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

A shelf of books with titles about California.

Take a Look, It’s in a Book: A Selection of Literary Projects

April is National Poetry Writing Month (or, as it is affectionately known by netizens, NaPoWriMo), and also host to Hug a Newsperson Day (April 4), National Library Worker Day (April 9) and National Library Week, Encourage a Young Writer Day (April 10), and World Book Day (April 23). Here at California Humanities, we have a great love of all things literary, and couldn’t think of a better topic to round up some notable projects, past and present, that relate to the themes of poetry, writing, books, and journalism. See below for more!

Innovating & improving libraries around the state

On April 12, California Humanities joins the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California in San Francisco for We Are Here: Creating a Better Library Services for Immigrant Youth and Families, a day of inspiration, exploration, networking and partnership-building, all related to the subject of immigration and with the goal of developing as a profession to better serve immigrant children and families, including an afternoon session focused on our Library Innovation Lab, program, that will include presentations by several 2017 cohort members. We’ve also just entered into a third year of Library Innovation Lab, with a new cohort representing ten libraries from around the state. Throughout 2019, they’ll work with us to gain professional development and mentorship to plan new programs engaging immigrant communities in their areas, supported by grants of $5,000 for implementing these new practices. Read all about last year’s cohort and the incredible work they did on our blog.

Workshops, readings, and conversations

A spate of workshops on writing, poetry readings, and literary conversations across the state, supported by Humanities for All Quick Grants, are popping up. Sin Filtro, a project by PoetrIE in the Inland Empire city of Loma Linda, celebrates the power of the written word through a series of events focused on the work of emerging writers, particularly Latinx writers, from the region. Each event includes a workshop for the public and discussions about craft, with several being held in Spanish. Over in Calaveras in the Sierras, a project from Manzanita Writers Press offers classes for ages 55 and up facilitated by expert writing and editing coaches. With the title Voices of Wisdom, the project aids seniors in creating memoirs and preserving their stories, with workshops beginning in May, and ending with a presentation and showcase in December 2019. In Highland Park, Accoutrements, a series of 16 poetry readings throughout the year, will engage the bilingual Northeast Los Angeles community at Avenue 50 Studio. Featured projects include bilingual chapbooks, accompanying visual art exhibits, and more, organized around themes of the environment, mental health, displacement and technology and having an emphasis on the perspectives of communities of color. A culminating event will take place at the Audubon Center at Deb’s Park in 2019. And in Oakland, Chapter 510 Ink engaged young Black men in a ten-week writing workshop, facilitated by poet Daniel Summerhill in the winter of 2019. The workshop was designed to be a safe space for young people to explore their voices express their perspectives and will include readings from the canon of African American poetry and literature. Participants will present their work at a reading in June 2019 and produce an anthology through a partnership with Nomadic Press.

Films on Writers from the California Documentary Project

A documentary-in-progress, Setting the Word on Fire was awarded a California Documentary Project grant in 2015 for its exploration of the life and work of writer Alejandro Murguia, and the roles of activist writers and poets passionately involved with the struggles of our times. Following in the footsteps of the Beat poets and inspired by the rich traditions of Spanish and Latin American literature, Murguia confronts with his work and his words many of the urgent issues of the day. We follow him on lyrical journeys from Nicaragua and Mexico City to Washington, D.C., through the barrio of East Los Angeles to San Francisco’s North Beach and Mission Districts, as he champions revolutions in Latin America, leads cultural and educational programs in Northern California and campaigns against rampant gentrification on the East and West Coasts. In the midst of all this, he wins two American Book Awards and serves as the first Latino Poet Laureate of San Francisco. And of course, we cannot forget Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, the documentary feature that explores the life and mind of its eponymous inventive and groundbreaking storyteller. Read an interview with the filmmaker Arwen Curry on our blog, and don’t miss out on upcoming screenings all over the world.

Supporting Journalism and the Future of California

As a part of our CA2020: Youth Perspective and the Future of California initiative, California Humanities supported young people in our state with the tools and ideas needed to help spur their engagement in thinking critically about media and the state of journalism in supporting our democracy. The four community colleges involved in CA 2020: Democracy and the Informed Citizen—Bakersfield College, Shasta College, San Diego City College, and Foothill-De Anza Community College District—were sites for critical engagement in conversations, hands-on projects, and public events focusing on the importance of supporting quality journalism. Each school hosted talks with internationally renowned journalist Sonia Nazario, who authored the Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times series Enrique’s Journey, which has since been published as a book and translated into eight languages. Read a recap of the events that took place at one of the four sites—Shasta College in Redding—and get the scoop on the media summit we hosted in Oakland in December, 2018, to get deeper insight into how this program helped to transform students’ ideas about citizenship, journalism, and their own participation in our democracy.


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