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Update: Forming the Rodney Sumler Foundation - Helping the Community be Heard

posted Jun 1, 2018, 7:15 AM by Rahni Jere Sumler   [ updated Jun 1, 2018, 7:16 AM ]
Back in February, I wrote a tribute to my father and other civil rights leaders. In it, I also explained the perils of community building for the black community and some of the institutional challenges that we as a community continue to face.

I felt compelled to create something to both continue the work of my father in North Carolina and contribute to the process of community building for all communities. This is why we are launching the Rodney Sumler Research Foundation for Economic Empowerment and Environmental Protection. 

The AC Phoenix News

ac phoenix newspaper 1964th issue dedicated to black history month. Also covers the Haitian Earthquake from 2010
Front page of the AC Phoenix News, the 1964th issue dedicated to Black History Month. Also covers the Haitian Earthquake from 2010.

Rewriting Cultural Narratives Requires Voices from the Community

The foundation has the mission to rewrite negative cultural narratives for people of color through education, research, and development. We will achieve this mission through data-driven community building, however most importantly, rewriting cultural narratives requires voices from the community. 

We are currently working on the infrastructure for getting perspectives from the community, and getting people what they need to be heard. One way to achieve this is to identify and preserve vehicles that already do this: community newspapers, community bulletins, and other editorial opinions that have valuable insight on what the community needs.  In partnership with the Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University and Digital NC, our first project is identifying the voices of our community in North Carolina through digitizing my father's community newspaper. 

Digitalization: Making the Voice of the Community more Accessible for Everyone

The AC Phoenix News has served the community for over 30 years. It employed a number of authors from the community, who gave community insights, impacts from past political campaigns, and cultural events. Not only will this preserve the history of the community, it will also make it searchable. Digitizing community newspapers provide data that can be used to gain valuable insights on the community. This data can be further used to not only build the community but also help with overcoming challenges.

Digitizing the community paper also provides sources for community insights. This means that we can contribute information to reference websites like Wikipedia or even,  making the voices from the community more accessible for everyone. 

Increasing Access: Promoting more Authors from the Community

After digitalization, the next steps we will take are creating a Wikipedia for the newspaper, Rodney Sumler, and the Foundation itself. Eventually, we will also be creating a writing center with the goal of promoting more authors from the community, continuing the great work of the AC Phoenix. 

If you are interested in providing your own insights, or just keeping up with our updates, feel free reach out to us