Each March, staff and board members from the state and jurisdictional humanities councils gather in Washington, DC for Humanities on the Hill (HOH), an opportunity to meet with Congressional members and their staff to talk about their work in districts. This year, like everything else, our virtual HOH looked quite a bit different.
More than 200 staff and board members representing 47 councils met with their delegations. As usual, there was a Congressional reception, with opening remarks from poet Joy Harjo and comments from several Senators and Representatives (but no snacks, unfortunately), and there was an opportunity for councils to gather to debrief about their meetings, as we do every year. But instead of walking for miles through the corridors of Congressional office buildings, we were navigating Zoom rooms. For those of us on the West Coast, that meant some very early meetings with staff in Washington, DC, and a lot of coffee.
In California, we were very pleased to meet with more than 35 of our 53 Congressional Districts and both Senate offices. California Humanities Board Chair Bennett Peji and Vice Chair Oliver Rosales joined President & CEO Julie Fry in some meetings. We had an opportunity to talk about our work in each district, amplified this past year because of the $1.5M in CA CARES: Humanities Relief and Recovery Grants distributed to humanities practitioners and organizations across 46 districts.
We were not able to benefit from seeing the artwork and maps on the walls of individual Congressional offices, which is always part of the information-gathering that happens during Hill visits. Still, we did hold robust conversations about district priorities and issues, continuing to update and share our understanding of California and its many voices.