Rhode Island Council for the Humanities hosts its annual Celebration of the Humanities each fall to celebrates the people and projects that make Rhode Island a vital place to live and recognizes the work of extraordinary members of Rhode Island’s public humanities community. Proceeds from the event support culture, history, education, and civic engagement in our state.
Click the video below to watch the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities’ annual Celebration of the Humanities eventhonoring Onésimo T. Almeida, PhD, Mixed Magic Theatre, the Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive, and Becci Davis. The 2021 virtual Celebration of the Humanities was held on Thursday, October 7, 2021 at 6:00 pm and featured interviews with each of this year’s honorees as well as a roundtable discussion moderated by Joe Wilson, Jr., 2019 recipient of the Public Humanities Scholar Award.
For accessibility, a PDF transcript of the virtual program is available here.
Read on for more about this year’s honorees and sponsorship opportunities!
Sponsorship, Ticket, and Ad Information
The deadline for registration has passed. Ticket sales closed at 3:00pm EST on Thursday, October 7th. If you would like to join us this evening (10/7/21) please email firstname.lastname@example.org so that you can receive the login information via email in advance of the virtual event. The program will be recorded and available here shortly.
View the 2021 Celebration of the Humanities digital program book for more about this year’s honorees and the Council’s impact. Thank you to all of this year’s generous sponsors!
Throughout the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic, communities across the country have grappled with isolation and have confronted complex conversations about race, equity, and justice. The humanities have served as a tool to catalyze civic engagement and have been a beacon of hope. This year’s Celebration slate of honorees represent communities across the state collecting our stories, adapting practices, strengthening heritage, and sparking ongoing conversations about memorialization and legacy.
HONORARY CHAIRS’ AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE HUMANITIES
Onésimo T. Almeida, PhD, Scholar, Educator, and Civic Leader
The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates career achievements that demonstrate humanities excellence, reflect the Council’s mission and core values, and enrich public life in Rhode Island. Onésimo T. Almeida, PhD, is known worldwide for his knowledge and promotion of Portuguese culture and heritage. Born in the Azores, Almeida graduated from the Portuguese Catholic University, Lisbon in 1972. He earned his MA and PhD in Philosophy from Brown University. Since 1975, Almeida has served as a professor in Brown University’s Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies; as chair for over a decade. Almeida has authored and edited numerous books and published several hundred essays in academic journals, newspapers, and other periodicals. The recipient of various awards, Almeida was honored by the President of Portugal in 2019 with the prestigious Grã-Cruz of the Prince Henry Order. He was elected to the Academia da Marinha (Lisbon) and to the Portuguese Academy of Sciences and has received an Honorary Degree from the University of Aveiro, Portugal.
Almeida has also led courses for hundreds of legal residents seeking to become United States citizens. Since 1979, he has been the host of a bi-monthly socio-cultural talk show (Daqui e da Gente) on the Portuguese TV Channel, broadcast in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. Guests have included scholars, elected and appointed officials from Portugal and the United States, and local community leaders and activists to share their works and civic engagement projects.
Almeida was a member of the Board of the Council for the Humanities from 1995 to 2001, and its Vice-Chair from 1998 to 2000. He is a respected leader in the academy and in Portuguese communities with deep roots across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
TOM ROBERTS PRIZE FOR CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT IN THE HUMANITIES
Mixed Magic Theatre
The Tom Roberts Prize celebrates creativity in topics, disciplines, and formats that extend the field of the humanities. This year’s Prize honors Mixed Magic Theatre, a company with a deep legacy of bringing diverse stories to the stage with the mission of building more literate and arts-active communities. Mixed Magic Theatre was founded over 20 years ago by husband and wife Ricardo Pitts-Wiley an actor, playwright, composer, and director and Bernadet Pitts-Wiley an actress, poet, and activist for theatre, arts, and education. The Pawtucket, RI-based company operates under the “First think diverse” mindset—ensuring that inclusion is a priority instead of an afterthought.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, Mixed Magic Theatre continues to pursue theatrical excellence by producing a wide range of contemporary and classic works including critically acclaimed productions of plays by August Wilson to William Shakespeare, Yasmin Reza to Zora Neal Hurston and many more. Mixed Magic Theatre is also well known for their development and staging of adaptations of novels and classic literature including Moby Dick: Then and Now.
Over the years the Humanities Council has awarded multiple grants to Mixed Magic Theatre. Most recently, the company received a grant through the Council’s XIX: Shall Not Be Denied: Why It Matters initiative for their We, They, And The People virtual performance series which adapted historic Supreme Court cases for dramatic readings followed by conversations with civic leaders around topics of voting, representation, and civic engagement.
Mixed Magic Theatre is committed to incorporating new technology and media into their practice. The company prides itself on creating a welcoming environment for artists to develop their skills and to be a part of the world, believing that art and artistic expression is as vital to human well-being as food, water, clothing, and shelter. Born out of the Black-American experience, Mixed Magic Theatre understands that it is not just in the business of shows, but the lifesaving business too.
INNOVATION IN THE HUMANITIES AWARD
Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive
Recognizing the innovative implementation of the humanities by an organization or a collaborative partnership between organizations to achieve a specific goal, this year’s Innovation in the Humanities Award is presented to the Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive, a crowdsourced, public digital archive created and maintained by the Providence Public Library (PPL) and the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) to document the lived experience of all Rhode Islanders during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project aims to build an archival resource that helps Rhode Island reflect on life during COVID-19 through the means of inclusive storytelling. The project is managed by Kate Wells, Curator of Rhode Island Collections at PPL, and Becca Bender, Curator and Archivist of Moving Image and Audio Collections at RIHS. The Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive collaborators launched the project at the start of the pandemic in 2020, believing that every person in our community has something of value to contribute to this documented history, and that communities are empowered by telling our many stories— especially those that may be otherwise lost, obscured, or ignored in news media accounts, press releases, and government advisories. Learn more and explore the thousands of items submitted to the archive at: ricovidarchive.org.
The Rhode Island COVID-19 Archive was supported by a Humanities in the Age of Social Distancing Project Grant made possible through funding from the CARES Act.
PUBLIC HUMANITIES SCHOLAR AWARD
Becci Davis, Artist and Scholar
The Scholar Award recognizes outstanding public humanities work in teaching and scholarship that advances the civic and cultural life of Rhode Island. This year’s Award honors Becci Davis, an artist and scholar whose work engages with issues of memory, commemoration, memorialization, and race. Davis’ work speaks to the African American experience and the ongoing reality of white supremacy, drawing inspiration from nature, place, and her personal experiences as the descendant of slaves and those who enslaved.
Davis was born on a military installation in Georgia named after General Henry L. Benning of the Confederate States Army. Her birth initiated her family’s first generation after the Civil Rights Act and its fifth generation post-Emancipation. As a Rhode Island-based visual artist who works across disciplines, Davis finds inspiration in studying the past, exploring landscapes, documenting her family’s stories, and recording her experiences as a daughter, mother, American, and Southern born and raised, queer Black woman.
Davis holds an MFA from Lesley University and has earned fellowships from the RISD Museum, Providence Public Library, and RI State Council on the Arts, among others. She teaches art at Brown University and Mount Holyoke College and is a member of the WARP Collective studio in the historic Atlantic Mill in Providence and is active in the AS220 and Dirt Palace Public Projects communities.