Press Releases

Cal Humanities Announces 20 New Community Stories Awards

May 10, 2012

SAN FRANCISO -- Cal Humanities announced that 20 projects throughout the State of California have been selected as grant awardees for its Community Stories program. Chosen from over 120 submissions, the projects comprise a broad range of community-focused stories to explore the diversity of the California experience, and capture the interest of local, regional, and even wider audiences.

Subjects range from an investigation of the culture of low-riding in San Diego to the diverse histories and traditions of the historic Mission town of San Juan Bautista to Sacramento’s contemporary “foodscape.” Some projects will give voice to Californians whose stories are seldom heard: LGBT farmworkers, homeless youth, and recent African and Middle Eastern immigrants.  Other projects will document stories of civic engagement and democratic practice, past and present, from the efforts of a small Northern California community to preserve a historic bridge to the challenges faced by a displaced group of Native Californians seeking tribal recognition to students involved in the DREAM movement.

Community Stories (formerly known as the California Story Fund) is a competitive grant program that supports story-based projects that are informed by humanities perspectives, methods, and content; that reveal the realities of California and its cultures, peoples, and histories; and that will be of interest to local, statewide, and potentially even national and global audiences. It aims to provide community-based and academic institutions the means to capture genuine and compelling stories from and about California’s diverse communities, and to ensure that those stories can be shared widely.

Grant awardees are equally diverse, and represent a public library, museums and archives, theater groups, colleges and universities, an immigrants’ rights group, and community-based arts and cultural organizations. Most of the projects also involve collaborations between California-based institutions of higher education, both public and private, and community partners.

Below are brief descriptions of the funded projects:

African American Youth in Oakland Oral History Project (multimedia exhibit)
Grant Awardee: Story Bridges, Alameda (Alameda County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Seeking both to empower urban African American youth and provide those outside the community with insight into the lives, hopes, and dreams of these young people, their peers, and families, this oral history- and photography-based project will engage a group of 12 young men in a hands-on humanities experience. Working with a curator, the boys will learn interviewing, archiving, and writing skills, and develop a book and multimedia exhibit documenting their research. A curriculum guide will be produced to enable other youth-service providers to replicate the project.

The Ages: Stories of LGBT Elders (dramatic performance)
Grant Awardee: Boxtales Theatre Company, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara County)
Grant amount: $7,060

Aiming to bridge generational divisions and document a largely unknown aspect of Santa Barbara’s history, this project will connect LGBT high school students in Santa Barbara with LGBT community elders. Students will interview the seniors and record their stories, then, working with theater professionals, develop theater pieces for performances for local audiences; performances will be followed by discussion sessions. Both interviews and videotaped performances will be shared through the organization’s website.

Camp to Campus (film)
Grant Awardee: California State University, Bakersfield; Bakersfield (Kern County)
Grant amount: $10,000

A documentary film will give expression to the voices of first-generation college students—children of Central Valley migrant farm workers. In addition to offering viewers insight into the lives, challenges and accomplishments of these young people and their families, many of whom are immigrants, the film will examine the importance of higher education to the future of this traditionally agricultural region. Screenings and discussions at local high schools, libraries, social service agencies, and college campuses are planned. The documentary will be incorporated into an interactive website and linked to the widely-used Dust Bowl Migration online archive.

Canción de San Juan: Oratorio of a California Town (music performance)
Grant Awardee: El Teatro Campesino, San Juan Bautista (San Benito County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Employing the musical form of the oratorio, which combines music, choral voices, spoken narrative and visual elements—this original work by California’s renowned bilingual theater company will tell the three-hundred-year old story of the town of San Juan Bautista through the stories of its diverse peoples. The musical production will be performed in July 2012 as part of an annual cycle of plays and theatrical productions in this historic mission town; a videotaped performance will be archived and shared through the Teatro’s website.

Fernbridge: The Span of the Century (film)
Grant Awardee: The Ferndale Museum, Ferndale (Humboldt County)
Grant amount: $10,000

Documenting a story of civic engagement and citizen activism aimed at preservation of a cherished local landmark, this film will document the efforts of community members from many backgrounds to save a historic bridge in Northern California from demolition, and in so doing, build bridges across generational and cultural divisions in the community. The feature-length film will be used in screening and discussion events at the museum as well as in schools and cultural organizations throughout the county, and will be disseminated on the web and through on local cable and educational television channels.

