Student Spotlight: The Land, Wealth, Liberation Digital Resource

The Scholarly Communication Department is excited to spotlight the students who worked on the recently launched public open-access digital resource – Land, Wealth, Liberation: The making and unmaking of Black wealth in the United States. The digital resource makes scholarly and historical information on historic black communities and pivotal figures available to the public in a bid to generate discourse and spur ideas and policies that foster socio-economic justice.

Land, Wealth, Liberation timeline launch at IU Bloomington on Thursday, March 24, 2022. (Photo by Chris Meyer/Indiana University)

The students

Rihona Bing-English is a first-year graduate student from the Indiana University School of Social Work. She is working towards becoming a clinical social worker to later become a therapist. One of her personal goals is to improve the racial and minority disparities in mental health access and the overall well-being of individuals and communities in those populations.

Rihona is profoundly excited to have contributed to this project; during her work, she has developed a better insight into the historical barriers that have systematically produced our current racial wealth disparities. She hopes that, beyond the launch of this project, she can further dedicate her time and knowledge to research that provides more historical context into minority disparities and can work towards redeeming those wrongs.

Rihona’s current favorite read is Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab, a therapist. She recommends the book to everyone she knows. Rihona also loves chocolate – she eats at least one piece every day!

Apoorva Chikara is a student in the MPA program at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was born in India, and he joined this project to help expand his own and others’ knowledge about Black history and inform new perspectives. Apoorva is keenly interested in exploring paths to enact change in discriminatory social practices as he believes this is essential to working towards a peaceful society.

Previously, Apoorva has worked with the Year Back Foundation as Chief of Staff. He has also worked on setting up a suicide prevention helpline and has partnered with the government of India to create specialized counseling sessions for students, for which he raised over $10,000. He was awarded the Game Changer Award by the founder of the YuvaJanakalyan Party in India for his efforts to provide food grains to migrant workers stranded in Mumbai during the COVID-19 lockdown. He also works as a freelance writer and was granted the Humanity First Foundation Award of Excellence for his persistent contribution to social work in 2019.

Apoorva would like to leave us with a quote from B. R. Ambedkar: “Humans are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise, both will wither and die.”

Savannah Price, a sophomore pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in History and Gender Studies through the College of Arts and Sciences, joined the team through the Emerging Scholars Research Experience for Undergraduate Women with the Center of Excellence for Women & Technology. She chose this project because of her interest in expanding her own and others’ understanding of what American history truly is.

In addition to working on this project, Savannah is part of the Wells Scholars Program and is the Vice President of the History Undergraduate Student Association. Outside of her academic life, she is primarily known as a fiber artist through her work on her Instagram (@savannah.stitches), and she is currently working on her first book of crochet patterns, set to come out in Fall 2023.

“Humans are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise, both will wither and die.”

B.R. Ambedkar

MarQuis Bullock, a 2nd-year Library and Information Science graduate student in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing & Engineering specializing in Archives and Records Management, was the first research assistant on the Land, Wealth, Liberation project. MarQuis did much of the original research and continued to volunteer his time after moving on to work with the Black Film Archive here at Indiana University-Bloomington. MarQuis was motivated by the need for a centralized space in which sources can be collected, organized, and shared to provide access to literature and scholarship that can keep the legacy of various Black Wall Streets in active circulation and memory. He noted that while the devastation of the most well-known African American neighborhood in the United States in Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma, is becoming more widely known, it is essential to provide information and context for similar Black economic and social centers such as Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia, Hayti in Durham, North Carolina, and Indiana Avenue Historic District in Indianapolis, Indiana. Examining these neighborhoods’ history helps create a more comprehensive understanding of the historical circumstances that necessitated their existence and the varying but intersecting factors that led to their decline.

Abby Martin and Anna Long are IU School of Education students in the Secondary Social Studies Education program. Abby and Anna created the resources For Educators in the Land, Wealth, Liberation digital resource. They are both passionate about holistic education for a democratic society and recently advocated in this op-ed for students to have the opportunity to challenge their beliefs and form empathy for others.

April M. Urban, Ph.D. is a graduate assistant primarily working on Open Educational Resources for the IU Libraries Course Material Transformation Fellowship. She readily joined the team when asked in the final sprint to launch the Land, Wealth, Liberation digital resource. April created an accessible text and audio annotated bibliography on Afro-Indigenous intersections. For April, who is a Master’s of Library Science student in the Luddy School, this work provided a valuable opportunity to participate in building credible and openly accessible digital resources, which she views as vital to fostering education and understanding. April found the work on Afro-Indigenous intersections especially illuminating in the ways this history reveals the complex nature of American race and land relations beyond the black/white color line, and hopes this resource spurs conversation.

We thank all of our student workers for their dedication to this project, and we can’t wait to see what these talented students accomplish during their time at IU!