Michigan Humanities (MH) is pleased to announce the award winners of our inaugural Michigan Humanities Awards 2019. The winners are from Ann Arbor, Harbor Springs, Grand Rapids and Detroit, showing the range of the wonderful humanities work being done in our state.
“Our passion for the humanities can only be matched by our love for our beautiful state. As we continue our mission of elevating the role of humanities in every county of our fine state through grants, programs and conversations, we celebrated the work that our partners have done for over the past 45 years at last nights first Michigan Humanities Awards. Our Special Guest Kerry Kennedy exceeded our expectations and was a wonderful addition to a very special evening.” said Shelly Hendrick Kasprzycki, President & CEO of Michigan Humanities.
Kerry Kennedy shared her special memories of her family and her father, Robert F. Kennedy and her families work in the humanities. She detailed the importance of the humanities, and how the work being done in Michigan enhances our communication with each other, and strengthens our ties to our state and each other.
Ms. Kennedy said, “I believe that humanities have a more important role than ever before. The humanities do not rely on controlled experiments and precise measurements, rather they rely on subjective and rational methods to investigate the human world. They call for our wits and our wisdom, our hearts and our souls, and most of all they call for our ability to understand and empathize with one another. The key that unlocks the door to wisdom to love.”
Shelly Hendrick Kasprzycki announced the work that Michigan Humanities will be undertaking the next few years with the addition of a Youth Advisory Committee and the National Humanities Convention in Detroit in 2021, hosted by Michigan Humanities.
Public Service Honors were presented to former U.S. Congressman John Dingell and U.S. Congressman John Moolenaar. U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and U.S. Congressman Moolenaar both thanked MH and the award winners via video, because Congress is in session in Washington D.C. U.S. Senator Gary Peters’ office also presented the award winners with Certificates of Recognition.
The call for nominees reached all over the state, with 37 submissions. Many of the nominees were on hand for the awards on Thursday night.
Awards were presented in three different categories. A panel of current and emeritus board members, MH staff, and Humanities professionals voted on the winners for each category.
The following awards were presented:
Corporate Humanities Champion of the Year Award: Recognizes organizations or corporations that have made a lasting contribution to the cultural life of their communities or our state through their active support of and involvement in promoting public humanities. 2019 Award Winner: Meijer, Inc.
Community Impact Partner of the Year: Universities, schools, libraries and community centers who have brought to life a book, humanities project, discussion, or other humanities programs in an innovative or creative way, serving their community and our state. They have championed the value of public humanities in Michigan. 2019 Award Winner: Wild Swan Theater
Humanities Champion of the Year: This award is given to the person whose contributions result in outstanding public humanities impact in their community and in our state. An example would be humanities person (teacher, librarian, cultural leader) who has creatively and successfully brought humanities to the public forum. Faculty and scholars who have taken humanities to the public beyond their classroom, or brought the public into their classroom. 2019 Award Winner: Tie: Charles Ferrell, of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and Eric Hemenway, of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.
About the Award Winners:
Meijer: For their long standing commitment to the state through funding and partnerships for humanities across Michigan.
Wild Swan Theater: The Wild Swan Theater engages and inspires young audiences with a potent combination of some of the world’s greatest stories and myths, original composition music, dance, masks, puppets, and the visual poetry of American Sign Language (ASL).
Their presentation include historical dramas such as A Thousand Cranes, Rose the Riveter, and Along the Tracks.
Their curriculum connections bring the theater into the classroom for a thorough humanities experience.
Charles Ferrell, Vice President of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History:
Under Mr. Ferrell’s leadership, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History went from being an under-attended but impressive structure into a nationally renowned institution that serves the people of Detroit and surrounding communities while presenting them with the opportunity to experience the best in African American and African Diasporic history, literature, and culture. Charles began as a volunteer, and due to this strategic leadership and dedication, eventually became Vice President.
Eric Hemenway, Director of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians:
This was quoted from Eric’s nomination form, which was sent by a student.
“Eric’s enduring work to preserve the dignity of indigenous people is a critical part of understanding ourselves as people of Michigan. Schools do not teach, or just gloss over, the past terrorism towards the Native Americans. First it was over land, and then the cruelty, indifference, and outright slaughter took place, nearly wiping out people who had lived peacefully here in Michigan for centuries. Only a sliver of land remained, where Eric’s tribe remains today. The tribal schools were yet another attempt to “kill the Indian and save the man.”
Harbor Springs had a tribal school which only closed in the last 25 years. Eric’s work tells that story. Eric’s work brings to life in classrooms what children don’t learn with typical curriculum.
Public humanities must tell a relevant story. Without the work of a leader like Eric, indigenous peoples’ heritage, suffering, and future fades.