Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

Group of 5 people dress in business casual wear stand outside with US Capitol Building behind them.

Advocating for the Humanities on the Hill in 2024

Above: Our California Humanities Delegation outside of Rayburn House Building that overlooks Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. From left to right Christi Shortridge, Nancy Olivares, Rick Noguchi, Rachel Hatch, Neha Belram. March 5, 2024. 

Humanities on the Hill (HOH), sponsored by the Federation of State Humanities Councils (FSHC), returned in person this year with a delegation from California Humanities traveling to Washington, DC to participate in the activities. 

It was a bustling time in Congress, with appropriation season underway and the State of the Union taking place that same week. For California Humanities, the HOH trip consisted of two and half days of meeting with our state’s Congressional leaders to both advocate for the importance of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and to share how our grantees and programs make an impact across the state. 

From left to right, Nancy Olivares, Rachel Hatch, and Rick Noguchi with Tommy Vo, Legislative Correspondent, outside Representative Salud Carbajal’s office.

Our delegation consisted of two teams. The first team included Rick Noguchi, President and CEO of California Humanities, Rachel Hatch, the Board Chair of California Humanities’ Board of Directors, and Nancy Olivares, Government Relations and Community Outreach Manager at California Humanities; all were HOH first timers. 

Leading the second team was Christi Shortridge, a Communications and Advocacy Consultant and former Communications Director for California Humanities. She was joined by Neha Balram, Vice Chair of California Humanities’ Board of Directors and a Senior Government & Community Relations Representative for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).

Two women pose for the camera in front of the entrance to an office, plaque on the wall behind them.
Neha Balram and Christi Shortridge outside of Representative Nanette Barragan’s office.

This year, our teams completed 34 meetings with Congressional offices in both the House and Senate. In each meeting, we spoke about centering racial equity in the work that we do, provided an overview of the California Humanities programs, and shared the importance of amplifying diverse voices across California.

During our visits, our teams elaborated how California Humanities, along with other councils across the nation, partner with schools, libraries, medical centers, veterans’ organizations, senior centers, youth programs, historical societies, correctional facilities, and cultural sites. This brings the humanities to rural areas that would otherwise not have access to humanities programs, and reaches out to unserved and underserved communities.  

There is a huge demand for grants to humanities-based cultural organizations across California’s congressional districts. While recently in DC for Humanities on the Hill, it was meaningful to share our Impact Report with legislative offices, and to underscore this fact. 

Given how oversubscribed California Humanities programs are, it’s important for decision makers to understand the data: California is a state of almost 40 million people, and there are millions more stories to share.

Rachel Hatch, Board Chair, California Humanities
Four women pose for the camera.
Our team members Nancy Olivares and Rachel Hatch with Kelly Claude and Stephanie Devine from Georgia Humanities.

Furthermore, aside from our congressional meetings, our delegation received briefings and participated in two reception events led by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. This was an opportunity to interact and hear about the work other councils are doing in their respective states. 

Being in Washington DC at this time provided another opportunity to reflect on the impact of the humanities across the country. On average, every dollar of NEH funding generates at least four dollars in additional local investment.

The funding state councils receive helps support their work to expand history and civics education; respond to emerging issues such as in health, science, and technology; engages new audiences; or addresses other particular state and local needs.  

Humanities on the Hill importantly ensures that our federal legislators are aware of the importance of our work, and that we continue to receive their support.

As the only nonprofit dedicated to supporting and advancing the humanities in California, it was critically important for California Humanities to participate in Humanities on the Hill because we guarantee that federal funds come to California where demand for grant funds (we can only support less than 15% of applications) demonstrate that there are many local stories waiting to be heard to define this complex state.

Rick Noguchi, President and CEO, California Humanities
Group of people posing in a line inside an office

Inside Representative Adam Schiff’s office

Our two teams reunited at the end of our first Humanities on the Hill day to participate in the meeting with Representative Adam Schiff’s office.

View of the Capitol Building from Representative Adam Schiff’s office

Photo by Neha Balram

View from inside an office with leather couch and desk lamp in the foreground, with view of US Capitol dome outside the window.
Four people smile for the camera standing outside an office with plaque on the wall with NEH seal

Inside Representative Judy Chu’s office

With Legislative Aide, Lauren Jacobs. We spoke about the member’s support for the humanities and the projects California Humanities has granted in the district.

Outside Representative Mark Takano’s office  

With Rachel Hatch and Rick Noguchi

A man and a woman stand outside the entrance to an office with plaque on the wall reading "Mark Takano. Rainbow flag on a stand behind them.
The last day of Humanities on the Hill, we were at Hart Senate Office participating in meetings with our California Senators’ offices. Above our delegation with Julian Garcia, Legislative Correspondent for Senator Alex Padilla.
Our last meeting was with Senator Laphonza Butler’s office. Pictured here, group with Legislative Correspondents, Carlo Juntilla and Thomaz Hernandez.

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