On Thursday, October 5, 2017 – the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities honored Judge Judith C. Savage, former RI Superior Court Judge and distinguished Jurist in Residence at Roger Williams School of Law, Len Cabral, International Storyteller, Little Compton Historical Society’s “If Jane Should Want to Be Sold” exhibit and programs, and Valerie Tutson, Founding Member and Executive Director of Rhode Island Black Storytellers. 300 community and business leaders, scholars, artists, government officials, and Rhode Islanders gathered at the Providence Public Library to raise over $74,000 to support the public humanities including culture, history, heritage, and civic education in our state.
With the timely theme of PROXIMITY, 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–by using storytelling to engage people all ages and cultural backgrounds to contribute to community, by using historical research to see slavery and servitude in new ways, and by connecting the law and the humanities to effect change in our state.
RI Council for the Humanities Executive Director Elizabeth Francis remarked:
“This year’s theme of PROXIMITY is inspired by the attorney Bryan Stevenson’s reflections on justice in his book Just Mercy. Proximity expresses the hope that that we can understand each other across differences, to have empathy, and to create a future of connection rather than division. For nearly 45 years, the Humanities Council has championed understanding and expression through public history, cultural heritage, civic education and community engagement. This past year–indeed, these past days–have shown us how important these acts of understanding and expression are and how much we need to keep acting.”
The Honorary Chairs’ Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Humanities was presented to Judge Judith C. Savage for her two decades of service as a trial justice and especially for the work she has done since as an educator and organizer of issues of injustice in the criminal justice system. In all that she does, Judge Savage challenges Rhode Islanders to think and speak honestly about issues of equality and empathy–considering their impact on a deeply human level.
The Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities honored Len Cabral for his four decades of inspired storytelling that brings generations of Rhode Islanders together, engaging communities in challenging conversations about how the past can inform the future. As a leader and performer, Cabral bridges Rhode Island’s diverse communities helping broaden our definitions of American culture.
The Innovation in the Humanities Award went to the Little Compton Historical Society for their achievements with the “If Jane Should Want to Be Sold” exhibition and programs that exemplify the Society’s commitment to research, diversifying the stories represented, and developing engaging public programs. This exhibit and programs provided a model for small historical societies, highlighting the personal stories of 17th, 18th, and 19th century people of color–promoting authentic, engaging understandings of the past.
The Public Humanities Scholar Award was presented to Valerie Tutson for her work to promote the sharing of stories as an art form and invaluable tool for communication. Her interdisciplinary approach encourages critical thinking and fosters empathy–requiring students and audiences to consider how actions impact a collective. As an educator, cultural programmer, and storyteller, Tutson makes powerful connections and sparks community engagement.
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. You each play a pivotal role in strengthening and connecting communities across our state and we could not do this work without you.