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Less than half of California students are on track to graduate ready for credit-bearing humanities courses in college. Our SRI Education Report in 2018 included these findings among others. Photo: Matthew O'Brien, Looking for Hope.

Twelve Days of Giving: California Humanities by the Numbers

Often, as staff members of California Humanities, we get asked, “What is it that you do?” We are humanities people, so we could get carried away with describing the countless ways our work supports people all throughout California but, since there’s so much to share we thought we’d boil it down to twelve numbers that really illustrate our impact.

Today through December 31, we’re sharing twelve numbers that show the best of how California Humanities’ grantmaking, programs and partnerships help us all connect to what it means to be human. Each day, we’ll reveal one way that California Humanities gives the people of our state the tools, opportunities and experiences that help make us all more informed, connected and inclusive. Each day, in turn, we’ll ask for your support so we can keep doing this important work. Think of it as the “12 Days of Humanities Giving.” Check our Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook daily for updates, or check back here below as we release a new story to be proud of each day.

Day One: Library Innovation Lab

At a Cultural Marketplace at Anaheim Public Library, a cross-cultural celebration of community. Photo: Our Indian Culture.

Taco trucks, rock bands, and Bollywood dance lessons in libraries? This year, twelve librarians from across the state participated in the Library Innovation Lab, a unique professional development program. Participating libraries received $5,000 cash awards to help them design, implement and evaluate short-term projects that built bridges and increased understanding between new and long-time residents in their communities. We’re so proud that the Library Innovation Lab supports innovative, responsive and relevant public humanities programming that help make us a more welcoming and inclusive state.

Next year, with your support, we will provide this experience to a new cohort of library innovators who will carry out this work in new parts of the state. We hope to reach thousands of Californians through imaginative, enriching and meaningful programs, and through building long-term capacity at their libraries.

Help us make it happen again, and give $27 for the 27% of the current California population who were born outside the US.

Day Two: CA 2020: Democracy and the Informed Citizen

Students from Bakersfield College/Kern Sol News visited KQED as a part of the CA 2020: Democracy and the Informed Citizen Media Summit. Photo: Kern Sol News.

As California’s population grows, we’ve turned to California Community Colleges, which serve an increasingly broad segment of the state’s peoples. California Community Colleges is the largest system of higher education in the nation, with 2.1 million students attending 115 colleges across the state. This year, California Humanities partnered with four of these colleges on CA 2020: Democracy and the Informed Citizen, an initiative designed to engage a broad cross section of California’s young people to highlight the vital connection between democracy and journalism. This multi-faceted initiative brought Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario, of the renowned book Enrique’s Journey to speak on immigration and democracy at community college campuses across the state.

CA 2020 also supports hands-on media literacy and journalism programs at community colleges, amplifying young people’s voices and perspectives in the public dialogue. A recent culminating event, the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Media Summit, brought together 40 students and faculty from these colleges for two days in Oakland to share skills, insights, and experiences from their projects, and to learn from leading media makers at Bay Area organizations like StudioToBe and KQED.

Today, in recognition of the 115 community colleges across the state of California, give $115 to support the continued efforts of our CA 2020 initiative.

Day Three: Humanities for All Quick Grants

Game designer Gonzalo Álvarezon gave a talk on his video game about the experience of immigrants when crossing the border through a Humanities for All Quick Grant.

Adaptive, relevant, responsive and innovative—those are just a few of the words to describe the 45 projects we funded in 2018 through Humanities for All Quick Grants. From Gaming, Immigration, and Aztec Heroes: (Re)humanizing the Undocumented Immigrant Experience in Fresno to The Community Salon: Home in Los Angeles, these projects provide impactful humanities learning experiences for participants and audiences. Humanities for All Quick Grants provide between $1000 and $5000 for small-scale projects that take place within a year of when the grant is awarded. The resulting community dialogues, reading or film discussion groups, oral history, nonfiction writing or story-sharing workshops and more make a small but mighty impact on communities throughout the state.

To help us keep this work going, donate $121 in honor of the 121 Humanities for All Quick Grants awarded since the program first began.

Day Four: The Art of Storytelling

Mimi Plumb’s photographs in Pictures from the Field, a part of the Art of Storytelling exhibit series, capture the the summer of 1975 in Salinas Valley with Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers. Mimi Plumb, Downtown, 1975.

Art that tells stories about the people of California: it’s a simple but brilliant idea. California Humanities hosted two exhibits during 2018 as a part of the ongoing initiative Art of Storytelling. In Pictures from the Field, Mimi Plumb’s photos of the summer of 1975 in Salinas Valley with Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers reminded us of the power of recognizing the ordinary moments amongst the extraordinary. Through Words Uncaged, the artwork, writings, and portraits of incarcerated men in Lancaster Prison and sentenced to life without the opportunity for parole, encouraged us to reflect on how words and art can heal and transform us. The presentation of this engaging work through Art of Storytelling exhibit series provides a platform to celebrate California’s rich cultural and artistic histories and dynamic changing demographics.

