Afro Charities receives $535K grant to fund archive digitization efforts

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By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO

To better fulfill its mission of managing the AFRO’s extensive archives and making the collection accessible to the public, Afro Charities, was awarded $535,000 as part of Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey’s #StartSmall philanthropic initiative.

The grant, which was issued in July, will support the digitization of the AFRO’s full photo archive, help build new tools to increase access to an exhaustive database of images and support the creation of an artificial intelligence informed online research interface. 

The #StartSmall public fund has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in global COVD-19 relief to dozens of nonprofits, community-based organizations and educational programs dating back to April 2020. The fund also supports education, girls’ health and universal basic income initiatives.

Afro Charities’ executive director Savannah Wood confirmed that the 501(C)3 organization, which was founded in 1963, was invited to apply for the grant. 

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“We are thrilled to have received this grant from #StartSmall. Over the past two years, Afro Charities has expanded our mission to include joint care for the AFRO’s extensive archives, while developing new ways to increase public access to this collection,” Wood said. The grant will be used to cover staffing and equipment costs for the first two years of the digitization project.

“We will use this early and substantial support to build a strong foundation for our digitization effort, which will in turn help us bring in the necessary remaining funds to complete this digitization project.”

The AFRO’s full photo collection, spanning more than a century of media coverage that told stories from a unique Black perspective, includes approximately 3 million photographs, Wood highlighted, also estimating that the Afro Charities’ digitization project will take somewhere from five to 10 years.

Wood said she and her colleagues would have to “refine their metrics” during the #StartSmall grant period in order to confirm a more precise timeline for project completion. The venture will implement the latest cutting-edge technologies to make the AFRO’s archives more accessible and searchable for the public.

“Afro Charities has been a small but mighty organization for so long, but we are really excited to scale and to take on this significant collection and try to make it more accessible to the public,” Wood said. 

“So this will really help us get started on that path, and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to leverage this early investment to bring the full project to fruition. This is a major repository of world history told from a Black perspective and I think it’s a project that’s certainly worthy of lots of support so we’re excited to have this initial vote of confidence.”

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