds., On Trial: Angela Davis or America? (New York: The Angela Davis Legal Defense Fund, 1971)
The cover of this 1971 pamphlet, published by the The Angela Davis Legal Defense Fund, carries the striking image of the American flag as a set of prison bars. At the time, the dismissed UCLA professor—and Black American woman—Angela Davis was in jail awaiting trial under charges of “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” in the so-called Marin County courthouse incident.
As a text in the pamphlet tells it:
Angela Davis is one intellectual who did not hide in a library or behind a desk. She transformed her mental principles into an active commitment of struggle against injustice. […] Let me warn all of you this evening that today it is Angela, but if we sit silent and keep our peace, tomorrow it will be you and it will be me. […] We need fund raising for Angela Davis, but we also need hell-raising for millions of others in this country.
Louise Barry, who chose to include this item, did so “because of its powerful minimal design and its importance as a document of resistance to state persecution of a Black radical intellectual. […] [It] fits into a larger history of political prisoners and the activists who worked (and are still working) to free them, a theme that runs throughout the Interference Archive collection.”
LP :: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966 (1980)
Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs, 1960-1966. Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Collection, 1980. Sound recording. (Vinyl LP)
Last summer, the Interference Archive hosted a musical exhibition entitled if a song could be freedom: Organized Songs of Resistance. Featuring the sleeves of numerous recordings, the exhibition also gave visitors the opportunity to listen to the records. This 1980 record, Voices of the Civil Rights Movement is of a similar ilk.
“Hearing the voices of those on the frontline, and the passion with which they sing,” says IA volunteer Rob Smith, “can at times transcend the textual documentation of the movement.”
Box Set :: Yellow Pearl (1972)
Huang, Arlan and Yanagida, R. Takashi, coordinators. “Yellow Pearl.” New York: The Basement Workshop, New York City, 1972.
57-page loose-leaf box set in a 11 x 11” box.
According to Michele Hardesty, who selected the item for the collection, this 1972 box set by The Basement Workshop is:
…a powerful, multi-media expression of the East Coast Asian American movement’s politics of coalitional, anti-imperialist solidarity, both in its material form (loose-leaf sheets of varying hues, with a wide-range of graphic and literary styles, that can be reshuffled and read in different orders) and in its thematic content, which focused on the lives and struggles of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean American subjects but also made connections between those struggles and those of African Americans, Native Americans, and Southeast Asians who were fighting the US military.
Featured in the Interference Archive 2013 exhibition Serve the People: The Asian American Movement in New York, curated by Ryan Lee Wong, this piece includes music, graphics, poetry, prose, and comics from more than 30 artists and writers. This rare piece was donated to the IA by the Museum of Chinese in America.
Book :: Time to Greez! Incantations from the Third World (1975)
Third World Communications, Mirikitani, Janice. Time to Greez! Incantations from the Third World. San Francisco: Glide Publications, 1975.
This anthology, introduced by Maya Angelou, features poems from Black, Asian, American Indian, and Latino (La Raza) voices, advocating a united “Third World.”
Ryan Lee Wong, who included this item in the collection, recalled the words of a peer of many of the poets included in the anthology:
Reflecting on the 1970s, [she] told me once, “Oh god, we all wrote such terrible poetry back then.” She went on to become a visual artist. Embarrassment aside, what is it about poetry that becomes the first step for so many organizers and artists? I’d guess it’s the attempt to reshape reality through words, to articulate difficult things through an appropriately difficult medium.
Pamphlet :: “Chiraq and Its Meaning(s)” (2014)
Project NIA, ed. “Chiraq and Its Meaning(s).” Chicago: Temporary Services, 2014.
As Greg Mihalko points out, the Interference Archive is not only about history, but is very much in the present, dedicated to today’s movements. This 2014 pamphlet was donated to the Archive by Chicago’s Half-Letter Press, the publishing and distribution wing of Temporary Services.
Including first-hand stories, Temporary Services collaborated with Project NIA in this booklet to raise awareness about the violence and mass incarceration in Chicago.
Poster :: “Free Skyhorse & Mohawk and All Political Prisoners” (late 1970s)
San Francisco Poster Brigade, “Free Skyhorse & Mohawk and All Political Prisoners.” San Francisco: Inkworks Press, late 1970s. Linocut image: Rachael Romero.
Josh MacPhee, one of the co-founders of the Interference Archive, chose to include this poster because,
…it both features the political struggles of Native Americans, who are simultaneously the most politically repressed and most often marginalized within US racial discourse, and connects this to the prison industrial complex, one of the mechanisms that has been most heavily used to suppress political dissent in this country, particularly along racial lines.
The poster was acquired for the archive from Leon Klayman, who, with Rachael Romero, made up the SF Poster Brigade, a political art team that created posters around political issues, pasted around the Bay Area.
Newspaper :: The Village Voice, April 6, 1999
Lani Hanna presented this copy of a 1999 Village Voice during a class visit from a local high school last year. She notes that while contemporary Black Lives Matter material is online or has not made its way into the Interference Archive collection, this item gives a context for present social action against police brutality:
For activists and citizens involved in the demand for justice for Amadou Diallo—who was killed when four NYPD officers fired 41 bullets at him, striking him with 19—[there was the thought that] this event would change New York City’s law enforcement policies. However, this would not prove true. All four police would be acquitted the following year, leading to more protests demanding justice.
Fast forward 16 years and we see activists take to the streets again, demanding justice and yelling the names of Black New Yorkers who have been killed by police. When protests erupt, there is a general sense of change and hope that arises. However, on the day that fellow archivist Kevin Capliki and I accessioned a collection of material about police brutality protest from activist Ayen Tran, and sorted various ephemera, newspapers, and books all covered with the fight for justice for Diallo, Officer Kenneth Boss, one of the four who killed Diallo, received a promotion in the police department.
The Interference Archive
131 8th Street #4
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(2 blocks from F/G/R trains at 4th Ave./9th St.)
Open: Thursday 1–9pm, Friday–Sunday 12–5pm
No appointment is necessary for a visit during open hours. Visitors are welcome to explore the collection on their own, or with the assistance of volunteer staff.
Search the collection here: catalog.interferencearchive.org
—The Night Library
The Night Library promotes the re-wilding of knowledge acquisition and apprehension as well as the establishment of an association conceived for the mutual improvement of like-minded individuals striving to reclaim human thought and imagination from the clutches of 21st century technology. Our thematic focus is on covert propaganda, extinct countries, unlikely pairings, piracy, Cold Wars, and cultural appropriation. Follow us on Instagram.