Alabama Prison Book Drive

My good friend and sista-scholar, Briana Whiteside, is currently a Ph. D. student in the English Department at the University of Alabama, but one of the most fulfilling aspects of her journey has been teaching inside Alabama prisons. Through the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project (APAEP), Briana teaches African American literature in medium and maximum security prisons. Sharing her teaching experiences with me recently, she mentioned the lack of access to books, especially those written by and about people of color, as well as a lack of access to other information resources for incarcerated students with a desire to learn. To help support and foster rehabilitation, the idea for the Alabama Prison Book Drive was born. I’ve provided details and a statement by Briana below. Please share and most of all donate!

“Unfortunately a lengthy incarceration has caused me to ‘conveniently’ forget my past wrongs; reading helps me remember what it’s like to be human or someone else.” – Alabama Prison Student

Glades Correctional Institution inmates reading in the prison library - Belle Glade, Florida (1975) From the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, (Photo by Tom McLendon)

Glades Correctional Institution inmates reading in the prison library – Belle Glade, Florida (1975)
From the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, (Photo by Tom McLendon)


By Briana Whiteside:

For two semesters I’ve had the privilege of teaching African American Literature with the Alabama Prison Arts & Education Program (APAEP). We service 11 institutions (male and female) within the state of Alabama.

However, I’ve noticed that there is a desperate need for African American literary works. Many of my students express frustrations about limited access to literature written by people of color. While the prisons that we service are heavily populated with black and brown bodies, prison libraries have minimal resources pertaining to African American identity.

In an effort to help satisfy the needs of my students and actively assist in fostering rehabilitation, I am coordinating a book drive in the month of October through APAEP. We are seeking mainly paperback books that cover various ideas pertaining to African American identity and Literature both historical and contemporary.

The Goal is 300 books!

Acceptable Books:

Contemporary fiction

Paperback books



Historical books

***Not Acceptable***

Hard back books

Collections of Readers’ Digest

Religious Materials

True Crime


Any books that are targeted towards prisons

Please send your donations to:

Briana Whiteside

Department of English, Box 870244

University of Alabama,

Tuscaloosa Al 35487

#StraightOuttaArchives | Talib Kweli Tours Cornell University’s Hip Hop Collection

*This post has been updated to reflect The Hip Hop Collection’s current holdings of 200,000 materials. In the original post, I cited more than 15,000.

In case you missed it, Talib Kweli recently shared his tour of Cornell University’s Hip Hop and Rare Books Collection located in the Carl A. Kroch Library, giving all of his followers an inside look at historic Hip Hop artifacts from the university’s Hip Hop Collection. Kweli took to social media sharing photos of Afrika Bambaataa’s DJ set criminal justice notebook from 1977 as well as Bambaataa’s video recordings and personal medallion collection. Among other artifacts, Kweli also shared a Zephyr original “Wild Style” piece.


With approximately 200,000 items in its holdings, Cornell University’s Hip Hop Collection is one of the premier repositories in the nation devoted to collecting, preserving, and providing open access to Hip Hop history and culture. More recently, the university library acquired materials from the Bill Adler archive, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the founding of Def Jam Recordings (you can preview the online exhibit here).

In the meantime, check out these photos from Kweli’s Hip Hop Archive visit below!



Alas, what’s a visit to the rare books and manuscripts collection of the library without looking at those “old ass books”?!?!

Bonus Material: While the following post may not be associated with the Hip Hop Archive tour, if you’re an avid record collector or vinyl lover… don’t get caught slippin’ with the Black Star bootleg!


Tech Cypher: Highlights from the #Tech808 Oakland Conference

952808D9-BABC-407D-B58F-DE00AB8D5FF7This past Saturday I attended Tech808, a one-day Hip Hop inspired tech conference for minority and millennial entrepreneurs hosted by The Phat Startup. For those less familiar, The Phat Startup is an integrated media company that produces premium content for all levels of entrepreneurs with a mission to bridge the gap between Hip Hop culture, tech, and entrepreneurship. Oakland was the second stop in the 3-city tour, with the last stop in NYC.

The idea for the #Tech808 Tour emerged after having hosted more than 100 live events with notable entrepreneurs and tech magnates like Ben Horowitz, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Ryan Leslie to name a few. But it also developed from the realization that many tech conferences lacked diversity among its participants.

