Lifting up Black voices

As I write this, it is the day before George Floyd’s funeral in Houston. It is hard to understate the extent to which his life mattered. Thousands have joined protests against police brutality and racism, even in the midst of a global pandemic. As we remember him, alongside Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and many others, let us not lose sight of the value there is in lifting up living Black voices to be widely heard. It may seem presumptuous to think of this website as an appropriate forum for doing that. Our focus is on the digital humanities of Asia and Africa. My intent is not to repurpose the Digital Orientalist, but rather to illustrate some aspects of the contributions our friends have made in ways that are not immediately otherwise apparent.

My thoughts go first to the work of Babacar Diakité, Nafadji Sory Condé, Abdoulaye Barry, Ibrahim Barry, and Tombekai Sherman for their work on the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. They successfully translated a Frequently Asked Questions file on Ebola from the World Health Organization into N’ko, Fula, and Vai. This was later followed by Emmanuel Ndolimana, Philip Mutaka, Corneille Melimunvu, and Abady Undemolali during the outbreak in Ituri and North Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Congolese Kiswahili, Kinande, and Lese. While this outbreak is still ongoing, Ebola has flared up again as well in Mbandaka, in the northwest of the country. In these cases, digital standards had been put in place to enable African languages to be used by African translators to help save Black lives.

߁. ߓߍ߯ ߦߴߌ ߕߍ߮ ߟߊߞߏ߬ ߛߐ߲߬

߂. ߌ ߦߋ߫ ߕߌ߬ߛߏ߬ ߌ ߣߐ߲߬ߞߐ ߘߐ߫

߃. ߌ ߞߴߌ ߡߊ߰ ߌ ߢߘߊ ߟߊ߫ ߘߋ߬

߄. ߛߋ߲߭ ߢߊ߫ ߃ ߦߋ߫ ߕߏ߫ ߌ ߣߴߌ ߞߎߡߊߢߐ߲߮ ߕߍ ߟߐ߬ߟߌ ߘߐ߫

߅. ߌ ߝߊ߬ߘߌ ߡߊ߲߫ ߘߴߌ ߟߊ߫ ߓߊ߬؟ ߕߏ߫ ߟߎ ߡߊ߬

 Fig. 1.  “Do the five” COVID-19 recommendations, translated by Nafadji Sory Condé into N’ko kangbe.

Most recently, the importance of working on public health messaging in many languages, including African ones, has been at the heart of certain initiatives addressing COVID-19. Condé, the Barry brothers, and Sherman have been involved in this effort, as have Abdoulaye Mbouombouo, Hermann Gnepa, Mamy Faye, and her brother Abdoulaye Faye. Their languages include Bété, Bamum, and Wolof.  Their contributions have been uploaded here.  Other important multilingual collections of COVID-19 material can be found here, here, here, and here. Much work remains in order for these languages to be fully represented in digital infrastructure and literature, whether online or in print. In the meantime, let us be mindful that, in the language of the late Amadou Diallo, “Nguurndam bhaleejo no hitti”, or, “Black lives matter” in Pular.

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