So SAA’s Going to Austin. Now What?

This post was written by Stephanie Bennett and the Issues & Advocacy Section’s Steering Committee, in light of the recent news that SAA was keeping its commitment to hold 2019’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas. 

With the announcement from SAA president Tanya Zanish-Belcher that SAA’s 2019 will be in Austin, despite a Council discussion about moving it, SAA members – and all archivists and humans who move about the world – have some thinking to do. And some work to do. Some of us – though not the Californian archivists among us – will attend the meeting. The I&A Steering Committee once more poses questions that we’ve been asking amongst ourselves:

  • How can we, as an organization and as individuals, support the activists of Texas?
  • Is it a betrayal of our personal beliefs or heteronormative myopia if we do attend, in part because we “pass” the Texas legislature’s guide of acceptable personhood?
  • As Eira Tansey points out, the battles between more liberal cities and restrictive, conservative legislatures are happening across the U.S.; where will our harassed queer colleagues find safe harbor?
  • Should we, how can we, support our professional organization(s) in the long run so that these choices between financial precarity or personal harm are no longer required? Does SAA need  (as writer Paulette Perhach called it) a F*ck Off Fund?
  • How can we work within the profession to change foundational systems of oppression? (And all of the questions we posed previously, really)

As an institution, SAA and its component groups, including the sections, have the responsibility to be mindful of how we spend our time and money – especially in Austin. We’ve been watching and listening as Representative John Lewis models the ethics and actions of “good trouble.” At Issues & Advocacy, we are committed to spending our money at LGBTQ-owned and -friendly businesses and establishments that recognize that black lives matter. We will seek opportunities to collaborate with queer archivists to do service and/or fundraising to benefit Texan activists and organizations fighting against the state’s restrictive and occasionally unconstitutional or overturned laws. And we welcome your ideas! If there is an event or organization that you would like to see supported or a topic that you would like to be discussed but do not have the bandwidth to undertake, let us know.

That said, the Society of American Archivists, as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is not permitted to engage in “political campaign activities as defined by the IRS. We are not lawyers, but we do understand that  limits to SAA’s work exist, and, as a body within SAA, the limits for Issues & Advocacy’s work as well. But as individuals, we have the right to political activity and related speech. For those of us who will attend the meeting, we look forward to working in Austin, as both individuals and professional archivists.



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