Global Taxi Driver: Driving to Democracy (dramatic performance)
Grant Awardee: TeAda Productions, Santa Monica (Los Angeles County)
Grant amount: $10,000

Immigrant taxi drivers, many of whom have fled their home countries in search of democracy and freedom, are the subjects of this story-based project which will offer an unique lens on contemporary California life. Working in partnership with the LA Taxi Workers Association and guided by a humanities scholar, company members will interview drivers and conduct additional research in order to develop a one-hour theater piece. Live performances followed by audience discussions will be recorded and made available through the company’s website.

The HomoFiles (film)
Grant Awardee: One in Long Beach, Inc., Long Beach (Los Angeles County)
Grant amount: $10,000

What was life like for gay women living in California in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s? This feature-length documentary, sparked by the research of a humanities scholar and sponsored by a community-based LGBT archive, will document Long Beach’s post WWII lesbian community, examining the central role played by bars in the formation of culture and community. Public screening at campuses, museums, and film festivals will be accompanied by development of an interactive website to house the film and make additional materials and resources available to the public and researchers.

Iranian Americans in Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community (multimedia presentation)
Grant Awardee: San Jose State University Research Foundation, San Jose (Santa Clara County)
Grant amount: $10,000

Although the south Bay Area is home to the second-largest Iranian American community in California, and is one of the largest in the Iranian diaspora, this community remains largely invisible to outsiders. Seeking to break down barriers and build connections to the larger community, this oral history-based project will document and share stories from three generations of Iranian Americans, examining how they have adapted to life in America and employed its democratic institutions and forms to express themselves. Interviews will be recorded, archived, and shared through a website and radio pieces; a public forum will provide an additional occasion for learning, sharing, and dialogue.

Living History: Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe (film)
Grant Awardee: Pitzer College, Claremont (Los Angeles County)
Grant amount: $10,000

Driven from their Central Coast homelands in the late 1800s, members of the tribe, a branch of the Ohlone, resettled in southern California, where they assimilated into Mexican American communities. Through contemporary digital storytelling techniques, the project will explore their struggle to preserve tribal history and culture and to maintain the connection with their ancestral lands.  A campus-community collaboration, the project will involve students, faculty, tribal members, and culture bearers in creating a 20-minute animation/live action video. The film will be aimed as educational and community use, and will provide a resource to State Park visitors to Ohlone sites in Central and Northern California.

Living Lowrider Culture in San Diego (multimedia presentation)
Grant Awardee: Department of Ethnic Studies, University of San Diego, San Diego (San Diego County)
Grant amount: $10,000

Focusing on the tradition of car customization in San Diego’s Chicano community, this project will explore this cultural practice and its connection to democratic impulses and values, through the stories of lowriders and the community that surrounds them—women as well as men. Sociological, historical and aesthetic aspects of California’s car culture will be documented through oral history and other humanities research methods; interviews and other research findings will be incorporated into a 20-minute documentary video and website. The project will culminate with a premiere screening and discussion in April 2013 at the 42nd annual Chicano Park celebration in San Diego.

The Neighborhoods of Baseball (community forum)
Grant Awardee: Baseball Reliquary, Inc., Monrovia (Los Angeles County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Using archival and community-based research, this project will explore the impact of baseball on three Los Angles ethnic communities—Mexican American, Japanese American, and African American, as well as the relationship of baseball to democracy and social and political change in American history. Building on an emerging body of humanities research, and previously successful public programs, the project will culminate with a community forum in fall 2012, which will bring together scholars, students, amateur players, and baseball fans of many backgrounds.  Project-produced texts and recordings will be made available through the sponsoring organization’s website.

Powerful Stories/Historias Poderosas (new media/web)
Grant Awardee: Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, UC Davis, Davis (Yolo County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Giving expression to a group of people who are doubly marginalized, this project will provide LGBTQ farmworkers with a safe space to share their experiences: through the technique of digital storytelling and the internet medium, individuals will be able to tell their stories yet maintain their privacy. In addition to providing a forum for story-sharing and dialogue, the project aims to counter stereotypes, foster greater acceptance of diversity within the community, and provide useful information to advocates, researchers, and social service providers.

The Riot/Rebellion (storytelling/dramatic performance)
Grant Awardee: Watts Village Theater Company, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Drawing on the stories and testimonies of witnesses, the theater company will develop several performance pieces exploring the 1965 Watts Riot/Rebellion towards the end of preserving community memory and making the community’s history more accessible. Additional research on the event, as well as on other relevant episodes of civil unrest—the 1992 riots and the 1943 Zoot Suit roots—will be conducted by project staff and incorporated into the final productions. Performances will take place at various locations in the community, including one at the intersection where the riots started, and will be recorded and shared on the project website. Partnerships with city and county agencies, local nonprofits, schools, and other community organizations will ensure that the project has a wide and diverse audience; extensive use of social media will aim to build a youth audience.