As an information leader, cultural worker, and creative, I find great value being in spaces where information is shared and ideas converge. I had a great time learning more about startups, meeting other conference participants (entrepreneurs and “wantrepreneurs” like myself), and thinking more deeply about my role as a creative and information professional. The value tech provides is not just in the technology itself, but the idea as well as the people (designers and users). Tracy Sun, co-founder of Poshmark will tell you quite simply that part of her success came from understanding that “technology and algorithms can’t replace people.”

Here are some of the photos with tips and quotables that I took during the event.

Tech808 Oakland Conference Program

Tech808 Oakland Conference Program

Keynote Speaker Tracy Sun (Co-Founder and VP of Merchandising at Poshmark)

Keynote Speaker Tracy Sun (Co-Founder and VP of Merchandising at Poshmark)

“Don’t give up, give your idea some room to breathe” and “Get used to the fact that you’re going to be different.” Tracy Sun, Co-Founder Poshmark

Anthony Frasier (Co-Founder, The Phat Start Up)

Anthony Frasier (Co-Founder, The Phat Start Up)

For Phat Start Up co-founder Anthony Frasier, part of Side-Hustle 101 includes “testing and validating ideas early on.” If you’re promoting your business or a product across multiple platforms “figure out what works for each platform.”

Divine - The 4th Letter (Rapper, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker)

Divine – The 4th Letter (Rapper, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker)

Divine – The 4th Letter (@4thlettermusic) was an inspiration as he shared how he was able to transform his life after incarceration, how his friendship with tech mogul Ben Horowitz developed and changed his life, and how he’s using his music to make a social impact and help others elevate. For Divine, spirituality, knowledge, perseverance, and social impact go hand in hand. His advice: “Never let anybody tell you your value. Value is what value does. Never negotiate your value.”


I call this the “Divine Cypher”. After sharing his story, a small group emerged to listen to him drop more jewels and lessons about life, spirituality, and more.


Divine speaking with one of the Tech 808 participants after his talk.


Tech 808 Digital Content Panel (seated L-R): Benoni Tagoe, Julian Mitchell, Danielle Leslie, and Morgan DeBaun

The conference also included a panel, moderated by Morgan Debaun (Founder, Blavity) on “How to Use Content to Build a Thriving Online Community” with Benoni Tagoe (Content Strategist and Founder, The Bizz Plan), Julian Mitchell (Sr. Branded Writer, BuzzFeed), and Danielle Leslie (Director of Revenue Growth, Mayvenn).

Here’s what the panel had to say when asked what it takes to make ‘good’ content and on building community:

For Danielle Leslie (@danielleleslie), knowing the right language to use, location (or the appropriate platform to place your content), and knowing people’s pain point and how you can connect is key.

Julian Mitchell (@AllAboutMitch): “A compelling story trumps quality” as well as “having a point-of-view that’s unique” that “provokes conversations” or gets to the to “the why of content” are all important.  He later encourages content creators to “Create more opportunities than you ask for. Do what you’re already doing.”

Benoni Tagoe (@nonibizz): “Content is king and consistency is queen…Collaboration is an important balance between the two. You may not be able to put out the perfect product, but the world will reward you if you follow these principles.”

Morgan DeBaun (@blavity) emphasized the importance of recycling content as your community grows as a way to introduce new readers to previous content they may not yet be familiar with.

Joah Spearman (Founder, Localeur)

Joah Spearman (Founder, Localeur)

Joah Spearman (@joahspearman, @localeur) on “How to Raise the First Million for Your Startup”

Tip #1: When raising capital start with friends and family first then explore angel network investors in your city.

Tip #2: “Raise 40% more than you think you need.”

Tip #3: Kickstarter, in his opinion, works best for tangible products

Tip #4: “Share your thoughts” and “Get used to talking about things that don’t exist yet.”


Sheen Allen (Founder, Sheena Allen Apps)

Sheena Allen (@whoisSheena) gave an insightful presentation “Build a Rockstar Mobile App Company as a Non-Techie.” With no tech background, Sheena Allen has managed to create a portfolio of popular apps with over 2.4 million downloads including PicSlit and Dubblen Split Pic, Orange Snap. Here are some of her tips for non-techies:

  • Get your idea out of your head and onto paper.
  • Find a technical co-founder or a freelancer. (though she advises to be careful when selecting freelancers)
  • Test your own app.
  • Find mentors.
  • Be optimistic, be persistent, and be creative.
  • Be strategic. Don’t do all the bells and whistles at first.

