On February 28—the last day of Black History Month 2022—supporters of H. Con. Res. 19 (to establish a US Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Commission) and H.R. 40 (to establish a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans) are joining with the Black Fortune Month movement for a national call-in day asking President Biden for immediate executive action on these commissions. And they are asking that he signal this intention during the March 1 State of the Union address.
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) joined the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) movement in 2021 and fully supports executive action to create these two, mutually reinforcing commissions. In particular, research libraries support the mission to “properly acknowledge, memorialize, and be a catalyst for progress toward jettisoning the belief in a hierarchy of human value, embracing our common humanity, and permanently eliminating persistent racial inequities.” ARL member institutions are trusted sources of information and data, and curators of the historical and cultural record. Our collections are filled with source material and evidence that can inform and shape a Truth Commission, and we stand ready to contribute our expertise to shaping the envisioned US Archive of Racial and Cultural Healing.
Black Fortune Month, in partnership with Sojourners, created a webpage with an action alert and link to their proposed call-in script to request that President Biden issue two executive orders. One executive order would establish a commission to study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans, examine the legacy of slavery in the United States from 1619 to the present, and recommend appropriate remedies. The second executive order would establish a United States Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation. Both commissions should be mentioned in the upcoming State of the Union address.
As research libraries, ARL members might use the following language to represent our community:
- Research libraries are trusted sources of information and data, and curators of the historical and cultural record. Our collections are filled with source material and evidence that can inform and shape a Truth Commission, and we offer our expertise in shaping the envisioned US Archive of Racial and Cultural Healing.
- Great libraries help students and lifelong learners navigate sources of information, evaluate information for integrity, and provide a platform for exploring the truth. That such inquiry may cause discomfort is precisely the reason to build and protect the capacity of scholars, educational institutions, memory organizations, and communities to document and tell such stories with care.
Rev. Terrance M. McKinley, director of racial justice mobilizing with Sojourners, summed it up by linking the importance of truth to healing and repair: “The roots of the current health inequities, the senseless murders of Black bodies by white vigilantes and the police, the dismantling and suppressing of voting rights, and the censoring of the truth of our nation’s history all can be traced back to the brokenness of our nation’s past.”
Before taking action, you may wish to reach out to your government relations team on campus to understand your institution’s policies on advocacy and political activity.
About the Association of Research Libraries
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 126 research libraries in Canada and the US whose mission is to advance research, learning, and scholarly communication. The Association fosters the open exchange of ideas and expertise; advances diversity, equity, and inclusion; and pursues advocacy and public policy efforts that reflect the values of the library, scholarly, and higher education communities. ARL forges partnerships and catalyzes the collective efforts of research libraries to enable knowledge creation and to achieve enduring and barrier-free access to information. ARL is on the web at ARL.org.