By: Roger Hoke – Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: The term “Latino/a Americans” refers to individuals from the Caribbean, South America and Central America. “Hispanic” is a language identifier used for people who speak Spanish or one of its dialects. The program Latino Americans: 500 Years of History will focus specifically on Latino/a Americans.
This academic year, UD will celebrate the past 500 years of Latin American culture and history in the United States through a series of free public events, thanks to a grant from the American Library Association and The National Endowment for the Humanities.
As part of Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, UD will host various events September through March, including a Hispanic Heritage Month film series, scholarly panel discussions and an exhibit of Midwestern Latin American art.
“Latino Americans are the country’s largest minority group with more than 50 million people, and, still, many people are unaware of their rich and varied history and culture,” said Katy Kelly, communications and outreach librarian, according to a UD news release.
Kelly was the person responsible for having UD awarded the $10,000 grant.
“I got involved with this project because it was a grant opportunity offered by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities and our grant proposal was successful,” Kelly told Flyer News. “Coming into this academic year, all of these events are free and open to the public and are supported by a $10,000 grant, which has given us this opportunity to really explore this topic using scholarship that’s done here at UD.”
The program at UD is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities initiative that awarded grants to more than 200 libraries, museums and other nonprofits to highlight Latin American history.
Along with the grant, University Libraries will receive the six-part, NEH-supported documentary “Latino Americans,” created for PBS in 2013.
“This program is based off a documentary film series that was created by a PBS station, so this entire program is focused around this film series,” Kelly said.
Tereza Szeghi, Ph.D., associate professor in the English department and director of the graduate program in English, researches Latin literature, culture and history. When she was approached by Kelly to join the program, she eagerly accepted.
“When Katy told me about this grant, it seemed like a good way to raise awareness on this campus,” Szeghi said. “I think it’s important for all of us to have knowledge and connection to the cultures that we have a shared identity in this country and beyond.”
As of 2013, Hispanic and Latino/a people comprise 3.4 percent of Ohio’s population, according to the Census Bureau.
Kelly said that even though there may not be a large amount of students with Latin backgrounds on campus, it is still important for our campus to celebrate the culture and history of these students and community members.
“[The Hispanic culture] may not be as prevalent on campus, but I think that means we have even more of a duty to make sure that we address the celebration of different cultures and backgrounds,” Kelly said. “Latino Americans are the largest minority group in the United States, and we have Hispanic Heritage Month. This program kind of asks what else about their history and culture we can talk about and discover together.”
As the program is a collaborative initiative, the community and campus partnerships for this program include Dayton Human Relations Council, Dayton Metro Library, ThinkTV and Rights.Rites.Writes.
Szeghi believes this program and its events will greatly benefit the UD community.
“It’s also very important for people to see their own identity and culture reflected in the world around them,” Szeghi said. “I’m excited that it’s a lot of different kinds of events and that the grant is big enough to fund a lot of different people participating and a lot of different events.”
Kelley said that UD is always looking for ways to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.
“I think that UD students will find out more about Latino Americans and their history and culture and experiences here in the United States,” Kelly said.
The first event of Latino Americans: 500 Years of History will be a film screening of “¡Viva Baseball!,” a documentary about the history and struggles of Latino baseball struggles. It will take place on Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Roesch Library Collab.
Photo courtesy of Flickr’s Creative Commons.
CORRECTION: The National Library Association originally referenced has been changed to the American Library Association.