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I bounced out of bed the morning of Thursday, June 18th, 2015, excited about another day, unaware of the tragedy that had happened the previous evening. But very early I read of the massacre in the Charleston church. My thoughts immediately went to my friends Chineta and Reggie Goodjoin. I wondered if I should call and ask Chineta, a pastor, whether she or Reggie had friends and family involved. Were they ok? It was still very early, I couldn’t find Chineta’s phone. Morning life took over. I didn't call. A little later, I saw Chineta's post on Facebook: "NO NO NO I am just learning that my good friend Sharonda was one of the people shot last night in Charleston..."

I still couldn't find Chineta's number. So I called Reggie right away and talked with him. But what could I say? What comfort could I offer?

I’m from India originally in a multicultural marriage and family. 30 years ago, Indians got to check themselves off as white in the US census forms. Except I knew I was a “darkie,” a “blackie.” Racism is alive and well in India just as it is in the many cultures around the world which prize light skin such as China, Brazil to give a few random examples. And, so my own racialization has been a long, slow, process. It is only recently that I've started to talk openly. I felt Chineta's pain over the loss of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Even before Charleston, D. Mark Davis' reflection on White Privilege had touched me. I was moved by all that happened and the people I met following Chineta Goodjoin's invitation to join her at a meeting of the Orange County Interfaith Alliance and to speak to The frustration of it all at the New Hope Call to Action Prayer Service. I read what Cynthia Hurd, another victim of the Charleston shooting, a librarian always said: "Libraries are always inclusive, never exclusive." I knew then that I must keep on speaking out about racism. I must also do something to help end it as well.

Why? What could I do? The why was easy. Cynthia's statement reminded me of one of my most formative work experiences: an impressionable 20-something I had helped to catalog and bring online rare Freedom of the Press materials in the Special Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Intellectual freedom which includes intellectual diversity was deeply ingrained in me. What I could do to contribute and make a difference was a challenge.  I had left academia 7 years ago and discovered a new life as wife, mother, writer and full-time volunteer! I was enjoying myself, deeply satisfied. My pioneering days in digital libraries and open access repositories belonged to the past, I thought. In the economy of grace though nothing is wasted and, the wheels had already been set in motion! Earlier in 2015 I had received two invitations: to teach Vocabulary Design and write for "Reimagining the church." The blog/column title I'd come up with for the second was A Mote in Minerva's Eye: Seeing without categorizing. The broad theme was justice, and racial justice a sub-topic. I had started to draft an outline for what I hoped would eventually become a robust research agenda around the category of race. Here's the preliminary introduction I wrote in May 2015: Biology, anthropology, have shown us that race as a scientific category doesn't exist. There are only phenotypic variations among us such as skin color, hair and eyes color. In fact, species variation among humans is far less than it is among other species. Race is a social construct. Yet, we keep using it to explain individual differences and socio-cultural phenomena. Lakoff's work has showed the influence of folk theories, mental models, and beliefs to which we unwittingly hold on in social constructions of reality. My own research has shown that Vocabulary Control - the design, construction and management of categories in mono-lingual thesauri and other systems of knowledge organization - makes a difference in learning. Now, I began to think about questions such as these: How do the Christian Bible and the sacred texts of other religions talk about race? Might it be possible to develop a thesaurus around this alternative language of spirituality? How can controlled vocabularies make a difference in the efforts to end racism?  I created the anti-racism digital library to help us answer questions such as these and many more. Join me! #RaceIsNotReal #RacismIsReal #Rising ForCharleston #AntiRacismDL #SpeakAntiRacism #AntiraceDL #InternationalAntiRacismThesaurus 

Anita Coleman 

About the Photo:  Casa means house, in Spanish, and Charis means grace, in Greek. Thus Casa Charis means House of Grace/Love. To learn more, check out my book,Casa Charis: A Daybook of Freedom, published in 2013 (available from Amazon).

References: 
Buchel, O. and Coleman, A. 2003. How can classificatory structures be used to improve science education? Library Resources and Technical Services 47 (1): 3-13. [pdf downloadLast retrieved 24 July, 2015

Coleman, A. 2006. Commons based digital libraries. in Information realities: Shaping the digital information future for all. Paper presented at 2006 ASIS&T Annual Meeting (Association for Information Science and Technology, November 3 - 9, 2006, Austin, Texas. [download paper] Also presented at the Colloquium (Brown Bag Series), 31st March, 2006, Indiana University, Bloomington. [download slides]

Coleman, A. 2006. Competing information realities: Digital libraries, repositories, and the commons. (panel description). 2006 ASIS&T Annual Meeting (Association for Information Science and Technology, November 3 - 9, 2006, Austin, Texas.

Coleman, A. and Bracke, P. 2006. Controlled vocabularies as a sphere of influence. In  Raghavan, K.S. and Prasad, K.N. (Editors). Knowledge organization, information systems and other essays: Prof. A. Neelameghan festschrift. New Delhi: Ess Ess Publications for Ranganathan Centre for Information Studies, 2006. (pages 89 – 110) [pdf preprint download] Last retrieved 24 July, 2015

Lakoff, G. 1987. Women, fire and other dangerous things: What categories reveal about the mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [pdf downloadLast retrieved 24 July, 2015

Related resources: 

Charleston church shooting. Wikipedia. Available online. Last retrieved 24 July, 2015

Peet, Lisa. June 25, 2016. Cynthia G. Hurd, Librarian among those killed in the Charleston shooting. Library Journal. Available online. [html] Last retrieved 24 July, 2015

Tauber, Michelle. 06/25/2015. 'All shall be well': Hear the touching voicemail from Charleston massacre victim Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. People Available online [html] Last retrieved 24 July, 2015

Whiting, David. A half century after King's Dream speech, Charleston shooting shows we're still at war with ourselves. June 23, 2015. Orange County Register. Available online. [html] Last retrieved 24 July, 2015

 

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