Donate $75 today to reflect a 1975, a pivotal year in documenting the farmworker movement as represented in Mimi Plumb’s photographs.

Day Five: California Documentary Project

The Mojave Project, an experimental transmedia documentary and curatorial project supported by the California Documentary Project, explores the physical, geological and cultural landscape of the Mojave Desert.

California is home to almost 40 million people—and 40 million stories. Since 1975, we’ve been the leading supporter of independent documentaries that help make sense of California in all its complexity through the California Documentary Project. Each film, podcast and interactive documentary that uncovers, interprets and shares the experiences and stories of California and Californians adds a new layer to a rich and growing portrait of this state. California Humanities’ projects have been nominated for Academy Awards, won Emmys, and garnered Peabody Awards. They engage and inform statewide and national audiences at community screenings, in classrooms, at film festivals, online, and on PBS, NPR, HBO, and more. They inspire lively conversation, quiet reflection, and surprising epiphanies about compelling and provocative issues, ideas, and subjects of our time

Recently supported projects include the podcasts and radio series California FoodwaysThe Stoop and The Intersection; interactive and transmedia documentaries such as K-TOWN ‘92 and The Mojave Projectand documentary films such as United Skates, REAL BOYThe ReturnForever ChinatownNo Más Bebés? , The Last Day of FreedomRomeo is BleedingOvarian PsycosTribal JusticeDogtown Redemption and many more.

Today, give $40 in honor of the 40 million people in California whose stories deserve a platform through channels like the California Documentary Project.

Day Six: Nancy Hatamiya Arts & Humanities Fund

Mexican Serenade Revisited, a multifaceted event at the Padua Hills Theatre, was supported by the Nancy Hatamiya Arts & Humanities Fund.

A magical night at the Padua Hills Theatre in Pomona California this December celebrated the legacy of the Mexican Players, an all Mexican-American performance troupe active from the 1930s to the 70s, who preserved Californio and Mexican heritage. Including Folklorico dance, refreshments, crafts, a children’s Mariachi Group, a film screening and a panel of scholars along with original Mexican Players and family members, the night paid tribute to the history of the groundbreaking group. This was just one of the twelve Arts & Humanities projects supported by the Nancy Hatamiya Arts & Humanities Fund in 2018.

Former California Humanities Board Chair Nancy Kikuko Hatamiya, who passed in 2012, will always be remembered as a passionate and enthusiastic public servant, a devoted community member, and an energetic and inspiring spirit that touched all who knew her. Her son, Jon Hatamiya, said “I am thrilled that the memorial fund will honor her legacy by helping to provide the means for others to tell their unique stories.” The Nancy Hatamiya Arts & Humanities Fund recognizes her service and honors her legacy through support of projects that promote the humanities though the visual and performing arts.

Today, please give $350 in recognition of the 35 donors who have contributed to the Nancy Hatamiya Arts & Humanities Fund in the past year and help keep her legacy alive through this work.

Day Seven: Humanities Hearing in Sacramento

The cover of the book created for the Informational Hearing of the Joint Committee on Arts on May 16, 2018. Cover artwork © Favianna Rodriguez. 2018.

If you are reading this blog, it’s likely that you already believe in need and impact of strong public humanities in our state. You may know that the humanities are made up of artists, filmmakers, scholars, librarians and more, working to tell the stories of the people of California. You may also even realize the importance of partnerships across the state making cultural connections to better understand our histories, cultures, and each other. On May 16, 2018, California Humanities had the opportunity to raise the visibility of this work in an unprecedented humanities-focused hearing to the Joint Committee on the Arts in Sacramento, sponsored by California State Senator Ben Allen. Twelve partners, grantees, board members and staff testified for over two hours on the impact of the public humanities in the state. Watch full the hearing to get a taste of what our public testimony contained.

Donate $516 in recognition of the May 16 hearing, to help ensure that the statewide impact of the humanities continues to grow.

Day Eight: CA 2020: Youth Perspective and the Future of California

One of the California Documentary Project NEXT GEN 2018 grant awardees is Venice Art’s First Vote that engages filmmakers ages 15 to 18 in producing short films exploring important issues for first-time voters in 2020. Image courtesy of Venice Arts.

California is at times seen as an indicator of where the United States is headed. The state’s 13.5 million young people under the age of 25 will play an increasingly significant role in shaping who we are and the issues that we care about both regionally and nationally in coming years. With an eye toward the next national election and the goal of amplifying youth voices, California Humanities is inviting the perspectives of young Californians on the futures that they envision.

This month we awarded the first ever California Documentary Project NEXT GEN grants in support of young, emerging media makers and storytellers. Supported projects include Venice Art’s First Vote that engages filmmakers ages 15 to 18 in producing short films exploring important issues for first-time voters in 2020, and Youth Beat’s Understanding Change in Oakland: A Youth Perspective that documents the rapidly changing face of Oakland and what it means for the city’s young people.