564A9EB7-DD7E-43E7-9BD9-904BBCFF25C3** Not pictured Mike Seibel (Partner, Y Combinator @mwseibel), provided his thoughts and expertise starting a tech company and how to get into YC accelerators reminding the audience that “A lot of people try, but not a lot of people make it” and “Raising money is the result of doing good work.” If you can build something in 2 weeks or less, you’re in a better position to get something into user’s hands and be able to start learning and growing.

Here is a link to the slideshow on his website that was included in his presentation.

**Also not pictured is Tiffani Bell, Co-Founder of The Detroit Water Project, which is launching as part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2015 class. As a non-profit, funds are directly paid to municipal water departments. The Detroit Water Project has received donations of more than $180,000 for water bills that have helped over 900 families in Detroit. The project has since expanded to Baltimore with plans to expand to third city, which will be announced in coming weeks. Through the Detroit and Baltimore Water Projects, Bell has been able to use utility data and her background in computer science for social good. Her advice:

  • Plan nothing. Simply put, release expectations and be flexible to change as there are likely to be several changes throughout your cycles of development.
  • Let it be ugly. The example she provided here was the original bootstrap site for the project vs. the active site).
  • Iterate. As part of the cycles of development, a startup must put out their best basic product to better gain an understanding or what works or what doesn’t work.
  • Tell a story. Every great product or company has a story. Tell a unique one.
  • Know metrics. No metrics. Basically, in order to iterate, you need to know the metrics or analytics behind your project. Know what people are gravitating towards, and what is or isn’t working.
  • Be cheap as hell! (Don’t spend a dime if you don’t have to)

Intro to Info: Pathways to Librarianship and Other Info Professions

Stock Photo - technology with face and binary code

technology with face and binary code stock photo © Carlos Castilla

This is an exciting time for me because I have “officially” started my online master’s program in Library and Information Science (MLIS) through the School of Information at San José State University. For most librarians, archivists, and other information professionals, the ALA-accredited MLIS degree is required for a wide range of positions in private, public, and academic institutions as well as within the tech sector.

Although the semester doesn’t officially begin until August 20, I am now in week 2 of Info 203 ‘Online Learning: Tools and Strategies for Success,’ an asynchronous course consisting of nine modules that introduces students to a variety of new and emerging technologies used in today’s online environment. The course also emphasizes various social networking platforms, content and learning management tools, web conferencing, immersive environments, and other trends in social computing.

Week 1 began with a review of the syllabus, an overview on how to use Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) and introducing ourselves to the class via online discussion board. For our self-introductions we had the option to experiment with tools like AnimotoJingWordle, Tagxedo, or any other media of our choosing. For my classroom introduction, I decided to create a word cloud using Wordle.

wordle 3

As I progress through the course I will be learning, evaluating, and demonstrating my competency in various learning platforms and engaging in discussions related to readings and questions raised by the instructor and peer mentors. Info 203 is also a core requirement that must be completed within the first four weeks of the semester. Simply put, it is in a student’s best interest to start early.

While this “ain’t my first time at the rodeo” of grad school and online classes, it is my first time completing an entire degree online. Like many of my cohorts, I’m somewhere between nervousness and excitement (but definitely more excitement) and many of us came to this path in a roundabout way. For me, this has been a long time coming as I have often assumed the role of librarian in my personal experiences: sharing/retrieving/filtering information; keeping and preserving materials for some later time; keeping folks “in the know”; sharing articles and new publications with scholar-friends; organizing and interpreting historic materials and experimenting with technology. In no small way, I have evolved, intuitively, into a connector of worlds.

Journey with me!

Harlem’s Studio Museum Director Thelma Golden to Plan Obama’s Presidential Library

Thelma Golden, Chief Curator and Director of The Studio Museum in Harlem Photo Source: Mike Coppola/Getty Images North America

Thelma Golden, Director of The Studio Museum Photo Source: Mike Coppola/Getty Images North America

Who’s preserving your legacy? That’s definitely a question President Barack Obama has given much consideration as he moves towards the end of his presidential term. On July 30, 2015, The Barack Obama Foundation announced that Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator at The Studio Museum in Harlem, was selected by President Obama to join the Board of Directors for the Barack Obama Foundation.

