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Executive Director’s Column

By Kristine McCusker
June 2020

             Greetings from the Executive Office as we all continue to social distance and work from home. Middle Tennessee State University has reopened a bit, but with the high rates of covid in Rutherford County, we decided we would wait until the numbers fell before reconvening in our campus office. If you try to reach us, it’s still best to email us at OHA@oralhistory.org at least until August.

By now, you have read President Allison Tracy-Taylor’s column informing you of the switch from a face-to-face conference to an all-virtual one. This was a necessary step, given the coronavirus uncertainties and our unwillingness to put our membership in unsafe situations.          Thankfully, we have the good advice from the American Council of Learned Societies and the experience of other professional organizations to guide us in our negotiations with our conference hotel in Baltimore. That expertise guided our successful renegotiation of the contract with no financial penalties. We are grateful to our peer institutions for their good advice throughout these difficult months.

Thanks to Louis Kyriakoudes, OHA’s co-executive director, we have also been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for more than $43,000. This has been Louis’ covid-quarantine project: to see what money the federal CARES and other legislative acts might have to help us weather the economic downturn associated with the virus. The NEH money will pay for some employment costs as well as assist us in putting on the virtual conference.

Finally, we are grateful to Vice President Dan Kerr, Program Co-Chairs Kelly Navies and Shana Farrell and Local Arrangements Co-Chairs Catherine Mayfield and Linda Shopes for their hard work on submitting a $10,000 grant to the Maryland Humanities Council. While they were not successful (covid was the culprit here), we’re grateful for their efforts in writing this grant.

 

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President’s Letter

June 25, 2020

Greetings, all.  I’m writing to give you a brief but important update on our 2020 Annual Meeting.

For the safety and well-being of presenters and attendees, we’ve decided to forego our traditional in-person conference this fall and are shifting to a virtual format. Registration will be delayed a bit, but please know we’re working diligently to open it. Sessions will be held primarily on Zoom. The program schedule is still being developed, and the Program Committee will provide presenters and attendees information and instructions on how to participate in virtual sessions.

We still plan to hold our keynote address, plenaries, pre-conference workshops, business meeting and networking events, as well as provide access to virtual tours. As information on these events and how to participate virtually becomes available, I will let the membership know.       Finally, in accordance with Maryland social-distancing orders, we also plan to offer regionally oriented in-person programming in Baltimore in October. Expect more information on these events soon.

We are working with the Hyatt Regency Hotel to rebook our meeting there for 2023, and we look forward to experiencing the city of Baltimore then.

I’m also happy to announce the OHA has been awarded a CARES Act Grant of $43,460 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will support staff salaries and allow us to host a curated collection of sessions and events from the 2020 Annual Meeting on our website.

There are more updates and information to come, and I thank you for your patience as we work to shift the meeting to a virtual one. This is uncharted territory for us, but I’m confident the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting will be engaging and enriching.

Beyond this, I hope you all are staying safe and sane.

Best,

Allison K. Tracy-Taylor
OHA President

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OHA Statement on the Killing of George Floyd and Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

June 5, 2020

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. Following Mr. Floyd’s death, protests and calls for change and an end to police brutality have risen throughout the United States and internationally. The Oral History Association stands in solidarity with the family of Mr. Floyd, Black Lives Matter, protestors, and communities of color, and we echo this call for change. The killing of George Floyd is not an isolated incident, but another event in a long history of state violence and brutality toward people of color in the United States—a history that predates our country itself.

Institutionalized white supremacy is a disturbingly prominent part of American history, placing barriers to economic, social, and educational equality and creating a criminal justice system which is deeply punitive towards Black Americans. Further, militarized police actions that threaten a free press and freedom of assembly have worked to create a terrible legacy of violence and suppression towards those working to change this country.

As oral historians, we understand that through the stories of people—citizens and activists—we can confront oppression and work to create an equitable and just society. In our commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and respect, and to a historical record that documents the experiences of unheard and marginalized voices, we must listen to and amplify the demands of people and communities of color. We must continue to document and expose the injustice so many have suffered for centuries, and develop new projects to expand these efforts.

In this work, it is essential we adopt anti-racist methods and practices. Further, we can and must work to address institutional racism in our institutions and our field, through developing and supporting leaders of color, providing anti-oppression training, and continually working to center the voices and experiences of those most directly impacted by oppression. People of color, whether they be colleagues, narrators, students, or patrons, must be supported and valued. Historical knowledge around police brutality and systemic racism is essential to addressing both, but Black and Brown people must have a clear, equal, and respected role in developing this knowledge.  

Many of our members have dedicated their careers to documenting stories of democratic citizen action and how these efforts can enact change. We have a responsibility to understand and celebrate these successful efforts, and to engage in this work ourselves. There are a number of ways we can support current protests and calls for justice: register to vote, sign petitions, support protestors or participate in protests ourselves, donate to groups and funds working to end police violence and systemic racism, call our legislators, and educate ourselves.

As Black Americans and those acting in allyship in our communities, states, and country engage in difficult and transformative work to end police violence and racism, work that will continue long after the current moment, we are committed to supporting them and participating, now and in the future. Black Lives Matter.

The following organizations have endorsed this statement:

Baylor University Institute for Oral History
Columbia University Oral History Master of Arts Program and
Columbia Center for Oral History Research
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic (OHMAR)
Texas Oral History Association (TOHA)
UNT Oral History Program
UW-Madison Oral History Program

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