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Arts & Culture, Black History Month, New York, News

AfroCrowd: Owning Haitian History Through Digital Empowerment

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By Fabiola Jean

AfroCrowd, a new initiative aimed at increasing black participation in crowdsourcing, kicked off Black History Month, with a weekend dedicated to Wikimedia crowdsourcing. The kickoff event, held at the Brooklyn Public Library, was sponsored by the Haiti Cultural Exchange, Haitian Creole Language Institute, Afrolatin@ Project, Port Academie, Garifuna Nation, Yoruba Cultural Institute and Afri Diaspora.

One of the main reasons behind this project was so there’d be more content about Haiti on Wikipedia, Alice Backer, founder of AfroCrowd said. Wikipedia has posts published in 285 languages and receives about 470 million monthly searchers. The Haitian Wikipedia has 50,000 articles in Haitian Creole, compared to the 4,500,000 articles in the English wikipedia.

AfroCrowd founder Alice Backer Photo Credit: Fabiola Jean

AfroCrowd founder Alice Backer Photo Credit: Fabiola Jean

“You can’t talk about Haitian culture without incorporating the Haitian language,” Wynnie Lamour, founder of the Haitian Creole Language Institute, said. The elevation of the Haitian consciousness has to include structured and relevant information.

The two-day event is part of a new initiative called “Black Wiki History Month,” a national effort to encourage people from African American and Black communities to contribute posts to websites like Wikipedia, that are built on the public’s participation. The movement also seeks to increase communities’ knowledge on resources available to them.

“By expanding on the content provided by Haitians in general, we can be a resource to our people,” Backer said, “especially to the children in Haiti.”

So many of them have limited resources to education, she said. The content we generate can be an encyclopedia not just of Haitian culture and facts, but also include a variety of subjects from geology to mathematics, written in Haitian Creole.

“It’s not something we have to wait for others to do,” Backer said. “It requires no funding, just time.”

Special qualifications are not needed to write for Wikipedia, president of Wikimedia’s New York City chapter Richard Knippel, said. He attended the event, where he made presentations on Wikipedia and crowdsourcing.

It’s a broad community, he said, and we’re trying to make it broader.

So many people tell our stories in a “monolithic way” when we are so rich in culture, Carmen Dixon, a community organizer, part of the “Black Lives Matter” NYC collective, said. We need to get our stories right by telling them ourselves.

AfroCrowd came to be after Backer met Milos Rancic, president of Wikipedia Serbia, at a technology conference. Rancic approached her about attracting more blacks to the “free knowledge movement.”

“Imagine the possibilities,” Backer said in an interview with Kreyolicious. “This is the largest reference website in the world.”

When you Google anyone, the first post is almost always a Wikipedia entry, she said. “So what happens then if black people, Haitians included, don’t crowdsource this platform with the rest of the world?

“In the age of black Twitter, it’s time for black Wikipedia.”

Fabiola Jean

Fabiola Jean

Fabiola Jean is a rising broadcast journalist who enjoys being a part of multiple entrepreneurial endeavors such as film making. She aspires to one day achieving a legacy that will impact numerous lives.
Fabiola Jean
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February 19, 2015

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