This, however, isn’t Golden’s first time being hand-picked by the President for her leadership and expertise. In 2010, she was appointed by President Obama to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. With more than 20 years of experience in the art world–curating and contributing to “some of the country’s foremost museums and collections,” Thelma Golden’s role will entail organizing the presidential library for the Barack Obama Presidential Center on the South Side of Chicago, the planned library and museum about his life and legacy.

The Barack Obama Presidential Center will also become the 14th site in the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) presidential library system. According to the foundation website, the center “will inspire the next generation of young leaders all over the world. It will convene the brightest minds with the newest ideas from across the political spectrum, and draw strength from the rich diversity and vitality of Chicago, the city it calls home.”

In a statement on the foundation website, Golden noted:

I am very much looking forward to joining the Board of Directors, and working to make the Obama Presidential Center a hub for creative expression through the arts. The South Side of Chicago has historically been the nexus of several important cultural movements for African-Americans, and I believe the new Center will help usher in a new era of community engagement for this extraordinary neighborhood.

Prior to her dual role as Chief Curator and Museum Director, she was a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she organized several groundbreaking exhibits from 1988-1998. In 2000, Golden became Chief Curator and Director of the The Studio Museum in Harlem, which exhibits historical and contemporary works by local, national, and international artists of African descent inspired and influenced by black culture. Golden has been praised not only for her work organizing innovative exhibitions that raised the profiles of African American contemporary artists, but also for increasing the museum’s visitor growth and international presence as an important cultural space in Harlem under her leadership. In 2015, she was named a Ford Foundation Art of Change Visiting Fellow.

Golden, who received training as a curatorial apprentice for the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a high school senior, began interning with The Studio Museum while in college. In 1987, Golden graduated from Smith College with a BA in Art History and African-American Studies and landed her first curatorial position with the Studio Museum.

The Legacy Keeper: Meet Historian & Archivist Ashley N. Robertson, Ph.D.

Knowledge is the prime need of the hour. – Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

Historian Ashley N. Robertson, Ph.D. (Source:

Historian Ashley N. Robertson, Ph.D. (Source:

I don’t remember when I first came across Dr. Ashley Robertson’s instagram page (@thelegacykeeper), but I do know it was a while back because I was yet in my graduate history/museum studies program and happy to stumble across a sista with similar interests as mine: history and museums. More notably, I was delighted to come across a young sista actively involved scholarship and public history.

Dr. Robertson is a historian, assistant professor, curator, and museum director at the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation-National Historic Landmark  on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University, a private historically Black university in Daytona Beach, Florida. More recently, Dr. Robertson has accepted the position of University Archivist at Bethune-Cookman University.

In 2013, Dr. Robertson graduated from Howard University with a Ph.D. in African Diaspora History and a minor in Public History. Her previous projects include working as an Archives Technician for the National Archives for Black Women’s History at the Mary McLeod Bethune National History Site in Washington D.C., where she did an intensive study on the life of Dr. Bethune,  while also archiving collections which examined the life of African American women and assisted with the programming of the National Park Service Site.

Dr. Robertson teaches African American History to specialized learning communities at Bethune-Cookman University and as the Director of the Mary McLeod Bethune Foundation she is committed to preserving the collections belonging to Dr. Bethune including her historic home, which receives thousands of visitors every year who come seeking an authentic “Bethune Experience” and are interested in learning more about Dr. Bethune’s life and legacy.

9835-MARY-cvr.inddLovers of history, Dr. Bethune, and those interested in the history of black women will be happy to know that historian Ashley Robertson has recently published her first book entitled Mary McLeod Bethune in Florida: Bringing Social Justice to the Sunshine State, which explores the life, leadership and amazing contributions of this dynamic activist.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Ashley Robertson and her work visit her site: The Legacy Keeper 1875 or follow her on social media @thelegacykeeper.

