Sharing all knowledge with every person means working to ensure more voices are included in the Wikimedia movement. New Yorker Alice Backer has made it her mission to bring in the voices of underrepresented people on Wikipedia.
Alice runs AfroCROWD editing workshops at the Brooklyn Public Library. She encourages people to edit Wikipedia to help address biases and gaps in coverage on topics relating to people of African descent.
Alice is originally from Haiti, and has been a lawyer for more than ten years. She became involved with Wikipedia in December 2014, founded AfroCROWD in February (known in the U.S. as Black History Month), and is now a member of the board of Wikimedia New York City.
“[Afrocrowd was set up] to bring more people of African descent to the Wikimedia movement through edit-a-thons, through training and through support,” she explains. “[The events target] subgroups of people of African descent by making it very clear that their language is on Wikipedia, and that they can work in that language when they come to our edit-a-thons if they wish.”
Wikipedia is for people who have always loved little-known facts, and who get a kick out of documenting things and putting them on a platform like this. It isn't something that just gets put away.
Alice has been involved with the free culture and knowledge movements since 2005, first as part of Global Voices Online, where she covered goings-on in African and Caribbean countries. “The notion of making sure that underrepresented communities are better heard online, that's already something that's a passion.”
Wikipedia writers have historically lacked diversity. But the editing workshops she runs have high rates of female attendance. “People concerned with cultural preservation, which includes language, which includes memory of the important personalities in the cultural group…those cultural organisations tend to be run by women,” she says.
For Alice, the most important aspect of these events is including as many voices as possible. Even their mission statement uses many descriptors to cover as wide a range as they can.
“[Wikipedia is] the first thing that pops up when you want to Google something. That’s the most important thing that I start the trainings with,” she says. “It’s for people who have always loved…little-known facts, and who get a kick out of documenting things and putting them on a platform like this. [It] isn't something that just gets put away.”