Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz is an American of Belizean/Guatemalan-Garifuna and Jamaican descent, poly-married-separatist-zinester-dyke-member of intentional collective community spaces. She is an Assistant Professor and Head of Reference at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is a long-time archivist and community member in NYC lesbian/queer organizing communities. She presents across the United States in library and queer networks on archival practice for audiences of researchers from graduate students to community members. She considers questions of agency, access, and participatory behaviors in collective community spaces, and acknowledgement of historical practices of lesbians of color in organized performance, writing, and publishing. During her time as archivist, she’s served as Archive Coordinator for StoryCorps, a national non-profit born-digital oral history project where she initiated the inception of all Black LGBTQ interviews to be ingested and accessible at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research branch of the New York Public Library. She is also a volunteer coordinator (2007-present) at the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA), where she provides tours, research consultations, community programming, and participates in fundraising projects such as the Stew-N-View film and dinner series (2016), the Audre Lorde/Adrienne Rich Marathon Reading (2012), or her Zine (2010), Black Lesbians in the 70’s and Before: An at Home Tour at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, as a finding aid for African Ancestral Lesbians subject files. Through the resources and access points at LHA, Shawn works with the surviving women of Salsa Soul Sisters, the first black lesbian organization founded in NYC, to document their stories and archive their collections. Shawn has been awarded by the City of New York in 2014, “As Warrior in Spirit for Archiving Black Lesbian Communities” and in 2003, “For Co-founding and being Honored by the Women of Sister Outsider.” Shawn is a co-editor of 2017 special issue of Sinister Wisdom, a lesbian literary and art journal on Honoring the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. She is a Board member of Fire and Ink, a national organization for LGBTQ writers of African Descent.
Shawn’s writing is featured in journals and anthologies such as Journal of Lesbian Studies (2016) Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond (2014), Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies (2013), Out Behind the Desk: Workplace Issues for LGBTQ Librarians (2011), Films for the Feminist Classroom (2010), and others. At the CUNY Graduate Center, Shawn is the LGBTQ studies liaison where she gets to promote a queer library collection through an endowment provided by CLAGS, the Center for LGBTQ Studies. She is a recent (2016) add to the advisory board for Gale Primary Resources Archives of Human Sexuality and Identity database and a reviewer for the GLBT Studies section of Resources for College Libraries (RCL), a reference work developed by Choice, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, in partnership with Proquest. Shawn has an MFA in Creative Writing/Fiction, and a Masters in Library Studies with a certificate in Archiving and Records Management from Queens College, CUNY. She also holds a BS in Queer Women’s Studies from the City University of New York.
Other concurrent or past community and literary projects have included the initiation of Alternative Realities: Three Staged Readings by Black Lesbian Writers where she debuted her play, Saturnistas. She was co-producer of Rivers of Honey, a performance space for women of color held in the herstoric WOW Cafe Theater for eight years. She co-founded Sister Outsider (2000), an organization for and by self-supporting young women in Brooklyn, NY. She was also a co-founding member of FIERCE! (2001), and the Ya-Ya Network (1999), youth member led organizations in NYC. She was a 2014 Louis Armstrong House and Museum Resident where she created the Zine, Louis Armstrong and His Women. Shawn founded Queer Housing Nacional, an online space for queer women of color and allies to support the housing needs of queer women of color. With her project, Her Saturn Returns: Queer Women of Color Life Transitions, Shawn (still) collects and archives stories of queer women of color turning thirty. Shawn distributes her zines and others with Lambey Press.
Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz’s keynote paper, ‘One Librarian, Many Communities: Access and Practice On Documenting Black Lesbians of New York City’, will be delivered on the second day of the conference, Thursday 23 June, at the University of Westminster.