Show Me Your Papers: Youth, Immigration, Print-Making and Story-Telling for Social Change (exhibit and public programs)
Grant Awardee: National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Oakland (Alameda County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Stories of young activists in the DREAM movement, which seeks to expand access to public higher education for undocumented students, will be collected, interpreted, and presented through the medium of visual storytelling by Stanford students, working in collaboration with community partners and the sponsoring organization. Pop-up (temporary) and other community-based exhibits featuring their work, along with discussions, will take place throughout the Bay Area to engage the community in consideration and reflection on the nature of democracy, citizenship, and justice in the globalized society of the 21st  century. The project will be thoroughly documented and shared on a project website, along with recorded interviews and images of the art work.

The Silicon Valley East African Diaspora Project (exhibit/discussion program)
Grant Awardee: San Jose State University Research Foundation, San Jose (Santa Clara County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

This project will bring the little-known stories of recent East African immigrants, many of whom who have come to California in search of democracy, to a wider audience.  Working in partnership with individuals and organizations from the Eritrean, Ethiopian, Kenyan, Somali, and Sudanese communities, scholars, students, and faculty from SJSU will record interviews and document the experiences of these immigrants, exploring the themes of migration, settlement, obstacles, success stories, and the nature of transnational linkages in the 21st century global society.  A public forum and website will provide additional access points for the public, and promote greater understanding of a growing sector of the south Bay Area population.

Stories of Palestinian Diasporas (new media/web)
Grant Awardee: Buena Vista Community Institute, Alameda (Alameda County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Countering the often distorted, narrow, and stereotypical portrayals of this immigrant community, this project will elicit and share stories of Palestinian Californians.  To highlight its diversity, the project team will conduct interviews with 12 men and women of varying generations, educational and class backgrounds, and religious persuasions. The interviews will be videotaped, compiled into a DVD, then shared through a project website, along with supplemental contextualizing information and materials. Public programs in late 2012 will provide additional opportunities for outreach and dialogue with the larger Bay Area community and other immigrant communities.

We Are Where We Eat (community forum, website, radio)
Grant Awardee: Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento (Sacramento County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Exploring Sacramento’s “foodscape” through the stories of people who grow, distribute, sell, prepare and serve the city’s food, this project, guided by culinary historians and culture bearers, will document the region’s gastronomic heritage and the diverse cultural strands that have contributed to it. In addition to producing a radio series, which will be webstreamed and broadcast on Capitol Public Radio, the project will include a wide variety of engaging community- and library-based events and activities, as well as a culminating public forum. A project website will also house recorded interviews, maps, archival photos and documents, scholarly essays, and a food chronology.

Women of the Pacific Northwest: The Suffragette Movement And Beyond (storytelling performance)
Grant Awardee: Playhouse Arts, Arcata (Humboldt County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Stories about women of diverse cultural backgrounds, generations, and viewpoints who have helped shape the region’s history will be brought to life through this community-participatory theater project. Drawing upon both archival research and community story sharing circles, and working in partnership with community organizations and local academic institutions, the project team, based at the Arcata Playhouse, will develop a work for performance in fall 2012, hoping to raise awareness and discussion of issues facing women in Northwest California—past and present.

The Worlds of Bernice Bing (film)
Grant Awardee: Asian American Women Artists Association, San Francisco (San Francisco County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

A 45-minute documentary film will examine the contributions of Bing, an abstract expressionist artist of Chinese American heritage, active in the post-WWII Bay Area arts scene, through the stories of people who knew and worked with her. Bing challenged the barriers of gender, race, and sexual orientation, and fought to make art accessible to all Californians, contributing to the democratization of the arts in the 1960s, which has had lasting effects. Screenings and discussions in the Bay Area are planned, as well as theatrical and festival distribution. A project website will showcase the film and collateral materials.

Youth Journeys Through California (community forum, website, radio)
Grant Awardee: Covenant House California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County)
Grant Amount: $10,000

Challenging the stereotypical narrative of victimization, this project will encourage a group of homeless youth to examine their experience through the lens of American journey stories, and literature of travel, adventure, and self-realization.  After reading and discussing works of literature with a scholar, and learning filmmaking from experienced professionals through a partnership with HBO, the young people will develop short films which will be screened and discussed at various community and educational settings, entered in film festivals, and webcast through the project’s and partner’s websites.


New guidelines for the next round of applications for funding through Community Stories will be announced in mid-May. The deadline for submitting applications is August 1, 2012.


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