AHA Executive Director Chuck Holmes extends an open invite to all Alabamians: We are an Alliance seeking and encouraging allies — anyone who treasures our shared culture, history, storytelling, lifelong learning, and sense of community.Read more from this issue of Mosaic
This column appears in the Summer 2021 issue of Mosaic, the magazine of the Alabama Humanities Alliance.
By Chuck Holmes
Be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.
In ancient Greece, young Achilles is taught those two vital things, as told in Homer’s epic, The Iliad.
Our new word is Alliance. It is our deed.
Lovers of the humanities know that words are powerful things. That’s why, this year, our board of directors dropped Foundation from our name in favor of a noun that conveys our perpetual and foundational efforts — collaboration, conversations, outreach, and diversity. We are the Alabama Humanities Alliance, with a new look, a new website, and some new faces, including mine.
Yet the mission has not changed. We’re here to make Alabama better. In many ways. Every day. We are an Alliance seeking and encouraging allies — anyone who treasures our shared culture, history, storytelling, lifelong learning, and sense of community.
I’m a son of the South who has roamed far. I spent a long career in journalism seeking truth and telling stories that I hoped would make a difference in people’s lives. I came to the Alabama Humanities Alliance for the same reason — to make a difference. With our team and our board, we see myriad opportunities to do good across our state, working with creative people to bring Alabamians together and uplift us all.
During the height of the pandemic, AHA supported cultural institutions that are vital to our public life. When lockdowns and disruptions threatened the very existence of local museums, libraries, historical societies, and educational institutions, we stepped in.
With funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), we awarded $500,000 in emergency CARES Act grants to 79 cultural organizations statewide. “Had these funds not been available, the museum most likely would have been permanently closed,” Nancy Pinion, director of the Jesse Owens Memorial Park & Museum, told us in a note of gratitude.
As I write these words, we’re gearing up to distribute another $800,000 in Alabama Humanities Recovery Grants. These NEH funds, provided via the American Rescue Plan Act, will again support general operating expenses. Cultural organizations can also use this money to rethink strategy and relaunch programs based on lessons learned during the pandemic.
At the Alliance, we’re applying those lessons, too. As we plan for a return to in-person programming, we’ll also carry forward new virtual solutions — making it easier for more people to connect with our resources. The tools and scholarship that help teachers teach, encourage families to enjoy reading together, cultivate a love of history among students, and engender civic engagement among all Alabamians.
In this issue of Mosaic, we present some of the participants in those programs, the voices of our allies.
• Dorothy Walker, director of the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, discusses the still-powerful impact of segregation-busting stories from 1961.
• Retired Samford University professor Jim Brown provides context for one of our most popular public programs, the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street Water/Ways exhibit, now touring five Alabama towns through Spring 2022.
• And we hear from outstanding storytellers Starlyn and Savi Fistein and Aiden Seabrook. They are high school students from Mobile and avid participants in our Alabama History Day competition.
We want more allies like them. We need you.
Alabama novelist Robert Inman, in Home Fires Burning, wrote: “Most of the failures of this world are failures of imagination.”
Let’s imagine a better Alabama enriched by the humanities. Join our Alliance.
Chuck Holmes is the executive director of the Alabama Humanities Alliance. Previously, he was executive director and general manager of WBHM, Birmingham’s NPR affiliate. Before that, he served in leadership roles and as an editor and correspondent for NPR and Atlanta-based Cox Newspapers. At NPR, he shared a Murrow Award for Afghanistan war coverage and a Peabody Award for The Race Card Project, a grassroots storytelling initiative.
Help us create a better Alabama! You’ve got may ways to engage:
• Attend an Alliance event.
• Support our educational programs and cultural opportunities statewide.
• Stay in the know by signing up for our publications.
Most of all, send us your thoughts on how the humanities can enrich life in Alabama!Join the Alliance