The California youth population is larger than the total populations of 46 other states. Help support this new statewide initiative focusing on the lives and experiences of young Californians with a donation of $46 today.

Day Nine: Humanities for All Project Grants

The Schwartz Prize-nominated Straight Outta Fresno is one of 20 Humanities for All Project Grants awarded this year. The project held a series of dance battles, producing exhibits and publications Fresno-born hip hop.

What do dance battles, public radio programs, and community all have in common? They are supported by our Humanities for All Project Grants which put the spotlight on histories often overlooked and connect people across generational and cultural divides through thought-provoking public programming.

In the heart of the Central Valley, Straight Outta Fresno: From Popping to B-Boys and B-Girls, organized by California State University Fresno, held a series of dance battles, collecting, interpreting and sharing new historical knowledge. These programs resulted in a exhibits and publications about a little-known story: how a group of Fresno youth of color developed a distinct form of Hip Hop dance in the 1970s, and their subsequent impact on the evolution of this global cultural phenomenon.

In California’s rural North Coast, The Wonderland Radio hour: Live from the Rio Theater, local public radio station KRCB held a series of live performances and storytelling events in an historic community theater featuring local artists and culture bearers. The program engaged Sonoma County residents in learning more about the history and culture of the region through entertaining programming modeled on America’s classic variety show tradition. These are just a few examples of the creative and innovative work done by our grantees across the state to make relevant and meaningful humanities programs and experiences available to all Californians.

Today, keep this work going with a suggested donation of $20 – one dollar for each of the 20 Humanities for All Project Grants funded this year.

Day Ten: Literature & Medicine®

Among the 71 books discussed at sites this year are The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby, Logical Family by Armistead Maupin and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

Veterans are an often-underserved and overlooked part of our communities. At Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers, patients deal with a broad range of issues from PTSD to war-related physical injuries, as well as society’s prejudice and misunderstanding. With the Literature & Medicine® program at four VA hospitals across California, social workers to dental assistants and psychologists to surgeons join scholars to discuss books addressing social and medical issues that impact their work and patients. The readings and discussions—all available to hospital staff for free—include a range of sources, from Rebecca Solnit’s chapters “1. Apricot” and “13. Apricots” in The Faraway Nearby, to Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, to Logical Family by Armistead Maupin.

Since introducing this program in 2010, California Humanities has implemented the program in VA Medical Centers across the state under a licensing agreement with the Maine Humanities Council. There are measured benefits for participating in this program, from increased job satisfaction, lower burnout, improved communications skills and greater capacity for cultural competence among participants.

To allow us to continue offering this program to build empathy and understanding between VA hospital staff and the people they treat, give $71, for the 71 books, films, and poems discussed in 2018 at all four Literature & Medicine® sites.

Day Eleven: Our Grantmaking and the National Endowment of the Humanities Funding Increase

Our collective ongoing advocacy for federal funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) with the 55 other state humanities councils resulted in a $155 allocation for the 2018 fiscal year, higher than anticipated. Here, our Board Member Oliver Rosales meets with a congressional staffer. Photo: Architect of the Capitol.

By the end of 2018, California Humanities will have made more than $1 million in grants across California. These 98 grants, in Humanities for All Quick Grants and Project Grants as well as the California Documentary Project, Library Innovation Lab, and CDP NEXT GEN, reflect a total that has increased each year over the past several years, and we are committed to continued growth.

Our collective ongoing advocacy for federal funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) with the 55 other state humanities councils achieved success in this budget year. Through steady communication with district offices, and more than 40 meetings with Congressional members and their staff at Humanities on the Hill, our annual day of advocacy in Washington DC, the NEH budget was approved for the 2018 fiscal year at $152* million, higher than anticipated. We continue to advocate for continued increases in the 2019 budget allocation.

Please make a suggested contribution of $152*, the magic NEH number in the federal budget.

Day Twelve: Reporting on Humanities in California Education

More than half of California’s high school students deserve better humanities-focused education. Photo: Matthew O’Brien, Looking for Hope.

Raise your hand if you knew either of the following facts:

  • Less than half of California students are on track to graduate ready for credit-bearing humanities courses in college based on their scores on the state’s 2016 English
  • Less than half of California students met proficiency standards on state-wide history exams, and some student subgroups performed only half as well as others.

During 2018, we released a report including these findings, commissioned from SRI Education. The report focused on the state of humanities education for California’s students. Our President and CEO Julie Fry also wrote a guest post for the Ed100 blog highlighting other key findings. As a part of the organization’s strategic focus on deeper engagement with K-12 and higher education, California Humanities continues to develop plans for how to address these findings.

Consider donating $51, representing the more than half of California’s high school students who should have better access to humanities-focused education.

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*An earlier version of this post stated the amount of the 2018 federal allocation for the National Endowment of the Humanities at $155 million. The correct amount is $152 million. The federal allocation for 2019 is $155 million. 

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