The Power of Knowledge: A Look at the AfroCROWD Juneteenth Conference on Civil Rights

On June 19, 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, people from eight countries spanning three continents gathered online to participate in Wikipedia’s first ever virtual Juneteenth conference on civil rights, hosted by AfroCROWD.  It was on this day, June 19, 1865, now celebrated as the Juneteenth holiday, enslaved Africans in America finally learned two years after the fact that they had been set free. So this day not only celebrates emancipation, but the life changing power of knowledge. 

For our Juneteenth event, we originally hoped to offer a discussion and free Wiki editor training as we had every month for the last 5 years. In the wake of the worldwide George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, what transpired far exceeded our expectations. 

The inaugural conference kicked off a weekend of activity starting with an opening talk on the significance of Wikipedia to the Black historical narrative by Dr. Alexandria Lockett, an experienced Wikipedian and English professor at historically Black (HBCU) Spelman College. It continued with seven Wikipedia coaching sessions, each of them an hour long training hosted by volunteers throughout the movement. 

The result:

Participation from 8+ countries: Countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, South Africa, Jamaica, England, Haiti, and cities throughout the United States, the south (big up Spelman and Georgia!) and both coasts joined in the event.

From artists to entrepreneurs, librarians, organizational executives, and teaching instructors, they were of diverse professions and diverse experiences with Wikipedia. About half came to learn for the first time.

Together we saw:

  • More than 70 total participants.
  • Five languages were spoken among the attendees, although the event was in English. One group of women even brought their own Hausa interpreter from Nigeria.

The Edit-a-thon: While our focus was not on quick editing, 36 registered participants took to Wikipedia that weekend. 

Together they:

  • edited 229 articles
  • 79 of them from scratch, with 
  • 1.48K total edits and 
  • 522 thousand words added. They entered
  • 4759 references yielding
  • 4.51 million views (as of July) and
  • 20 Commons uploads

Our goal is to continue to gather Wikipedians from around the globe for more peaceful exchanges of ideas like this. 

A memorable moment: The sun had set on the east coast, and it was our final Zoom session of the conference. We had spent a weekend focused on how to close the gaps covering civil rights, the Black community and other related topics on Wikipedia. As the session wrapped, participants and coaches, some who had stuck around for both days, were sharing their experiences and getting to know each other until, at 8:46 PM EDT,  when we abruptly stopped our conversations. It is at this time we entered into a moment of silence in memory of George Floyd and left. 

We had started the conference at 8:46 AM on the pacific coast and began every session at 46 minutes after the hour to mark Floyd’s age at his death. We also did this in observance of the recorded 8 minutes and 46 seconds he lay begging for his life. There was something, however, to the finality of it this time. It was a sobering reminder of the reason we had united together this weekend in June.

How to continue the momentum:

Help translate articles: Do you speak more than one language? Sometimes information on Wikipedia may be available in one language but not another. As long as language remains an obstacle, we are missing an important part of the story. We are looking for people to help translate items begun at Juneteenth into other languages to close those information gaps.

Join us at our next event! On July 21, from 5-8PM ET, we are organizing with the Afro Dominican community. Sign up at Bit.ly/WikiAfroDR.  We could use an interpreter in at least Spanish.

Thank you to all who participated in helping to make our first Juneteenth Civil Rights Conference a success. We are also thankful to Spelman’s Dr. Alexandria Lockett whose thought provoking talk was a game changer and to the many Wiki coaches who came from throughout the movement (for seven one hour long sessions over two dedicated days from 8:46 AM PST June 19th to 8:46 PM EDT June 20, wow)!

Check out the charts below to learn more about this event and the contributors who made it work.

Contact us at AfroCROWD.org/Contact

Find more on the Juneteenth conference on Wikipedia by searching WP:JT2020.

*AfroCROWD Juneteenth statistic results in graphs: