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Introduction

This introduction provides an overview of eBlackCU, how it works, the ideas behind it and how you can find information on it. The introduction is divided into three sections:

1) Why are we doing this? What principles inspire this site?

2) Overview of the divisions of this website

3) How to get started. Where to go if you are stuck.

1) Why are we doing this? What principles inspire this site?

eBlackCU is driven by two principles: 1) Community Informatics and 2) eBlack Studies.

Community Informatics

eBlackCU is rooted in the theory and practice of community informatics, which is "the study or practice regarding the continuity of local, historical communities meeting the transformation of information technologies," Community Informatics Research Lab.

eBlack Studies

The second principal driving this project is eBlackStudies, developed by Abdul Alkalimat, eBlack Studies. eBlack Studies principles include: 1. Cyberdemocracy. eBlack depends on everyone having access to and becoming an active user of cyber technology. 2. Collective Intelligence. eBlack depends on all intellectual production being collected, analyzed, and utilized. 3. Information Freedom. eBlack depends on intellectual production being freely available to everyone. The full text of the manifesto can be found at http://eblackstudies.org/workshop/manifesto.html.

The eBlack Champaign-Urbana project is a collaborative portal on African-American history and culture that draws on multiple public and private collections of information on the African-American community in Champaign-Urbana.

The goals of eBlackCU are to: 1) Centralize information on local African-American history and culture and create new knowledge through this centralization; 2) Collaborate with past and present community residents in the production of knowledge by soliciting their contributions, both in the form of personal memories and in the form of digitized personal archives; 3) Contribute to a community of scholars, activists and citizens interested in learning more about various aspects of local African-American history and culture; and 4) Develop best-practices for other, similar projects to build on our experiences.

Memory is critical for every community. Here in Champaign-Urbana we know that every African-American church has an annual church anniversary, and most publish commemorative programs for special anniversaries. We also know that when a community member passes away a community comes together to celebrate his or her legacy. We also know that in many African-American communities African-American History Month, Martin Luther King Day, Juneteenth and Summer Community and Family Reunions are often occasions for a community to remember, celebrate and build on its past. There are the daily and ongoing memory practices in communities such as passing through familiar neighborhoods (which can be enhanced through historical markers and murals commemorating particular events or individuals), researching one's family history, or reading newspaper articles on historical topics. Finally, there are also more formal, educational venues for remembering the past, such as K-12 Social Science curriculum which involves community history, and lifelong or continuing education courses through local institutions of higher education or adult education centers that teach community history.

2) Overview of this website

This website is divided into three main sections:

1) Bibliography/Webliography and Research Guide. These two sections address the question: "Where are the publicly available information resources on local African-American history and culture?"

2) Digitized Information. Providing access to digitized information, including websites, newspaper clippings, photographs, and more, is the primary function of eBlackCU. Only a small portion of the information resources of local African-American history and culture have been digitized. All are welcome to contribute to this small, but growing, collection of information, which will be preserved and made available into the future.

3) Publishing/Exhibits. The ultimate goal of eBlackCU is to bring to life the digitized information gathered in this website. Through digital exhibits on local African-American history and culture we aim to show how digitized information can create new knowledge. Anyone is welcome to help us make virtual exhibits on local history.

3) Finding information on eBlackCU

Having given a conceptual and concrete introduction to eBlackCU, this section gives a quick introduction to how to use this site to find information. The single best starting points are the Bibliography/Webliography and Research Guide, which seek to comprehensively list and categorize information resources on African-American history and culture, whether in analog or in digital form.

However, since many of the information resources described in these two guides are difficult to access a second way to find information using eBlackCU is to search the site using either keywords or general topics. Searching the site will search across all the items in the eBlackCU digital library that have been either digitized or linked into eBlackCU from other sites on the Internet.

Finally, if you are simply looking for narrative history on different aspects of the local African-American experience you may want to look through our Digital Exhibits, which seek to bring together information on finite topics and use them to create new knowledge.

It is important to also note that eBlackCU is not just for finding and accessing information. It is also a platform for uploading information. If at any point during your journey through this site you notice gaps or inaccurate information and want to contribute something you are welcome and encouraged to either use our online contribution form. We are more than happy to make visits to your house, work or community institution to help you get your information into eBlackCU.

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eBlackCU: A Collaborative Portal on African American Experiences in Champaign-Urbana is a project funded by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and administered by the Community Informatics Research Lab, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Supervising investigator is Abdul Alkalimat, professor of African-American Studies and Library and Information Science.