By Thomas L Blair
All 21st century information centres have a vital interest in keeping up with the demand for learning about Cultures in the African Diaspora in Britain, in print and online. Bringing the Internet and books closer together could be a boon for far-sighted educators, researchers, rights activists, and the communities they serve.
To meet this challenge, I am offering my digital and print collection on the Black Experience in Britain, and in Europe, the USA and the Caribbean.
The digital component
With over 40 years of academic work behind me, and 15 years on the World Wide Web, I am one of a growing number of online scholars publishing “minority interests” ignored by mainstream publishers. Notable examples are professors Abdul Alkalimat of the University of Illinois, Manning Marable of Columbia University and Naom Chomsky of MIT.
Uniquely, the Blair Collection is British-based, with a digital component of thousands of Internet pages and a dozen CD/DVD volumes of my online magazine The Chronicleworld http://www.chronicleworld.org.
Written primarily for the Internet generation, the web magazine has merited comment from social scientists and researchers in professional associations. SOSIG and the UK Intute Science, Engineering and Technology cite its “is archived history of Afro-Caribbean settlement in London, book reviews, a gallery of Afro-Caribbean art and links to news services and sites of general interest to the British Afro-Caribbean community”.
The Print Collection
Linking the Internet and relevant books was not a simple a task. Rather than merely compiling cold lists of books from my university lectures and isolated libraries, I backed up my online articles with a personal library of more than 500 scholarly books, contemporary post-Windrush and historical. Photographs, documents, posters and political tracts capture the thrust of eras and political leaders. Databases point readers to further study in the media, politics, ethnic and race relations and urban affairs.
The cache includes my own books; among them, The Poverty of Planning (1973) proposed solutions to urban decay in districts of immigrant settlement. In Retreat to the Ghetto: The end of a dream? (1977) I examined the crisis of Black leadership – Martin and Malcolm among others – in the US post-civil rights era.
The Eureka moment
My latest work in E-book and print, The Audacity of Cyberspace: The struggle for internet power (2009) brings the internet and books together. Case studies of the web sites and literature aid our understanding of cyberactivism in Black communities in America, Britain and Africa. See http://m-ybooks.co.uk/blair/index.html.
It was remarkably difficult to unify this information. However, I am proud the British Library chose my web site for its first national archive of web sites on communities and culture.
Furthermore, “The CHRONICLEWORLD.ORG web site is one of best Web resources for education and research,” say subject specialists in UK universities consortium at Intute: http://www.intute.ac.uk.
and especially Shaping of Black London http://www.intute.ac.uk/cgi-bin/fullrecord.pl?handle=20091024-19162369
The Unique Opportunity
New demands are likely to be placed on the cultural information organizations for material on the African Diaspora communities in Britain, and elsewhere. Many are speeding up their efforts to bring in the type of material relevant to multicultural societies. In this context, the Blair Collection has the potential to attract public readers and reach a wider audience of communities, academics and action-oriented policy researchers, both in-house and online.
It’s time senior scholars turned cyber-advocates, like myself, passed on our acquired knowledge to future generations. I am making a start by offering my digital and print collection to interested parties.
I therefore invite expressions of interest in housing the collection:
From Archivists, librarians, curators and academic leaders as well as senior cultural managers in administration and education. Please e-mail Prof Blair at email@example.com for a detailed prospectus of the Collection.