On Thursday, October 4, 2018 – the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities honored Rabbi Wayne M. Franklin, senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, Providence, leader of interfaith dialogues; Francis Parra, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, ECAS Theater; Stages of Freedom, led by Ray Rickman and Robb Dimmick; and Taylor Polites, Writer, Educator, and Researcher. Over 300 community and business leaders, scholars, artists, government officials, and Rhode Islanders gathered at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Providence to raise over $78,500 to support the public humanities including culture, history, heritage, and civic education in our state.
With the timely theme of BRIDGE, the Celebration highlighted the power of the humanities to bridge difference and build strong, empathetic communities poised to address our most pressing challenges. This year’s honorees exemplify the humanities in action–working in communities of many faiths and backgrounds, they show how the humanities link diverse communities, increase access to culture and education, span understanding the past and imagining the future, connect to societal challenges, and strengthen the ties between information, awareness, and democracy.
As the award presentation got underway, Council Board Chair Touba Ghadessi remarked to the audience and honorees:
“I will start by saying what a privilege it is to be the chair of the board for an organization that works tirelessly to promote public history, civic education, and community engagement. The humanities are all these fields of knowledge that allow us to express what our human experience means, in its plentiful, diverse, and beautifully chaotic way. In this expression we tell our stories, and these stories make history. A history that, together, we are writing for our community, for our state, for this nation. You are agents of change, you are deciding what you are inscribing and what cultural legacy you are leaving for future generations. So let’s take a first step toward intellectual empathy. Let’s inform ourselves and not only to understand each other, but to welcome what we don’t know. Let’s create intentional bridges to one another, and let’s walk on one that leads us toward a future not built upon ignorance, fear, and conflict, but one filled with knowledge we shared with each other along the way.”
Thank you to all who attended the Celebration and helped us raise this vital support for public humanities by and for all Rhode Islanders. If you were inspired by this year’s honorees and would like to continue to support our work, please visit the Get Involved section of our website and consider a donation to the Council’s annual Fund for the Humanities. You each play a pivotal role in strengthening and connecting communities across our state and we could not do this work without you.
The Honorary Chairs’ Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities was presented to Rabbi Wayne M. Franklin for over three decades of service as a faith leader, educator, and advocate for civic dialogues. Read more about Rabbi Franklin’s impact in recent articles from the Providence Business News and The Jewish Voice.
The Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities honored Francis Parra for her decades of creative leadership of Teatro ECAS, the state’s only Spanish-language theater, where she is helping to ensure that as the Latino population grows in Rhode Island, Spanish-language cultural expression is central to the experience of recent immigrants, established Latino communities, and all Rhode Islanders.
The Innovation in the Humanities Award went to Stages of Freedom, an organization led by Ray Rickman and Robb Dimmick, for their efforts in research and publishing, theater and performance, and exhibitions of art and history that are uncovering, interpreting, and empowering African-American history in Rhode Island. Read more about the impact of Stages of Freedom’s work in this recent New York Times article.
The Public Humanities Scholar Award was presented to Taylor Polites for his work bridging history, art, and literature for public audiences through his own writing as well as with the Goat Hill writers collaborative, and his teaching in the MFA programs at Salve Regina University and Wilkes University, and at the Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, and Brown University’s Swearer Center.
Each of this year’s honorees offered inspiring acceptance speeches which the Humanities Council will be featuring on the rihumanities.org website in the coming weeks. The first installment in this In Their Own Words series comes from Francis Parra – click here to read her remarks and check back soon for more from Rabbi Franklin, Ray Rickman and Robb Dimmick, and Taylor Polites in their own words.
All photos by: Matt Ferrara Photography.