Animating the Archive: John Coltrane On Giant Steps and Being A Force For Good

I think music is an instrument. It can create the initial thought pattern that can create a change, you see, in the thinking of the people. – John Coltrane

John Coltrane (animated gif) Source: Blank on Blank

John Coltrane (animated gif) Source: Blank on Blank

I don’t know what rock I’ve been under, but this morning I was introduced to what the present and future looks like for transmedia storytelling, digital historiography and digital archives–at least through the medium of animation while watching the PBS digital series Blank on Blank for the first time.

I’m a jazz (and Coltrane) fan and one of their recent episodes features selections from Frank Kofsky’s November 1966 interview with jazz legend John Coltrane from the Pacifica Radio Archives. In this episode Coltrane discusses his art aesthetic, the meaning of music in the human experience, Malcolm X, and his spiritual approach. One of my favorite moments was listening to Coltrane reflect on why he decided to start playing the soprano saxophone instead of the tenor. In the interview he tells Kofsky:

I didn’t want admit this damn thing because I said well the tenor’s my horn, this is my baby but the soprano, there’s still something there, just the voice of it that I can’t… It’s just really beautiful. I really like it.”

Coltrane popularized the use of the soprano saxophone in jazz, but I think this episode does well in capturing, without overemphasis, one of Coltrane’s most definitive moments–his revelation of love through pure hearing and feeling in sound. This rare interview took place less than a year before his death.

Blank on Blank is a signature series by Quoted Studios, in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios, that curates and transforms rare or unheard vintage interviews with cultural icons into animated video shorts. Together, they have delivered innovative digital content through archival interviews from American icons like Buckminster Fuller, Carol Burnett, Janis Joplin and others, including notable African Americans icons: Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, Maya Angelou, and Barry White to name a few.

Check out the full episode with John Coltrane below. For the full animated transcript click here.

Quoted Studios is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and sharing stories by American journalists and “finding creative ways to transform historical oral histories with cultural icons into modern digital content.”

CFP: #DigitalBlackness Conference at Rutgers University–April 22-23, 2016

Digital Blackness aims to: bring together scholars, students, activists, and artists from a range of fields and disciplines to interrogate the many new modes, customs, and arrangements of racial identity as they are mediated through digital technologies.


Originally posted by Mark Anthony Neal on New Black Man .
CFP: #DigitalBlackness Conference
Rutgers University | New Brunswick, New Jersey
Friday & Saturday: April 22 – 23, 2016
The 21st century has been marked by the proliferation of access to digital platforms and social media sites that have completely refigured the terms and terrain of racial representation, politics, cultural expression and scholarly research.
Whether we are speaking of the explosion of web-based series that are distributed through YouTube, the formation of a the broad social media community known as Black Twitter, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, or the on-line Queering Slavery Working Group, profoundly new questions have emerged concerning how the digital has reshaped the meaning, understanding, performance, representation, and reception of Blackness.

What we might call the digital turn also has significant implications for how we study Blackness within and across fields and disciplines. What does Digital Black Studies mean? What are its methodological proclivities and its analytic investments? What are the possibilities of Digital Blackness? What are its limits? This two-day conference Digital Blackness will bring together scholars, students, activists, and artists from a range of fields and disciplines to interrogate the many new modes, customs, and arrangements of racial identity as they are mediated through digital technologies.

We invite proposals for individual papers, and complete panel proposals that addresses a broad range of areas. Suggestions include but are not limited to:

1. Digital Blackness and Social Media
2. Digital Blackness on Film
3. Black Television in the Digital Age
4. Digital Black Histories
5. Digital Archives
6. Digital Black Studies
7. Digital Black Feminisms
8. Digital Diasporas
9. Digital Black Politics and Social Movements
10. Digital Blackness and Musical Cultures
11. Digital Blackness and Visual Culture
12. Blackness in the Digital Humanities
13. Black Code Studies


Proposals can take one of two forms: (A) an individual or (B) a complete panel.A proposal for an individual paper should consist of a title and summary of the topic; if accepted, this paper and others related to it will be combined into a complete session. An individual-paper proposal should be single-spaced and no more than two pages long. Please include institutional affiliation and email address for an individual paper.

A proposal for a complete panel provides a prospectus for a coherent collection of 3-4 papers, including a title for the session, a title and summary of each paper, and a chair, if possible. A complete panel proposal should be single-spaced and no more than three pages long. Please include institutional affiliations and email addresses for all participants.


Please submit proposals to:

Proposals are due by Sunday, November 15, 2015.